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I Feel Like I'm Dying In My Sleep...

by Jason Pugh
(Columbus, Ohio)

My name is Jason, I'm 33 years old, and this has happened to me many, many times, always just BEFORE I fall asleep, ever since I was probably 18.


I can be lying down in any position and I can feel my body just fall limp. My breath slows down and, when it first happened, I felt like I was suffocating. I tried to take a deep breath but my lungs didn't respond and I started to panic. I couldn't sit up, in fact, I couldn't even move. I can still hear everything going on around me.

I also fall asleep with my eyes partially open sometimes, and I can see everything going on around me but I can't move my eyes. I can feel the tears running down my cheek, knowing I can't stop it unless I can startle myself enough to wake up my body.

The only thing I CAN do, is get either one of my feet to move at the ankle. If I shake my foot hard enough, I can now wake up my wife, who knows what that means, and shakes me till I am ok.

Over the years I have been able to sometimes force my exhale out harder to make a slight noise. If my wife is not in bed with me and it happens, I am in some trouble. I can get my feet moving, sometimes both feet going enough to shake my entire body, yet I sometimes can't wake up.

I feel like I am dying in my sleep, but I'm forced to be mentally awake, almost as some type of punishment. Once, I tried to accept that I couldn't wake up from it and just go to sleep... yah right! Didn't work.

I still panic when it happens. When I do finally wake up, if I try to lay back down immediately, it will happen again. I have had this happen 3-4 times in a row before I figured out I have to get out of bed, and walk around, get a drink or do something for a few minutes.

To this day, I suffer from this condition 2-3 times a month with no medication, and it frightens me every time.

Comments for I Feel Like I'm Dying In My Sleep...

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Sep 30, 2015
Perfect Description Of Sleep Paralysis
by: Kevin

Thanks for giving a perfect, textbook description of sleep paralysis. And a great description of how to use your bed partner to wake you up from an episode. Ryan Hurd talks about that as well as one of the techniques he uses to help gain some control over his sleep paralysis.

Perhaps the only thing that is not the usual for sleep paralysis is that you get it at the start of sleep. It is most common to experience when you wake up. Sometimes experiencing it only at the start of sleep can be a symptom of a more serious problem like narcolepsy, but it doesn't sound like that's the case for you given just what's here in your description.

Thanks again for sharing your story.

Jan 16, 2016
Goin to Sleep NEW
by: David Sheppard

I believe what you are experiencing is a phenomenon called "deafferentation." As we go to sleep, the brain diminishes inputs from the five physical senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. This enables us to sleep through most physical irritants and environmental disturbances. We lose touch with our body. It is nothing to fear and is quite normal. The transition from being awake to being asleep is called hypnagogia, and it is quite complicated and very interesting. I discuss it extensively in In Pursuit of Sleep. http://InPursuitOfSleep.com

Apr 11, 2016
sleep paralysis NEW
by: suzy

I have suffered with this for many years and did not know it had a name. It is terrifying. I saw something online a couple of months ago and I thought my god this is what ive been having. I forgot about it. Last night I had sleep paralysis and I looked it up. I was relieved I wasnt on my own or going mad. Its awful, I am so scared to go back to sleep when I eventually wake up. I have terrible nightmares which are different to sleep paralysis where I can feel pain and try to wake up and cant. I kind of know when I am going to have an attack. I feel asleep and wake up and cant move my arms or head or torso, I try to scream but nothing comes from my mouth. What I do think happens is that I can move the lower part of my legs and am franticly moving them to wake myself up but icant move anything else. I feel relief when I wake up but i dare not go back to sleep. I do have poor quality of sleep because of back problems and severe osteo arthritis. So I am sleep deprived.i take many tablets for the pain including tramadol and amitriptyline and others. I donfeel like I am dying whn it happens and feel like I am dying. I struggle to breathe. Glad im not alone but wud not wish it on my worst enemy . Wish I cud find a cure cos is scary stuff. Suzy e

Sep 05, 2016
Perfect description NEW
by: Mackel9

I have this and I usually try to talk and scream and there is no sound coming out. I open my eyes, but no sound can come out for several minutes. My heart feels like it is about to stop or beating too slowly, I cannot express how scared you wake up feeling...

