Log in
Anxiety Support
40,186 members42,355 posts

Feeling like I "forget" to breathe when I'm falling asleep!

I'm a 28 year old female, and I have struggled with anxiety ever since I can remember. I was diagnosed with panic disorder, and the last three years I had a prescription for xanax, but having it there as back up helped more than anything, and I went a very long time without an attack at all. I recently moved to a different state, and I cannot find a single doctor that will write me a prescription for .05 (or lower) of xanax. This is the first time in years that I've gone without it. Again, I had a script for 10 .05 pills that lasted me a year or longer, so it's not like I'm addicted to them by any means. Anyways, as of lately I've been having little bouts of anxiety during the day due to a lot of different factors that have been causing stress for me. Over the years my anxiety has taken on many different forms (loves to keep me on my toes!), so I'm terrified about what's happening now... I've convinced myself that I'm dying. When I lay down to go to sleep, as I'm dosing off I get this jolt of panic like I forgot to keep breathing. It's almost like that feeling you when you've held your breath for too long, and it's like a shock of adrenaline goes through you. I checked my pulse, I mentally wasn't too freaked out (yet) and I even did the fingernail check to be sure that I was, in fact, still getting oxygen. For over an hour I was in and out of sleep, and always waking to thinking I wasn't breathing. I eventually fell asleep, and didn't die like I was sure I was going to. Does anyone else experience this? Is this just another form of anxiety? I've had sleep paralysis before, but this is not like that at all!

27 Replies
oldestnewest

Hi your not alone I suffer from anxiety but I'm on medication now sertaline 100ml it's helped me took a while to kick in I got that symptom your talking about its another anxiety symbol I'm afraid so don't worry about it I'm here if you need to talk

2 likes
Reply

Sounds like you are so high strung that your body has to try extra hard to relax for sleep. The more you worry about it the worse it gets.

Relax sweetheart you are fine.

2 likes
Reply

I do the same thing all the time. I was up at 3am today for the same reason. I wish I knew how to relax and not worry about it!

1 like
Reply

Same here ! I worry all the time it happens i wish i could forget it

Reply

I believe you are suffering from a completely different disorder. I ,like AshCash ,forget to breath right before (mear seconds) falling asleep.I can tell my breathing is becoming more shallow with each and every breath until (gasp !), back fully awake, taking a BIG breath or 3, and return to trying to go to sleep.Quite a jolt and buzz-kill for trying to go to sleep. This can go on for 30-40 minutes and sometimes 6-8 times until I fall asleep or I just get back up and do something to whittle away the time until I'm really tired and sleep comes faster. My problem is not after I fall asleep and from what I read of AshCash , neither is Hers . I can tell when I'm going to have these episodes when as soon as I lay down I have alot of anxiety and have to do deep breathing to get calmed down enough to even lay down, Anyway, that's me and it sucks...

Reply

Thanks everybody! Last night I made sure I did some extra breathing techniques and I did some stretching while getting ready for bed... definitely seemed to help some, and I was shocked when I woke up because I didn't even remember falling asleep! Hopefully I can keep it going.

4 likes
Reply

Hi AshCash and welcome to the forum...Moving out of state is always a high stressor, so I'm not surprised anxiety is creeping back. Not being able to have your security blanket of "10 Xanax" is not helping. Rationally, I'm sure you know you are not dying and that anxiety is putting that thought of unrest in your mind. What you are experiencing is very normal for someone wound up like a top so that when your body finally does want to chill out, it does it in waves. Don't forget, your brain is always active while you sleep. It remembers your fears and worries of the day. As your body starts to relax, your sub conscious goes into high gear causing you to wake up in a jolt. I have been through everything you have at one time. It is not dangerous, it is your over sensitized nerves sending extra adrenaline. Your breathing is done automatically, it will not fail you. Using deep breathing and relaxation before going to sleep does help in assuring you a good night's sleep. You will be okay. Continue using the forum for support and comfort. x

3 likes
Reply

Hey guys, I know this is an older thread but I wanted to jump on here anyway because I’m sure there are a lot of you that are still pulling this up on internet searches for the first time in desperation trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with you (like I did) and I want to offer some hope and encouragement as to what is working well with me when it comes to beating these awful symptoms.

