Certain cultural superstitions suggest that the reason someone wakes up in the middle of the night gasping for air is that there is a supernatural spirit sitting on that person’s chest, however, scientific research that reveals many other reasons for this occurrence. Now, if you find yourself experiencing these episodes on a regular basis, you will want to consult with a doctor or sleep specialist to treat the problem as some of the conditions associated with this can be fatal if left undiagnosed and ignored. Here are some the reasons why you might be waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air.
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that people experience which causes them to wake up in the middle of the night due to the potential obstruction of the breathing airway. Some of the reasons for this airway obstruction include excess tissue, weak airway muscles, the position of the jaw, or a large tongue and tonsils. This disorder can prove to be lethal if left untreated for a long period of time so make sure you the seek the opinion of a sleep specialist if you suspect you have sleep apnea.
Heart failure is another condition that can cause shortness of breath and wake someone up in the middle of the night. It is also called paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea and is another condition that can be fatal if left alone. On the other hand, you do not have to panic immediately if you happen to have one isolated gasping episode in the middle of the night. Paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea also comes with decreased exercise tolerance (the equivalent of losing your breath when climbing a flight of stairs) and ankle swelling.
Your gasping episodes in the middle of the night may also be due to an asthma flare. Typically, this is accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath, along with a feeling of tightness in the chest. When you are having an asthma attack, the lining of your airways becomes swollen, producing thick mucus which can be the culprit of air shortage. An inhaler can help tame these episodes along with regular exercise, or medication recommended by your doctor.
There are times when waking up to gasp for air in the middle of the night is more of a psychological problem than it is a physical problem. Usually, when someone is under immense pressure, they suffer from anxiety or panic attacks which can cause them to suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with excessive sweating, rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath. It could also be that you are in the middle of a vivid nightmare and not realize it until you actually wake up. If these events occur, you should seek a therapist, or maybe implement stress relieving methods to decrease these instances of gasping for air in the middle of the night.