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Waking up suddenly and feeling like I'm dying while falling asleep


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I have this problem when I am falling asleep that I've had for several years already, and it seems to be getting worse. It happens right when I am falling asleep or am sleeping lightly but never in the middle of the night or when I am sleeping soundly. It happens to me at least 50% of the time but only once per night.

I wake up suddenly feeling like I am dying. Literally, I think I am dying. I don't know how to describe the feeling that causes me to think I'm dying because it is beyond words. It's something between dizziness and a feeling of falling and a feeling like my heart has stopped, but that does not adequately describe it.

I've always written it off as anxiety or panic, but I take my most sedating med (Remeron) about 2 hours before I go to sleep so I should not be experiencing anxiety, and I really don't feel all that anxious most nights. Meds do not appear to affect it.

I'm not asking for a diagnosis here, but just wondering if anyone can relate? Other than this, I sleep well and generally don't suffer from insomnia.

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sounds pretty bad, i really hope that it will go away at some point. myself, i feel like i have seizures when i am falling asleep sometimes. as weird as that sounds... i feel like a jolt through my body, as if i'd been shocked with electricity and all my muscles involuntarily contract for a split second. it's pretty unpleasant, though doesn't match your experience, it's still pretty distressing. oh well....

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I sometimes wake up when I'm going to sleep with a fright/jump/jerk because it feels like I forgot to breathe. I don't have apnea that I know of and I don't think I actually stop breathing but it takes me a few seconds to figure out that I'm okay and not dead or dying.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I experience this too. I wake up freaking out because I'm convinced I'm suffocating myself. I suspect apnea and bf says I stop breathing in my sleep. I've been meaning to get a sleep study. Maybe you should ask your doc? I know you said you don't wake up gasping though. I don't actually gasp immediately when I wake up. I freak out and wake up, process then breathe. 

 

Sometimes I do wake up thinking I'm dying and it's not related to breathing. Just randomly dying in my sleep. But that happens when I'm super duper tired or anxious. 

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Does this sound familiar at all? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnic_jerk

 

I've had hypnic jerks a couple of times. Incredibly startling and uncomfortable, and what you've described sounds a lot like what I've experienced. It's like I'm in the middle of falling asleep and I'm relaxed and comfortable and then I suddenly feel like I'm falling and/or dying and I twitch awake in a state of panic.

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I sometimes wake up when I'm going to sleep with a fright/jump/jerk because it feels like I forgot to breathe. I don't have apnea that I know of and I don't think I actually stop breathing but it takes me a few seconds to figure out that I'm okay and not dead or dying.

this is exactly what i have, i have put it down to nightmares from seroquel, it's pretty scary though i feel my windpipe is closed.

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  • 1 year later...

I have had something like this happen to me several times over the last few years. I will wake up, jump out of bed and feel like I'm in the process of dying. It's like I can feel the life leaving my body and I will start screaming "NO!!!! NO!!! NO!!!" and will start trying to fight it and stay alive. Every time I finally get it to stop I always feels like I barely made it out alive. I will lay there for 30 min to an hour after just totally traumatized and exhausted.

In the past few months these episodes started happening more frequently so I went to my doctor and he sent me to a sleep study. It turns out I do have sleep apnea so my doctor put me on a variable CPAP device to sleep in a few weeks ago. 

Well, this morning I had another episode while sleeping. While I was wearing my CPAP. This time it was even worse than any of the others before and  I really, really felt like I barely survived this one. It was horrible.

So, I feel like ruling out sleep apnea as the cause of this because this episode occurred today while I was on CPAP with a clear airway  

Back to the drawing board, I guess, to try and figure out what the hell this is.  I want to believe I wouldn't actually die from this, but after this morning's incident, I don't feel like I could survive another one.

 

 

Edited by Neil D
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I'm sorry you had a bad one today. It definitely is horrible. I've been lucky that I haven't had a major one in the last several months. Nothing changed with regard to my meds or my sleep apnea. It's still a mystery to me but I'm leaning towards a combination of apnea and anxiety.

I mean it feels as if my heart is stopping or is in a major arrhythmia or something. I kind of soothe myself by telling myself that if it were a heart problem then I'd have symptoms at other times like during the day or when my heart is under stress. I guess I should get that checked out though.

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On 14 April 2016 at 4:11 PM, Neil D said:

I have had something like this happen to me several times over the last few years. I will wake up, jump out of bed and feel like I'm in the process of dying. It's like I can feel the life leaving my body and I will start screaming "NO!!!! NO!!! NO!!!" and will start trying to fight it and stay alive. Every time I finally get it to stop I always feels like I barely made it out alive. I will lay there for 30 min to an hour after just totally traumatized and exhausted.

In the past few months these episodes started happening more frequently so I went to my doctor and he sent me to a sleep study. It turns out I do have sleep apnea so my doctor put me on a variable CPAP device to sleep in a few weeks ago. 

Well, this morning I had another episode while sleeping. While I was wearing my CPAP. This time it was even worse than any of the others before and  I really, really felt like I barely survived this one. It was horrible.

So, I feel like ruling out sleep apnea as the cause of this because this episode occurred today while I was on CPAP with a clear airway  

Back to the drawing board, I guess, to try and figure out what the hell this is.  I want to believe I wouldn't actually die from this, but after this morning's incident, I don't feel like I could survive another one.

 

 

This happened to me last night.  I was convinced I was dying.  I was just falling asleep and could feel a pulse in my head and a tingling in my body, then as I was dropping off to sleep it felt like someone or something was dragging me out of my body and it took every ounce of strength to hold on and not die.  I was awake and could see my son who had got into my bed.  I felt as though if I had relaxed and hadn't  fought it, I would have died.  I have the worst headache today that I can't shake off at all.  I have never experienced anything like it before and now feel terrified about going to sleep tonight.  I am feeling your pain, because I also feel like if it happens again I wouldn't survive.   I've seen some other people on other forums call it sleep paralysis, but I'm not sure what it it.  

Edited by Mez
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