First off, CALM DOWN, it is not heart disease or a brain tumor. 99% of it is ANXIETY. It is the common denominator for all of us that I have noticed as I myself have been reading through these various posts and website threads and this is a relatively common problem for those of us that have lived in a chronically stressed environment. Your nervous system is basically shot because you have run yourself into the ground with a combination of anxiety, exhaustion, adrenal fatigue, bad diet, and an imbalance in either nutritional/mineral deficiency and/or hormonal imbalance.

Here is what I have been dealing with myself and how I am fixing it:

My symptoms were two fold-which started manifesting themselves over the past few months and line up exactly with the dreaded sensations that we have all be desperately searching the internet trying to understand.

1. That awful feeling that right as you begin to fall asleep, you feel as though you forget to breathe. It’s like your brain forgets to tell your diaphragm to contract, then you get a suffocating or chest/collapsing or sinking feeling/reaction and jerk yourself awake with the awareness that you forgot to breathe. It is awful and it is scary and it leaves you in a panic because you wonder what’s wrong with you, if you’re dying, and you begin to fear the otherwise normal act of drifting off to sleep, which can then lead to a pattern of insomnia as it did with me.

2. The second sensation is a similar variation of the first. This is where you start to drift off to sleep, and instead of catching yourself forgetting to breathe, instead you get a surge of adrenaline that shoots through your abdomen and chest area that feels almost like an electric shock. It’s like your heart or lungs get zapped with a surge and like the first sensation, it jerks you out of the sleep cycle and sends you into a panic. You get to a point that you literally want to cry because you’re so exhausted and you cant figure out why your body seems to have forgotten how to sleep, and how to give you the one gift of peace (a good night’s sleep) that you want so badly to experience.

These sensations, when occurring over and over again whether it's you trying to take a daytime nap or trying to sleep through the night, compound over weeks and months and sink you further into fear and depression as you fret about how you must be dying or will die since you have lost the ability to even sleep correctly anymore. This also in turn further increases your anxiety cycle and keeps compounding your problem.

I personally, at the time of writing this, have been living out this nightmare myself since November of 2017 (it’s mid March 2018). But just within the past two weeks I have found some extremely helpful answers that are making dramatic improvements that I’d really like to share to help some of the rest of you.

The topics that I found in my research point overwhelmingly to adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalance as the primary cause. Now I’m not a doctor, and in fact I still have an upcoming doctors appointment in a few weeks, but it is with an integrative doctor that actually specializes in Adrenal Fatigue and hormonal imbalance.

The reason I wanted to post this now, is that even on my own research I believe I have identified at least a major part of the problem and wanted to share the improvements with all of you ASAP because I know how awful it is to be stuck in this cycle and how urgently many of you(us) are desperate for some hope immediately.

So let me lay out the steps of how I got here and how I’m now pulling out of this nonsense:

I am a 36 year old male. I have owned my own business for the past 15 years, which has been successful monetarily, but is in a very stressful industry that has taken long hours and a ton of effort to build. Last year especially I was putting in 14 hours days, not sleeping well, eating a ton of junk food, and exercise was sporadic at best.

By November of 2017 I was starting to crash. I was trying to improve my sleep, and some nights (before these horrible drifting off to sleep symptoms started showing up in late January of 2018) there were some nights where I would get 12 hours of sleep and I would still wake up exhausted and fatigued.

As I said by end of January 2018, I was starting to occasionally get these awful symptoms of “forgetting to breathe” right as I was falling asleep, or a close cousin of that symptom was the feeling of an electric shock shooting through my stomach and chest/heart area right as I would dose off. My quality of sleep started to spiral downward throughout February 2018, as I was beginning to develop an actual complex or phobia about falling asleep. By end of February I had managed to find myself with full-blown insomnia, where I was so exhausted during the day I’d have to go sit or lie down and “rest” even after completing the most simple tasks. I was mentally and physically exhausted all the time, but then when I’d try to get to bed at a decent hour, I would wrestle with these sensations sometimes until 4 and 5 in the morning until I’d finally just pass out from exhaustion and somehow “push through” this barricade of sensations that were starting to hold me hostage in my insomnia.

That is when I started learning about adrenal fatigue, and hormonal imbalances, and how they can create these problems. Also, I want to note that while I have not yet had a sleep study done, I have had my heart and other things checked out which are fine. But I don't believe this issue of forgetting to breathe or getting jerked awake right at the moment you cross into sleep is sleep apnea, because I don’t snore and I have no issues once I am actually asleep. Perhaps it could be a form of what is called “sleep onset apnea” (nothing to be feared) which is different than traditional sleep apnea which affects you all throughout the night. And what I have found is that with the right application of supplements, what I am about to tell you is that even this sleep onset sensations can go away quickly and completely!

