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Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
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Paptillian Offline

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Post: #1
Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
I don't know for a fact that these symptoms are related to sleep apnea, but I'm going to go out on a limb here. I often times will experience a very frightening, vivid dream that becomes so intense that I wake up. Usually when I'm awake I find that something isn't quite right.

Last night I was sleeping on my back (can only assume I was snoring badly). I had a nightmare and when I awoke my face felt warm/puffy and my heart was pounding like it wanted to come out of my chest. My best guess is that I get blood pressure spikes sometimes in my sleep. I believe that my body produces the dreams in order to wake me up. Once awake I can just roll over, relax, and fall back asleep.

I think that when I eat a heavy meal at night that tends to trigger it, too. I'm more suspicious of OSA though. Can a lack of oxygen present this way? What I've read mentions that heart rate slows down, not the opposite.

Assuming this is OSA causing the reaction (?), have others experienced it and have you found relief with CPAP?
06-18-2013 03:11 PM
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jgjones1972 Offline

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Post: #2
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
Yes, that is almost definitely caused by apnea and yes, CPAP should remedy that.

When you have an apnea you stop breathing, heart rate slows, oxygen level in blood drops then your system goes into panic mode and kick starts you awake in order to make you start breathing again. You often will wake up with a start - heart beating hard and fast, blood pressure through the roof, gasping for air in order to get oxygen back into the mix, sweaty from the stress hormones released etc. Once you are awake and breathing everything settles back down and back to sleep you go until the next apnea. Often times apneacs go through this sleep/wake cycle without even knowing it has happened, but sometimes the system will kick start you so hard you reach a fully awake state and remember it. When I was at my worst I would jump up and pace the floor a few times per night.

Voluntary muscle control is lost during REM sleep (when you dream). When voluntary muscle control is gone the airway is more susceptible to collapse. This is why Obstructive apnea is often at its worst during REM sleep.

Also, many find that eating a heavy meal close to bed time makes apnea worse.

Sleep-well
06-18-2013 03:51 PM
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Paptillian Offline

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Post: #3
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
When this happens and I wake up, I don't ever recall being sweaty or gasping for air. I did have a cold sweat once a few months ago, but I assumed it was due to an infection. I haven't noticed that since. Hmm... I'll have to keep an eye out for that.
06-18-2013 04:10 PM
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RonWessels Offline

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Post: #4
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
Let me guess - nightmares of drowning or other suffocation?

It was only as I started my CPAP therapy that I realized how bad it had gotten. While I didn't have any claustrophobic reactions to the mask while sitting up, as soon as I lie down, I started getting unexplained feelings of panic. And I started remembering all of the other times I woke up in the middle of the night (pre-CPAP) in a panic.

I think I'm getting that pretty much under control now, although I still have a hyper-sensitivity to nasal congestion (I am a nose-breather and use a nasal mask). A decongestant before bedtime seems to help.

Now, I know you don't want to hear this, but my experience is that, now that I am on CPAP and getting good quality sleep, I'm having to deal with a whole plethora of "side effects". Accidentally adjusting my mask too tight and not being able to sleep at all (fixed after 2 nights when I figured it out), feeling short of breath in the morning (went away after a week or so), back and neck aches (in progress; I'm experimenting with different pillow and sleep position configurations as well as some Ibuprofen at bedtime), and goodness knows what next. Is it worth it? You bet your life!
06-18-2013 04:20 PM
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jgjones1972 Offline

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Post: #5
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
Some don't get sweaty, some do...I did. I rarely noticed gasping for air, but other people told me that I would wake up several times per night with a reaction like I had been forcibly held under water for an extended period - sometimes I would go back to sleep and not even remember ever having been awake.
06-18-2013 04:26 PM
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Paptillian Offline

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Post: #6
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
Okay, now that I know I'm not alone here I'm looking forward to getting my CPAP that much more. These kind of episodes need to stop.

@RonWessels - I don't recall dreams of drowning but it's quite possible. I have a hard time remembering them the next day. A few that I do recall involved people or figures. It's not that I'm being chased by a psycho-murderer or anything, but something about them makes me overcome by an immense paralytic fear. Sometimes I feel myself trying to move and scream, but can't. The best I can produce is a muffled scream, like... well, like my throat is stuffed with something (huh! throat full of water?). I'm not sure if it's externally audible to others. My wife never mentioned hearing me scream (just snoring). Within a few seconds of this torture I'm awake and feeling a heat wave over my body & face, heart pounding.

Forgot to mention I woke up with dry mouth, too.
(This post was last modified: 06-18-2013 05:48 PM by Paptillian.)
06-18-2013 05:46 PM
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zonk Offline

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Post: #7
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
Answer to the question .... Yes
I don,t get bad dreams as before CPAP
I don,t miss them
06-18-2013 05:53 PM
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archangle Offline
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Post: #8
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
I believe I had my CPAP set wrong in the past. Once I got it right, I've tinkered with it and gotten it adjusted a bit better.

I would sometimes have panicky, sudden wakening dreams. They seem to have been much worse when my CPAP was badly misadjusted and got less and less as I adjusted it better. Sometimes they were suffocation or claustrophobia related dreams.

I'm firmly convinced that some of the bad dreams I had in the past were caused by apnea when I didn't have my CPAP set right. I even find that I have fewer of this particular panicky type dream with abrupt wakening when I increase my minimum pressure a bit above where my AHI essentially goes to zero.

However, on the other hand, many apneas find out that they do dream more vividly or at least remember their dreams more vividly. This seems to be true both for good and for bad dreams.

If you have a good CPAP machine with data collection, you can check your data and see if you were having breathing problems just before you woke up.

Get the free SleepyHead software here.
Useful links.
Click here for information on the main alternative to CPAP.
If it's midnight and a DME tells you it's dark outside, go and check it yourself.
06-18-2013 07:37 PM
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zonk Offline

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Post: #9
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
(06-18-2013 05:46 PM)Paptillian Wrote:  Forgot to mention I woke up with dry mouth, too.
Mouth breathing dry the mouth, it could be just open mouth to breathe which is symptoms of apnea or/and some nasal congestion as one tend to mouth breathe if not getting enough air supply through the nose
06-18-2013 08:14 PM
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Paptillian Offline

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Post: #10
RE: Has CPAP helped with nightmares and "harsh awakenings"?
No CPAP yet archangle, but hopefully within the next week. I'm getting impatient Smile

I wanted to get an idea if this was common among apneacs and what I could expect with treatment. If what I described is how people experience OSA then I can finally reconcile to myself that this is the cause. I know I have OSA from the sleep study but I never attributed these events to it, thinking they were unrelated. My cardiologist and GP both find me otherwise healthy (save for pre-hypertension which I'm taking meds for).
06-18-2013 09:29 PM
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