Do I have a sleep disorder if I feel like I’m choking at night?

This question was asked in Bronx, New York on 05/31/2012.
I snore and have trouble sleeping. I wake up with a very fast heartbeat and a feeling as if I’m being choked. I have a great deal of trouble breathing. Do I have a sleep disorder?

Doctors Answers (5)

Ramie A. Tritt, M.D., FRCSC
Answered on: 6/12/2012

You certainly have symptoms that are consistent with a sleep disorder, known as obstructive sleep apnea. On the other hand, you may be having an anxiety attack. You definitely require a complete and thorough evaluation by a physician.

J. Douglas Hudson, MD, DABSM
Answered on: 6/4/2012 1

You definitely have some type of sleep disorder if you feel like you are choking. The cause can range from a disorder of your lungs (?asthma) or acid reflux to obstructive sleep apnea. The associated fast heartbeat suggests involvement of the autonomic nervous system which controls our heart rate. This is likely secondary to the cause for your choking although heart conditions must be excluded. The fact that you snore increases the possibility that you have sleep apnea. Your next step is to see your primary care physician who can direct you to a sleep specialist or a sleep lab.

Marjorie Yong, M.D.
Answered on: 6/1/2012 1

Yes I do think that you have a sleep disorder. Choking is a bad sign and especially the palpitations. You need a sleep study asap.

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 6/1/2012 1

If you are waking with a choking or gasping feeling this could be a manifestion of apnea spells with associated hypoxemia (low blood oxygen). If you have loud snoring it is likely that you have more severe sleep disordered breathing that is associated with the feelings you are describing. It would be to your benefit to be evaluated by a sleep specialist to treat the above symptoms.

Syed Nabi, M.D.
Answered on: 6/1/2012 1

Chances are you do have sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by cessation of airflow during sleep. When we fall asleep just as we lose control of muscles of our arms and legs, we lose control of the muscles of the airway. This leads to the nattering of the airway which causes snoring in some people were heavy breathing and others. As the airway collapses the air does not flow into the lungs. This leads to drop in oxygen level and the heart to pump harder and faster. The brain has to wake up telling the body: “Hey, wake up.”

This leads to destruction in the sleep. Of time most patients develop fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness as they get deprived of quality sleep. A sleep study usually helps determine the nature of sleep apnea and helps a sleep Dr. make the best plan for the patient. The most effective therapy for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP. Other treatment options include oral devices and surgery. If left untreated sleep apnea usually needs to multiple symptoms including fatigue, excessive sleepiness, mood disorder, headaches, trouble falling or staying asleep, and etc. Untreated sleep apnea in the long run is known to cause diseases of the heart and brain such as high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, Alzheimer's disease, strokes etc.