So again, I’m not a doctor, this is my free opinion, but I am really hopeful this will be an encouragement and an answer for those of you that are still suffering from this:

1. Read up everything you can online about Adrenal Fatigue so you understand what is going on with your body. I found Dr. Berg’s Youtube video series to be extremely educational and it gave me a lot of hope. He discusses the nutritional deficiencies and other stress factors that can lead to and keep you stuck in a cycle of adrenal fatigue. Just get on Youtube and type in something like “Dr Berg adrenal fatigue” in your search and it will get you right where you need to go. He has several videos on this topic.

2. Adrenal fatigue and sleep onset apnea are both caused and intensified by deficiencies in magnesium, potassium and calcium in your body, which are required by your body to turn off the “flight or fight” anxiety response switch. When you are burned out from a chronically stressful lifestyle, your adrenals get stuck in the cycle of dumping excess cortisol into your system. My understanding is that these cortisol surges are literally the main thing that can cause those unpleasant sensations right as you are trying to drift off to sleep. The moment I started using these supplements, which I am going to go into detail about in a minute, within the first night or two those horrible sleep onset sensations reduced dramatically and by the 2-3 night they have already disappeared! I am sleeping through the night and am able to get very restful naps in during the daytime now.

3. Diet and nutrition are absolutely imperative if you’re going to pull yourself out of this. And it’s already the usual stuff you would expect. Cut processed foods, increase veggies, and stay away as much as possible from sugar and caffine because they are stimulates that tax your adrenals even more. Coffee, tea, chocolate, sweets, carbs…they could literally be keeping you held hostage within this awful adrenal/cortisol cycle that is ruining your quality of life.

4. On of Dr. Berg’s videos on Youtube, he highlights an acupressure massage tool that he developed. Be sure to check out that video. He goes over pressure points in the back of your neck as well as your abdomen that you can focus on with this massage tool right before you go to bed at night. He explains it beautifully in the sense that the neck pressure points are like the brake to slow down your stress/anxiety surging through your body, and then the pressure points in your abdomen are like taking your foot off the gas pedal by slowing down the flow of cortisol into your system. I have been doing this simple routine every night before I go to sleep and it is helping significantly in addition to the other supplements I am taking.

5. I ordered Dr. Berg’s acupressure massage tool, as well as his Sleep Aid natural supplement and a liquid essential mineral blend that helps restore your potassium, calcium and magnesium levels throughout the day, which in turn really help you sleep at night.

6. Get on amazon and check out “Cortisol Manager” supplements by a company called Integrative Therapeutics. I take two of these every night before bed. I also ordered from amazon something called “5-HTP” from a place called Arazo Nutrition. It helps regulate your brain, mood and sleep. I take two of these every night now before bed along with the Cortisol Manager, and again those two things together really help shut off the flight or fight cortisol surges that I believe could be actually creating those terrible sensations of shock or not breathing right as you are drifting off to sleep.

7. Also on Youtube there are relaxation videos that deal with sound frequencies. Dr Royal Rife did a ton of research on healing sound therapies back in the early 1900’s and it is legit! Do a youtube search on “Rife frequencies for insomnia” or “Rife Frequencies adrenal fatigue”, sleep apnea, whatever you want just make sure they are Rife frequencies. They have videos for just about any ailment you can think of and they are awesome including blood pressure, anxiety, even sore throat, thyroid problems, etc. So definitely check them out. Again it takes several trips through those sounds videos in some cases before you notice an effect so don't be discouraged if you listen to them once and don't feel any different. It is a cumulative effect so just stick with it.

8. I want to say a word about state of mind through your healing process. It took you a while to get yourself this burned out, it might take a little while to climb back out. So be patient with yourself and your body and be kind to yourself. As I mentioned at the start of my post, I have seen dramatic improvements within a few days of implementing these different supplements and protocols, but it did take a few nights for it to start taking effect. One other thing that really helped me is that I tried to stop stressing myself out by telling myself “I have GOT to sleep.” I know that’s what you need and want, but the first few nights I told myself “ok you don't HAVE to sleep, just relax.” If you just relax in the dark without putting added pressure and stress on yourself that you HAVE to sleep, its amazing how your body will come down from the stress and you will fall asleep eventually anyway.

