The reasons why you might wake up feeling unable to breathe

Have you ever woken up feeling short of breath? Some people believe the reason they wake up in the middle of sleep, gasping for air, is because there is a supernatural spirit sitting on the their chest. However, science shows that there may be several reasons why a person would wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. Are are some of the reasons highlighted by Symptomfind:

Sleep apnoea
If you have heard of sleep apnoea, you’ll know it is a sleeping disorder that can wake people up in the middle of sleep due to the possible obstruction of the breathing airway. This happens due to a range of reasons from excess tissue, weak airway muscles, position of the jaw, or a large tongue and tonsils. Be sure to seek the opinion of a sleep doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnoea, because if undiagnosed for long periods of time, it can become lethal.

Heart failure
Don’t immediately panic if you have one isolated gasping episode in the middle of the night; however, if you notice decreased exercise tolerance (such as getting winded when climbing a flight of stairs) and ankle swelling, you might want to see the doctor. Shortness of breath that wakes a person up in the middle of the night is also known as paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea, and can be fatal if left untreated.

Post-nasal drip
If you are prone to nasal allergies or have bad nasal colds, post-nasal drip can definitely cause you to wake up in the middle of night, gasping for air. Nasal secretions can migrate down to the throat, which in turn, can block the airway. Since your throat sensors can notify the brain to send signals to the chest muscles to cough and gasp for air. Thus, people wake up feeling like they are suffocating. Luckily, post-nasal drip can usually be alleviated with antihistamines or nighttime cold medicine.

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Asthma flares
An asthma flare is usually accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath and a sense of tightness in the chest. During an asthma attack, the lining of the airway becomes swollen and thick mucus is produced, which in turn can be the culprit of air shortage. Luckily this can be tamed by an inhaler, having regular exercise or medication from the doctor.

Pulmonary edema
Pulmonary edema is also a common cause and it is characterised by an accumulation of excess fluid in the lungs. When an affected individual is lying down, shortness of breath is increased, thus also increasing the risk of waking up gasping for air. Acute pulmonary edema, which is characterised by a sensation of drowning, is considered a medical emergency and should be seen by a doctor immediately.

Sometimes, waking up in the middle of the night, gasping is more of a psychological problem than a physical one. When a person is under extreme stress, suffers from anxiety or has panic attacks, it is very possible to suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat and shortage of breath. You may be in the middle of a vivid nightmare and not even know it until you escape it. As strange as it sounds, it is possible to have a panic attack while sleeping. During these instances, seeing a therapist or adopting stress relieving methods can greatly decrease the instances of gasping for breath in the middle of the night. According to Diet Finda, a proper diet can also help reduce triggers as well as help boost your mood; and let’s not forget that exercise can be very beneficial to combat stress and anxiety.

If you constantly experience these episodes, make sure to consult a doctor or specialist to treat the problem, as some medical conditions with this symptom can prove to be fatal if undiagnosed or ignored.

Have you ever experienced a shortness of breath that has caused you to wake in the middle of the night? Did you seek treatment for the condition?