Oct 13, 2016
Glad I'm not alone NEW
by: Amity

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one! I have this very often, and it always happens at the beginning of my sleep especially when I'm really tired. It's almost as if I wake up mentally and realize that I can't move, speak or a lot of times breathe. The only thing that has worked for me is to frantically wiggle my toes or foot or squeeze my hand to make a fist. It is so scary and when I do wake up, I'm panicked! I always worry about going back to sleep right after bc it happens again. So sorry you guys are having this happen to you! Is there anything you can do to avoid this happening?

Nov 15, 2016
Can't wake up NEW
by: Anonymous

I have this in fact I just woke up to one ,it's like I want to wake up and I can't breathe or move ,I feel like I am awake when this happens and wake up gasping for air ,it's so frightening,I have spoken to my doctor and he says you will always wake up ,that hasn't put my mind at rest cause he didn't take it serious ,my mum just died in her sleep which has made mine worse and I am so scared to go to sleep ,and so tied to wake up I think I may go to another doctor cause the problem is getting worse not better

Nov 21, 2016
night runner NEW
by: matips

thanks for sharing that ...
personally I have had this experience for quite sometime to me it normally happen after I have had an episode of drinking ..that is the day after. . everytime I go to bed I just get very weak can
't even turn or say something but I can feel mosquitos biting me and noises outside but can't do anything but I keep on struggling there until somehow I just wake up again I get scared to sleep again coz it happens again ...but since I know it's only for a while n am used to that condition I just lie there knowing it will go away




Dec 11, 2016
It feels like suffocating NEW
by: Anonymous

Im 29 and this started happening to me maybe 2 years ago. It is terrifying. It feels like suffocating. I have tried to be mindful of the position I fall asleep in just incase it happens again but it truly doesn't matter. I have slept propped up on 3 pillows and its still as scary as if I had fallen asleep on my stomach. I felt crazy and did not know how to explain to my fiance that I often feel like im dying in my sleep. Its a minor relief knowing that I'm not alone but going to sleep is still terrifying.

Dec 27, 2016
Not afraid anymore NEW
by: Anonymous

This has been happening to me for quite some time, its increasing from once a month to 2 times a night. I have done alot of serching which led me astral projection. For me its starts with a tingle and instead of fearing it, i gave in. I know its a form of sleep paralysis, so i gave in and have amazing dreams and wake up very refresh. Give in, the only fear i have is not coming back to the body. But im still here.

Mar 01, 2017
happens to me NEW
by: Anonymous

This happens to me very often, sometimes a few times a week. When I'm falling asleep or waking up and it frigtns the life out of me literally... I can't move and my eyes won't open and my brain and body feels heavy and weak, I'm so weak like I don't stand a chance when I try to fight it and qake up... My breathing slows down. It's what I imagine dying to be like. Sometimes I move my hand or foot and I can feel myself doing this even though I'm will not fully conscious I know I'm awake at the same time. After a few attempts of struggling to pressure my self to open my eyes, move and wake up properly and it doesn't work I relax my body and don't think for a few seconds and then I try again and it works, I wake up properly and shake myself around with relief. However sometimes it takes longer than one or two trys of relaxing myself to wake up and that's what svTes me most. I have bad anxiety and I wonder if lack of sleep sometimes makes this happen that my brain is so heavily on sleep mode that my body also won't react because of this. You feel so afraid to go back asleep! I do exercise alot. I'm going to start practising mindfulness again

Apr 10, 2017
Doesn't feel like sleep paralysis NEW
by: Anonymous

I've have sleep paralysis and It doesn't feel like it. This sleep gives me a good feeling, as if I'm going into a good sleep and I feel like I'm never going to wake up. As I let go of my tensed body my heart beats really fast as it's trying to wake me back up. I stay awake for about 4 hours before I start feeling tired again. Please advise me on what to do. I hate this feeling.

