Do I have a sleep disorder if I feel like I am being strangled when I sleep?

This question was asked in Saint Paul, Minnesota on 11/21/2012.
This happens every time I try to fall asleep; just before I fall asleep I feel a sensation that someone is strangling me and then I wake up with my heart racing every time before I fall asleep. It happens just at the first attempt to fall asleep like just before a nap in the first seconds or at night, the feeling is like the feeling of falling in sleep then waking up except instead of falling I feel like I am being strangled.

Doctors Answers (4)

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 11/28/2012

This feeling may be linked to sleep disordered breathing, dream state enacting behaviour or night terrors or possible sleep myoclonus which is a normal phenomenon. You should pursue an evaluation with a sleep specialist to assess whether a sleep test is warranted.

Jeannine Louise Gingras, MD
Answered on: 11/26/2012

Yes you could be experiencing a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, nocturnal panic attacks or hypnic jerks You should seek out a sleep physician.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 11/26/2012

Your feeling of being strangled as you re falling asleep suggests that your airway is closing off. This usually occurs when your tongue and soft palate collapse and obstruct the flow of air to your lungs. This is what is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This event triggers your autonomic nervous system to react with an adrenalin effect; thus, a rapid heart rate or a feeling of fear. You need an over night sleep study in a sleep lab. Another less likely cause for this feeling is Central Sleep Apnea which your doctor can define.

Faryl K. Hart, DDS
Answered on:

The reason you feel like you have a strangling sensation when ou are falling asleep is that your airway collapses or becomes obstructed. Then you try to take a breath but it is unsuccessful. Finally, when the amount of oxygen is so low your brain signals your body to wake up and take a breath. This is what the bed partner hears as a silence followed by a gasp for air.