9. Get back on Amazon and order the book “Hope and Healing For Your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weeks. Chances are if you are experiencing this sleep symptoms you are probably suffering from anxiety and panic attack/nervous system issues elsewhere in your life. This book is a life saver when it comes to helping you understand what your body is going through as well as practical steps to help you pull out of this cycle of suffering.

10. Lastly, go to the doctor! Not because you have to freak out that you’ve got heart disease or brain tumor because you don't. But go in order to get some blood work done to check your nutritional panels and hormone levels. Again, when you have adrenal fatigue, your calcium, potassium and magnesium levels are likely very low. But for myself personally, I had/have no interest in going to a general practice family doctor. They will likely just force-feed you sleeping pills or some other nonsense prescription meant to cover up the symptoms, but which really do nothing to correct the root cause. Find an integrative doctor in your area that actually specializes in adrenal fatigue and bio identical hormone replacement therapy.

You are not dying! You’ve just worn out your nervous system. So take a deep breathe and stop worrying. It just takes a few corrective measures to get yourself back on track. You WILL get your old life and old self back even if you don't feel that way at the moment. I really hope this post can bring some relief and hope to some of you. It is definitely a miserable prison to be stuck in when you can’t quite figure out what seems to be the problem and you feel like your sleep and your health is spiraling out of control. It’s like a bad dream you can’t wake up from and you can get very depressed very quickly when you want so badly to just get your old life back. This is a blessing though. It’s a warning sign from your body that you need to start taking better care of yourself and correct some lifestyle habits now. Again, just be kind and be patient with yourself and check into these protocols I’ve outlined and that should help put you on a path out of this.

You’re strong and you’ve got this!!! - Paul

5 likes
Reply

I'm so glad you're making steps in the right direction! Turns out my thyroid was out of whack and was causing severe hormonal imbalances and had drained so many of my vitamin levels. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroid (Graves Disease) in 2009 and had it under control for about 8 years. At the time I made this post, I was seeing a quack of a doctor who advised me that my thyroid had "healed itself" and that I no longer needed medication. In less than three months I was back to having a rapid heart rate (120bpm while sitting), shaking, muscle twitches, severe anxiety, confusion, insomnia, etc. I have also been diagnosed with a Panic Disorder, so it was hard for me to tell the difference between my anxiety and my thyroid. I wound up in the hospital in the beginning stages of a thyroid storm. Cut to present day: last month I had a total thyroidectomy. I feel a lot better and my anxiety levels have definitely dropped. My anxiety is definitely still here...I start a new job in the morning and I'm anxious, hence why I'm still up at 3am. Anxiety is such a sneaky monster, and I've come to realize that it's never going to leave, so I need to educate myself on how to healthily cope. I love what you posted and I'll definitely be looking into some of it. Hope your road to "recovery" is a quick one.

1 like
Reply

Im wondering hoe u r now. Arr you still suffering from insomnia

Reply

Hi Paul

This post has helped me mate thanks I too run my own joinery business for the last 13 years and have this sleep problem on and off but just this last week it’s been out of control as you mentioned about the trigger points in the neck I find if I sit up and roll my head left to right it relaxes me I still have the feeling of stoping breathing but it’s not has panicky if sat up I will eventually fall asleep and then wake up in a laid down position I’m goning to look into what you have posted because I know it’s stress but don’t know why? Thanks I’ll keep posting regards jonathan

1 like
Reply

Many thanks Paul for your priceless information ! Precisely what I was looking for ! Everything you describe above - totally matches my symptoms - which I have experienced twice , for the first time ever - within the last five days ! You have helped me avoid more anxiety and panic along with providing a huge amount of guidance - just because you cared enough for others to share your experience. Grateful to you.

1 like
Reply

Hi Paul,

Just wondering how you are?

After writing that wonderful post on breathing and sleeping, that helped so many people including me.