May 28, 2017
Unusual falling asleep or dying? NEW
by: Terry

Im not quite sure how to explain it but I just had an episode. Its started when I was going to sleep and it feelt like my soul and breath was leaving my body. It feels like Im slipping away and if I let it happen I might die. I am conscious so shake my head or any part of my body and I pray it takes a minute but I eventually am able to open my eyes again. I am tempted to see how it ends but am scared of not waking and my kids would find me lifeless. I dont want to do that to them. Any ideas?

Jun 09, 2017
i-feel-like-im-dying-in-my-sleep MANY TIMES NEW
by: Chk India

I have experienced it so many times, I feel like i am dying...its been 2 years....Initially I had no idea why it happens..but Now I am diagnosed with Chronic sinusitis... I think this may be the reason...when we lie on bed mucous starting build up in our sinus and get clogged followed by nasal congestion which leads to bad breadth and all this reflect as a dream and such feeling occurs... I suggest you guys to meet with doctor to consult whether you have such problems

Jul 24, 2017
The feeling of dying while sleeping NEW
by: Anonymous

I experience this feeling four or five times. It happens during night or even day sleep. I hate facing this coz Im scared of dying during the experience. My heart beat gets Slower, I can't even open my eyes. Most times I pray in my mind to God for help and udually come out of the feeling. Im really scared of the feeling to overtake me. My instinct tells me that if I do not overcome the feeling I will definitely die so I always try my best to come out.

Aug 22, 2017
Yea NEW
by: Anonymous

You feel
Lethargy.

Oct 21, 2017
Wtf is this NEW
by: Anonymous

This happened to me a few times recently! The first night no less than 3 times...it's like my brain woke up but my body took a few moments I don't know how long but it felt like if I couldn't wake myself up right then I would die. I was dying. I was so convinced. I was frightened and woke my bf up he was amazing...I've been suffering from anxiety and depression is the icing on the nope-cake.
Guys this is some horrible stuff..can't put into words. What can I do? Will a Dr take it seriously and what sleeping meds can stop this?

Nov 13, 2017
Thought I was dying NEW
by: lorraine

Thought I was dying last night. I cant explain it. It was like I couldn't breath, grasping to try. It almost felt like my heart had stopped beating, and I was on my way out. As a matter of fact, for a few seconds, which felt like forever, I wasn't breathing!!! I could feel my eyes closing slowly as I was trying to breath. I said "this is it, I am dying" It was so scary. Why did this happen?

Dec 16, 2017
Don't sleep on your back NEW
by: Nick

So I have dealt with sleep paralysis for a long time like most of you, and yes it is terrifying. About 8 years ago I had back to back nights where I even hallucinated that something crawled onto my bed and then onto me while I was having paralysis. It still haunts me. Anyway, one thing that helps me is to not sleep on my back. Whenever I wake up with sleep paralysis, I am always on my back, so I try to never fall asleep in this position. Hope this helps.

Dec 18, 2017
I am dying in my sleep NEW
by: brian chester

So it is now 3:00 AM and I just had one of the Sleep Death Attacks. These are so real and so absolutely "the most frightening things any human could ever experience. It is as if "Death" is dragging you into it's own and it is time to say goodbye. Now I could go onto try and describe it in a less dramatic way but when the attacks occur, my only instinct is to fight this death like experience as it comes to end my life. I can't say whether it is in the first two hours of sleep or the final 6th or 7th hour. I am heavily entrenched and can never recall a dream that I perhaps was having when the attack occurred; I always remember my dreams upon awakening. The awakening when the attacks occur is so violent that perhaps it neurologically blanks out memories of a dream. But Death, Death is the common factor, and you are trapped by your state of sleep. If you don't wake,,, death is eminent

Dec 20, 2017
Mine is a little different NEW
by: Khushi

Hey! I am Khushi. I wanted to know about this topic as I started noticing this problem with me many times. I don't what it is! I feel like I am sleeping and something moves me...like I want to wake up but I can't and it's more like I've already woke up inside my body but I can't even move my eyes outside. When I wake up inside, All I do or all I see myself is like I am locked. Someone put a cage around me, I can't even make my hand moving (inside me). I want to just open my eyes for a while so that I can breathe but it is so difficult for me even to open my eyes. May be I can move or I move then, but I don't realize,I really want to know what is the problem with me and how can I control it. Hope someone can help me.

