I have noticed that I wake up gasping for air a few times a night for a while


Q: I have noticed that I wake up gasping for air a few times a night for a while, but after recording myself a few times, I found that it mainly only happened between 5am and 9am- a snort then a gasp anywhere from 5 - 30 times, and no snoring. I am also very tired. For sleep apnea you have to have at least 5 events per hour and for me it doesn't happen every hour, so I'm really not sure what this could be. If I do not meet the diagnostic criteria for sleep apnea but still have some obstruction of my airways while I sleep, which may be causing my fatigue, how do they usually treat that? How bad does it have to be to qualify for CPAP and If I don't qualify, are there other treatments they might use to help? Could it possibly be nocturnal asthma even though my pulmonary function test and methacholine challenge during the day was completely normal? Just wondering about possiblities for diagnosis and treatment if this is not severe enough to be classified as sleep apnea. Thanks

Symptoms:  Wake up gasping for air chronic fatigue
Tested normal for the following: echocardiogram, chest X-ry, chest CT scan, pulmonary function test, methacholine challenge

A:   Thank you for your question. The description of your symptoms does lead us to believe that you may be experiencing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can be caused by over relaxation of the tongue which blocks breathing while you are sleeping in a supine (on your back) position. This can lead to episodes of completely obstructed breathing, leading you to wake up fearfully gasping for air. This is commonly observed in patients that are obese, or smoke, or have a family history of sleep apnea. You have not indicated that you have consulted a sleep medicine specialist and had a sleep study performed to definitively diagnose you with sleep apnea. CPAP would be indicated for persons who have several episodes of sleep apnea throughout the night, so yours may adequately be treated with a specially designed mouth guard which will position your jaw in a manner to effectively keep your tongue from obstructing your breathing while asleep. Please consult a sleep specialist.

Thank you for consulting AskTheDoctor.com

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