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  • Forgetting to breathe when falling asleep
  • elray89
    Free Member

    Hello all – bit of a weird one for you. I wonder if anyone has ever suffered something similar:

    For the past, maybe 8 years, a few times a month I forget to breathe when I am right on the cusp of sleep. It’s as if I breathe out, and my brain doesn’t signal my lungs to take a breath in. In turn, I get a bit of a shock straight away after a couple of seconds (I guess as my blood ox starts dropping) and I gasp awake again. It can happen no times, one time, or several times in a night before I eventually fall asleep. I should be used to it by now, but a lot of the time it kinda feels like I am about to die for split second and it is quite alarming.

    Just to confirm: I have been to the sleep clinic, been for several appointments about this over the years and there is no sign of any obstructive apnea or anything else being off really. Nothing unusual happens after I actually fall asleep and I don’t snore much apparently. I have done my own research with sleep recordings etc and the only thing it picks up is farts alongside very relaxed long breaths. My RHR is usually very stable between 40-50ish. I kinda just get sent home with advice on good sleep hygiene every time.

    Googling this all I can seem to get are results about your normal sleep apnea, or people I think trying to explain what I am having and the replies not reading it correctly and saying they have sleep apnea.

    The doctors think it most likely is something to do with anxiety – which could be the case as I have been treated for this in the past. Generally in recent times this has been one of the only things that is causing anxiety though! Previously I was prescribed a small dose of Amitriptyline which didn’t actually do anything for me in regards to this. The only surefire way I know to avoid this, is go to bed after a few drinks, but obviously that’s not sustainable and I don’t really drink these days anyway.

    Just curious if anyone has experienced something that sounds familiar here? Curiosity more than anything.

    devash
    Free Member

    Sleep apnea? See your doctor about that because it can eventually lead to all sorts of health problems.

    elray89
    Free Member

    @devash – just to confirm I did put in a paragraph about this in my post:

    Just to confirm: I have been to the sleep clinic, been for several appointments about this over the years and there is no sign of any obstructive apnea or anything else being off really. Nothing unusual happens after I actually fall asleep and I don’t snore much apparently. I have done my own research with sleep recordings etc and the only thing it picks up is farts alongside very relaxed long breaths. My RHR is usually very stable between 40-50ish. I kinda just get sent home with advice on good sleep hygiene every time.”

    mert
    Free Member

    I do exactly this, i also have apnea.
    The CPAP goes mental when i stop breathing while drifting off.

    nicko74
    Full Member

    I have done my own research with sleep recordings etc and the only thing it picks up is farts

    Maybe this part’s relevant? Your unconscious brain kicking in thinking “I ain’t breathing that toxic gas in”?

    😉

    elray89
    Free Member

    @nicko74 – haha quite possibly. Maybe it is for the best after a particularly large dinner.

    mugsys_m8
    Full Member

    I suggest a read of Breath by James Nestor.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    YOu cannot “forget to breathe” Your body must make a positive effort to stop breathing but this may be coming from deeper in your mind not surface thoughts. Unpleasant tho it is if sleep apnea has been ruled out then its not dangerous I( would guess.

    One for CBT type interventions?

    MSP
    Full Member

    I had sleep paralysis, although it was related to my sleep apnea and was when coming out of a sleeping state. Basically I sensed I wasn’t breathing properly and tried to wake up to breath normally, but the mind only wakes up partially just enough to be aware, so you try and force yourself awake but you don’t really have control to do so. Time passes very slowly when in this state amplifying the terror/anxiety of not breathing.

    It could be you are experiencing something similar when slipping into a sleeping state, especially if you are tired and quickly go into deep sleep, maybe you are still slightly aware and the pauses in your breathing are amplified by anxiety. Unfortunately the only advice about it I could find was to just be aware of sleep paralysis and relax until it passes.

    elray89
    Free Member

    @MSP – interestingly enough I have had a couple of sleep paralysis episodes over the past years. I don’t remember breathing difficulties coming to the fore there, rather I felt half awake and couldn’t move for a bit. Hasn’t happened in years though.

    Closest thing I can find online is “Transtional apnea”. From what I understand – what may be happening is that a natural slowing of breathing or even a pause between breaths between states of consciousness is setting something off in my brain as a kind of panic response and I get a bunch of adrenaline released from it. Some wiring going wrong somewhere.

    It’s almost like I am not feeling any anxiety mentally but it chooses to come out in this strange physical symptom. It is intermittent and I cant really pin down any pre-bed triggers for this to isolate things to stop/start doing. I’ve gone months without this happening and it doesn’t seem to matter if I have had a stressful day or not. I do wonder if it is worsened by me expecting it to happen when going through a spell of it.