Feb 06, 2018
Solution that worked for me NEW
by: RK Vancouver

I suffered sleep paralysis for months year 2015-2016..
Days in a row, sleep paralysis after sleep paralysis after another one again same night.
In the morning I felt so tired coz I was sleep deprived, was afraid to go back to sleep. I would sit up to avoid falling asleep.
I could tell when I was having one. It was a weird feeling I can’t explain. I don’t see shadows (thanks God), but I can feel presence of unseen or sometimes (my mind says a dead person was present although I couldn’t see).
I tried to scream many times to ask help! no voice! I hear people outside my room, but of course they didn’t hear me..
I tried to gather my strength and sit up, but something was strongly pulling me back (sleep). I fought again, but I can’t get up.
My mind says if I let sleep take over I would never be able to wake up again ever! So I always fought to wake myself! It was scary- I felt like dying.

First, I read somewhere that sleep paralysis is also caused by lack of oxygen in the brain (lol I didn’t find scientific connection but I was desperate to end my nightmare! I would do anything). I slept on my side & carved in my brain to do a forceful deep breath when sleep paralysis attacks again.

So it happened- I kept doing it, forcing my body to do it, until my body actually did one big deep breath! Viola I woke up doing it! Usually it would take me 1-3 tries with all my might. While combining in trying to move the fingers of my feet (whichever works I said to myself). It was the act of taking a deep breath that usually woke me. But it really takes strong will & energy for the body to finally follow. Sometimes a forced twitch of feet fingers can wake me up too..

But I was not content, I learned the technique to wake myself, but what I want was to not experience it anymore. (At all).

Someone told me It was due to dehydration. So again here comes the night. Before I slept I drank 1- 2 full glasses of water, I didn’t care if I had to wake up to pee. I just didn’t want to feel like dying again, and EUREKA!!!!!!!! it worked.
I woke up once to pee, then I drank a glass or water again to replace water loss.. I had a good sleep..

Since then until now, I am drinking enough fluids during the day, so I will need to drink 1 glass of water only before bedtime..
Sometimes, I feel the urge to pee before falling asleep.
That’s fine by me. I will just drink half glass of water again after- to rehydrate myself.. So far I never had sleep paralysis again..

It may have no connection to sleep-wake-cycle or REM & NREM, but this is how it worked for me :-)


Feb 06, 2018
Solution that worked for me cont.. NEW
by: Anonymous

I forgot to mention, the reason I slept on my side is to avoid tongue blocking the airway. When we sleep on our back, our tongue relaxes and may block the airway.. (causing lack of oxygen? And snoring anyways).

And mentioned to remember the deep breathing technique just because since muscle was paralyzed, I had a weird feeling that the lack of oxygen was also due to relaxed muscle forgetting to breathe for short period of time, so I thought to force myself and keep in mind to breathe! LoL. Funny as it may sound but it worked for me..

Studies has linked REM with hypoxia- as I said I was desperate to end it so I made a lot of reading, proven or not proven, even hearsay, I would try as long as it’s not harmful.

As to dehydration- I didn’t find connection, the only thing I know, due to cold weather, we have heater at home & I felt like heater is absorbing body moisture as well and makes me dehydrated during the night... With dehydration, body will not function properly..

Causes of dehydration (many to mention), If I can prevent it by drinking water, I would. And it worked (in my own experience).

I am sharing this because I know how it feels, to feel like dying, feel like you won’t see your family again, to think that my family will just find me on bed lifeless. You can try what I did too.. Hopefully it will work too.. If not, I’m sorry. It may be different in every person..

Doctors say Sleppe Paralysis is not harmful (Just a conflict between REM & NREM), but, I would’nt dare take a chance to try & see what happens if I just let sleep overcome me during sleep paralysis! LoL we only have one precious life to risk with "what ifs"

Who didn’t try to shake themselves? I’m curious what happpened next. Maybe nothing and woke up normally?..

Feb 09, 2018
Br NEW
by: Brother

I have exact same situation. I just had one a few minutes ago. What I do to wake up from that state is to shake my feet or ankle.
I am also wondering if weight gain is part of the problem. I have to loose some weigh to see if this improves

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