Is it normal for people to wake up gasping when...

they fall asleep sitting up with their head tilting down? Or is it a symptom of something more serious and they should see a doctor?

Medical advice is best suited to IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

I am not offering medical advice, but I will say this never happened to me; I traveled and fell asleep like this frequently.

Do you mean sleeping sitting upright in a chair with your head forward? Don’t know about that.

But some people sometimes, while sleeping lying in bed, wake up gasping. This is commonly a sign of sleep apnea which is not normal (but apparently rather common) and allegedly can have some health consequences. If this is you, you should discuss it with a doctor, or at the very least, read all about it on-line.

I used to own an old couch which was gradually collapsing into a singularity. Towards the end of its natural life, I would suddenly wake from a nap gasping for air. Really freaked me out, until it dawned on me that it ONLY happened on that particular couch and NEVER anywhere else – the couch’s sinkhole had gotten so bad, it was literally cutting off my air supply when I napped on it.

However, 90% of the time, waking up gasping for air is a Very Bad Thing. If it happens regardless of sleeping position or location, make that 100%. See a doctor.

One of the first signs that I had a failing heart valve was waking up gasping for air. It’s one of the most common symptoms. However, most are able to sleep then sitting upright.

I also have sleep apnea and sometimes wake up gasping for air when I’ve nodded off while sitting upright.

I think it’s a relatively benign postural issue, and having sleep apnea may contribute.

Just now, I tried inhaling through my nose as I let my head drop. As soon as my chin touched chest, I was unable to inhale. If I concentrated on relaxing after this, I was able to resume breathing for a while, then I could feel the airway starting to close off again.

It can be positional and benign, but when it isn’t, it tends to be a Big Deal, with lots of ugly increased risks for heart attacks and strokes. Definitely worth mentioning to a doctor so the Big Deals can be ruled out.

I only wake up gasping for air when I fall asleep sitting up with my head tilted forward, or when I’m laying down and I have a episode of sleep paralysis. Me and my mother are pretty sure that my dad has sleep apnea. We beg him to discuss it with his doctor. I’ve read that sleep apnea can be hereditary. I will discuss my symptoms with my doctor.

That would be my guess too. Growing up I used to see my mom do it quite often. It can be a scary feeling.

And when I’m about to wake up gasping for air, just before that happens I sometimes have kinda-scary suffocating dreams.

I remember one in which I dreamed I was literally a frog, and I jumped into a pool of water to snag a bug, and then had a hard time swimming back to the surface, and I was running out of breath as I tried to get back topside.

I had a drowning dream night before last and mrAru woke me up as I looked like I was cheynes-stoking. The frog dream sounds much better than my sinking boat dream. :frowning:

I think you’re literally describing sleep apnea. It’s “lack of air while sleeping”. Whether this is a sign of generally having sleep apnea under other sleeping conditions, or momentary sleep apnea caused by posture, I don’t know.

But… But… When I woke up, I discovered that I really am a frog! :eek: (The main problem with that being… eating bugs.)