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Does this sound like sleep terrors or sleep apnea? However, I dont have the symptoms of apnea

by Anon

Sorry for the long message. It would be great to have an idea of what this seems like. I cant see a doctor about it until I'm back in my main country.

I have in the past year been having night terrors where the dreams (I usually remember the dreams, but not always) have a certain theme. I get these night terrors several times a month. They vary but can be from twice a month to maybe at maximum about 3 times a week. Usually they are less often (such as 2 to 4 times a month). Sometimes they might have also gone to once a month. They seem to become worse when I'm sleep deprived (from exams, work, jet lag, etc) or stressed but they can also occur when I'm not suffering these things. They can also come on from big workouts in which my muscles are sore.

I exercise regularly (including weight training, cycling, long distance walking, etc etc), and very healthy, have a low normal weight (I'm slim but in the normal range), eat a healthy diet, don't smoke and almost never drink alcohol, and am happy most of the time. I'm running my own small business and am a mature graduate student. I live in two countries for the sake of my graduate studies. I have never snored, and my boyfriend tells me he has never noticed me stop breaking in my sleep. I wake up rested. I never have episodes of feeling tired or nodding off in the day. I am seldom stressed, but I am a sensitive person who can worry easily about things at times; however, I do not have an anxiety disorder.

These sleep terrors involve my usually dreaming that I am swallowing something (usually but not always ball-shaped and small, but the smaller terrors can involve swallowing something more flat like a tiny piece of paper). I'll then think I'm about to die that second. I'll then sit up and try to cough it up (in extreme cases I've coughed my throat raw, but usually I don't), and sometimes I'll scream. It takes me a little while to wake up even if someone reassures me that it's a dream. I don't wake up breathless at all, I can breath fine when I wake up; sometimes the thing that actually wakes me is when I realize I'm breathing so I cant be choking to death. I'll find my heart is beating rapidly and I'm breathing heavily but from anxiety, not gasping for air.

Just one of these terrors, maybe half a year ago, involved my getting up and walking to the foot of my bed, sitting there and then screaming. I remembered getting up and doing that, I could see the room, but I didn't feel awake at the time; everything seemed hazy. That one didn't involve dreaming of swallowing anything. I haven't done other sleep walking so far.

I've never had sleep terrors, sleep paralysis, sleep walking or other sleep disorders before in my life. And there's been no big shock lately. And I've been doing the overseas living and travelling all of my life since babyhood but much more so in the last 10+ years, so that is not causing it I'm sure.

One thing I can think it might connect to is that maybe 15 years ago I had a major and permanent back injury which also caused internal spams in my neck in which it took a while for swallowed food to go down and sometimes I felt I wasn't breathing in enough air. That got better with exercise and physio and the sports med doctor told me that the injury and symptoms have never caused danger to anyone's life but were just uncomfortable. I found at that time that stress could make it worse and it could sometimes cause me to have difficulty in breathing during exams. I found then also that my throat would feel like it was closing if I lay on my back at night, so I'd have to use two pillows. I've not needed to do that since that time. But I wonder if maybe what's happening now is anxiety related and also related to that injury. I don't have an anxiety disorder but I have had anxiety attacks (when I was in my late teens, from a bad experience; they lasted a couple of years but then I managed to deal with them with some techniques without medication). It's possible since I'm a sensitive person that that is causing all of this.

I said I hadn't had a trauma but the episodes are coming a little after a stressful experience I had a couple of years ago. But they didn't come right afterwards. Another thing is that I took a herb called maca just after that time, not very often maybe once a month at the lowest dose. The herb was quite powerful and I tapered it off. But the dreams seem to have come after that, and I found if I took more of the herb I'd get more of them or more strongly. I seldom take it now.

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