British Lung Foundation
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Weird Sleep Thing Going On

Hi all,

I have a strange sleep thing going on that I want to run by you guys to see if anyone recognises it.

When I try and sleep as I am making the transition from awake to asleep it like my body forgets to breathe, I awaken with a jolt and my heart is pounding out of my chest. This also happens when I am trying to nap and has been witnessed by my wife and daughter who had to check if I was breathing at all.

It happens now every night and a few hours later I am awoken again hyperventilating with my heart nearly taking off. At this point I rarely get back asleep unaided.

I did a search on the net and found some chap on Healthboards with mild emphysema who described the situation exactly like mine. I however have a normal CT from 12 years ago and a normal DLCO so reasonably confident I don't have emphysema as yet. I was 33 at the time and haven't smoked since, my FEV1 has remained more or less the same in this time frame at 4.6L.

I do have a diagnosis of mild chronic bronchitis (or at the very least refractory asthma) which I feel is messing up my breathing centre and causing all sorts of minor issues like SOB for no reason, this sleep problem and hyperventilating regularly.

Any thoughts or anyone else relate to this situation?

8 Replies

Sounds like something my husband was going through and they did a sleep study. He also has Asthma and would wake sometimes gasping for air. He had a sleep study done and has sleep apnea. They gave him a C pak to wear but we haven't picked it up yet. They explained this the problem with sleep apnea is you can stop breathing momentarily and can be very serious. You should see your doctor and ask for sleep study.

1 like

Btw have a sleep study in a few weeks.


I have done that a few times maybe 3 or 4 times. My heart doesn't really race but it is a weird feeling especially if it is dark, that is I wake in the night not early morning I feel I immediately want to sit up. Actually the last time this happened I was having a PET/CT scan and was strapped onto the gurney. Just as well as I think had I not been I would have sat up and hit my head, and worse still they would have had to do the scan again and it was quite near the end of the 45 minutes. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately the radiologist couldn't see me at the time as I was right inside the machine. It made me calm down quite quickly though. It is almost like I have swallowed a breath and woken myself up. I don't honestly think I am having problems breathing it is just swallowing that breath. Usually only happens when I am laid flat on my back. Can't actually believe I fell asleep in the scanner. But I had been up since 5 that morning as had a long drive to e hospital.


Hi, my first thought is that the CT scan was an awfully long time ago! Time for another methinks.

2nd thought is that you might have sleep apneoa (wrong spelling I expect).

Someone will be along soon who knows more about it.

You could call the BLF helpline tomorrow - 03000 030555 office hours.

Good luck with getting to the bottom of it


Hi thanks for the responses. I'd be amazed if nothing shows in the sleep study. Thing that concerns me is that I'm using sleeping tablets at the moment. Will they let me use them in the sleep study?

On the CT scan my Pulmo won't send me for another because the Lung volumes are unchanged. This is despite a near constant pain in my upper back on taking a deep breath.

At the moment they are telling me it's all in my head.

I think there is a theme here that I have seen before. Pulmo's telling those with mild disease confirmed by CT or Spirometry that all is well and they can't find much wrong and that they have nothing to worry about.

I suspect this is because there is not really much can be done for those with chronic bronchitis with mild airflow obstruction other than stopping smoking, excercise and Albuterol.


Hi ck101. It sounds like you could have sleep apnoea. My Husband had it. You stop breathing for a few seconds and your brain says "hey! Come on wake up" and that's probably what disturbs you. If you see your Dr and explain what's happening he may send you for some tests. My Husband was given a C Pap machine and from then on it was fantastic. He was always dropping off to sleep even though he thought he had a good nights sleep. With the C Pap he could stay awake in the day. I hope that helps.


Please forgive my ignorance but what is a CPap?


Hi Mena, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The CPAP machine sends/blows a continuous supply of air through a tube, which is attached to the face mask, or nose piece, which keeps your airways (throat) open; this stops the sleep apnea. June


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