    I’ve never had this told to me by a doctor though, just what I can find and try to understand online. It is a really weird thing to try and describe and people immediately assume a physical blockage which apparently isn’t it, and also doesn’t feel like it.

    If nothing else it is interesting!

    BlobOnAStick
    Full Member

    I get this occasionally, but only if I fall asleep on my back. Doing this is very rare (don’t find it comfy) but if I do it’s can be quite a panic! It’s never caused me to worry though, it’s just a daft position to fall asleep in (for me). Maybe I should start to worry……

    I snore like a jet engine and ought to get checked for sleep apnea, but whilst being loud I don’t stop breathing at all, so I don’t think I have it.

    tjagain
    Full Member

    “Closest thing I can find online is “Transtional apnea”. From what I understand – what may be happening is that a natural slowing of breathing or even a pause between breaths between states of consciousness is setting something off in my brain as a kind of panic response and I get a bunch of adrenaline released from it. Some wiring going wrong somewhere”

    Sounds plausible to me. there are all sorts of weird goings on in your head around falling asleep and waking. I’ve had night terrors which are horrible. Its not a nightmare – there is no remembering anything. You just wake up in a full blown adrenaline response ( I assume its a false trigger for being about to be eaten). Sleep paralysis is the opposite of sleepwalking – which I also do on occasion

    Brains are weird

    elray89
    Free Member

    @BlobOnAStick – you probably don’t need to worry but worth getting checked out if you’ve experienced awakenings like that, as obstructive apnea can cause health problems further down the line.

    It’s a long wait time but the sleep clinic is actually kinda cool. Or they will give you a take home test kits with all manner of gadgets to plug yourself into, but it isn’t uncomfy at all.

    footflaps
    Full Member

    Sounds plausible to me. there are all sorts of weird goings on in your head around falling asleep and waking.

    I often wake up convinced I’ve killed someone and buried them shallowly in my parents back garden….

    I also wake up convinced I own a second house but can’t recall exactly where….

    kittyr
    Free Member

    OMG I have this! When I’m in the process of falling asleep on my back I sometimes wake up with a massive gasp and a huge hit of adrenaline!

    elray89
    Free Member

    @kittyr – scary isn’t it! Happens to me on my back the worst so I avoid it entirely (plus I’ve never found it comfy), less so on the right side but still present, but not really on my left side. Weird!

    crazyape
    Free Member

    Interesting thread. I occasionally get similar when falling asleep on my back. i thought i was the only one till i read Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan and he has a whole chapter on the ‘night witch’and the way it has been perceived in different cultures at different time. In summary – it’s quite common.

    MrOvershoot
    Full Member

    As a result of overtreatment of my Hyperthyroidism I developed Central Sleep Apnea in late February 2023,

    As I was trying to go to sleep I could feel myself stopping breathing, it was terrifying and I ended up in A&E a few times. I got put on the sleep clinic list and got a sleep test within a month. Thankfully it was on the second visit to A&E they noticed my thyroid had gone way under active so by the time I actually had the testing machine it was under control.

    I have to say March/April of that year were probably the lowest of my life (worse even than the death of my wife in 2019) I don’t think anyone who has not experienced sleep deprivation where you are in fear for your life going to sleep would understand, so I feel for those still suffering.

    elray89
    Free Member

    @MrOvershoot – I am sorry to read it got that bad for you, absolutely horrible.

    that is interesting to read though: I have had a couple of blood tests where my thyroid levels were pretty borderline but not enough for anything to be prescribed. It’s been several years though and reading now as well as your experience I do have several symptoms which seem to match up with hypothyroidism. I wonder if I should arrange another test. My mum has it too for god knows how long and said it was pretty life changing when they balanced her medication finally.

    ampthill
    Full Member

    During a period of stress many years ago I had an odd thing going on, which was vaguely similar.

    I’d wake up in the night, as I usually do, and then kind of go through this roller coaster back to sleep.

    I’ve been doing mindfulness practice for a long time. It felt like when I was awake I was in control and feeling fine. Then as the sleep took over I’d lose that control and the stress would kick back in and I’d wake up. Although after a few cycles I’d fall asleep.

    No real advice, other than like in the cycling threads where people recommend what they have. My sleep and stress levels are way better for some mindfulness so it might be worth a look.

    This is the book that contains the program that got NICE approval

    The intro chapters are stand alone amazing

    IMG_6378

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