1 like
Reply

What a great post! I have experienced the exact same things for 3-4 years now. Sometimes there are periods when it is easier and this sort of goes off for a while but usually these are rare times. I am 28 now, male. The first time I expirienced this was truelly in a prolonged period of huge stress.I was about to finish my degree(studied engineering) and a lot of other things in my life were uncertain at the time.I needed to make big decisions etc. At the time I did not even realize what was truely happening. I thought I was having some sort of bad stressing dream right when I was drifting and that this woke me up jolting and stressed out. Then I realized what was really going on and that I was "forgetting to breathe". This really frightened me I must admit and still does today. Naturally as you would predict I googled a lot and decided that I was having central sleep apnea since I did not snore or felt I had any obstructions. I went to a sleep study clinic which basically told me that I had some apneas but generally everything was ok since most people have minor apneas during sleep especially in the moments when they transit from one kind of sleep to another(deep, rem, etc.) I have noticed this happens always the first time I go to sleep...meaning that if I wake up for some reason during the night or early morning and continue to sleep it does not happen. Time passed and I finished my degree. I made the dicision to go into my family business and not engineering since basically I enjoyed this type of work more and also made me happier and more satisfied. Although this is also stressing at times I began to feel more relaxed and the "thing" did not happen so often. Now it does again even when generally everything seems to be ok with my life. i have talked to several doctors about this but most of them seem to be unaware what this is or gave some sort of explenation "it will go off". But it doesnt. I also think this is not the usual sleep apnea as you have noted. I would defenitely take your reccomendations into consideration. I know my post would probably not help in any way but to the people who read this I would like to say that you are not the only ones with this problem and I wish you all to be well.

Please do share how you guys are coping.

And again a lot of thanks to Paul

1 like
Reply

Wow! Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with this exact same problem now for months. Everyone says it’s anxiety and that I have to calm down but I am finding it so difficult to not worry about my health as I have never had this happen. Two years ago our then 8 year old was diagnosed with leukemia and had to have a bone marrow transplant. I’m happy to report that we were blessed with her healing. She had to be in complete isolation for almost two years and I handled all of that very well. Now.....I’m having these problems you described. I never thought it could be a build up of past stress. I hope things are still going wel for you and I’m going to look into all of your suggestions. Thank you. For sharing because the internet offered no help otherwise which just then creates more anxiety for me.

1 like
Reply

I want to let you know that you helped me so much buy im wondering how u r now..

Reply

Im experiencing this now , and it feels so WIERDDDDD ! I’m not taking any meds for it I’m fighting it on my own which sucks badly .

2 likes
Reply

Omg.. I suffer from the exact same thing. So scary that I'm convinced I'm actually dying and I have to keep awake to stop dying. You describe it so well. I started having them when I was a young teenager. I have generalized anxiety and going through the peri menopause.. Nightmare... Hormones and anxiety all over the place. My ferritin levels were extremely low at 26 and now 80 which had helped sort out my anxiety by 80%. Just started gabapentin and hrt, hopefully this will help. Thanks for your post.

1 like
Reply

Suffering from this same thing right now and it sucks, last three days I haven't been able to fall asleep because of it now I'm so over tired :( hopefully it goes away ..I hate that feeling like you're not breathing but you are

Reply

Did you eventually fall asleep?! I’m on day 2. D:

Reply

I’m struggling badly with this currently. I’ve almost fallen asleep 3-4 times tonight as my body is exhausted but continue to get this wave of anxiety and thought that I’m not breathing just before I fall asleep. It’s awful, my schedule is brutal as I have to work midnights for 2019. So my body is out of sorts to begin with. My health is a constant worry for me, I’ve been checked I’m fine, and I just always have some worry on my mind. I just want to sleep regularly :(

Reply

How are you now did you reaf pauls comment

Reply

I did. And it makes sense, I’ve been a little better with that since my post 11 days ago. It’s been a long stressful 4 months so far. Working overnights is no joke a legit struggle.

Reply

Im so happy youre better now. I think my forgetting to breath problem is gone now but this is the reason i got insomnia now im still strugling with insomnia

Reply

So currently you are focused on the fact you can't sleep which is creating anxiety and distraction for you to remain awake. You should try to tire yourself out physically, if you don't exercise at a gym, then go for a nice walk. THEN tire yourself out mentally, create a challenge for yourself- say I am going to read X amount of chapters in a book or I am going to complete X amount of a puzzle. Something that is challenging enough for you but relaxing that will let your body settle around you while you are still occupied doing something. Most importantly just don't focus on the fact you are not sleeping. Our bodies are resilient however eventually need to rest. You are able to sleep but you have created an instance where you feel like you can't now. It happens to all of us. I hope this helps as these are just suggestions. You are ok, and not alone.

1 like
Reply

How are you now.. Did you mean u had insomnia

Reply

Hi Ash have the doctors not suggested any thing else you c an take there maybe something that in small doses over a short period of time that may have the same effect maybe even stop your problem over the long term good luck

Reply

You may also like...