Choking While Sleeping

Choking While Sleeping
Choking While Sleeping

It may not be known to many but choking while sleeping is a common sleep disorder attributed to conditions like apnea and GERD. Here are the causes, symptoms, and ways of dealing with sleep choking.

Choking While Sleeping

It can be very terrifying choking while you are deep in sleep. There are even cases in which this condition is life-threatening.

There are different factors that can cause this condition and various signs to indicate an impending occurrence. We are going to explore different aspects of why there are people choking while sleeping and how you can be able to know it is about to start to help you avoid it.

Physical Symptoms of night time choking

The following are some of the common symptoms experienced when a nighttime choking is about to occur:

  • Increase in heart rate
  • The patient may find it very difficult to breath
  • There may be gasping or panic-style coughing
  • You may experience a horrible taste in your through
  • There may be a burning sensation experienced in your chest
  • You may feel the contents of your stomach rise to your throat which may cause a burning sensation in your throat
  •  In some cases the patient may vomit
  • There may be severe sweating
  • Fever may occur
  • You may experience pain while breathing which diminishes within a few days
  • There may be swelling in the back of the throat
  • You may experience sharp chest pains
  • The teeth and gums may become painful
  • Your sinuses may burn or even become painful
  • You may suffer from a sore throat

Psychological symptoms of night time choking

The following are some of the common psychological signs that you are experiencing nighttime choking:

  • Easy irritability or you experience erratic mood swings
  • You may experience panic, terror or even intense fear
  • Sometimes one might experience mental fatigue

You should make a list of the symptoms that you are experiencing so as to help you know what conditions might be affecting your sleep. Giving a medical professional a list of the symptoms you experience during nighttime choking will help him/her know what medical condition might be causing you to choke in your sleep.

Who experiences night time choking?

The answer to this question is that anyone can experience nighttime choking regardless of the age or gender. The ones who have a higher likelihood of suffering from this condition are people with obesity and the elderly. Infants have been reported to have a high occurrence of sleep choking as well as people above the age of 30.

Why does sleep choking occur?

sleep choking occur

Nighttime choking in adults is commonly caused by two conditions which are sleep apnea and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD). If you are suffering from any of these two conditions it is important to get it treated immediately as their complication can be severe.

The most common minor conditions that cause nighttime choking include post-nasal drip from common colds or allergies. Allergies can sometimes cause choking because of irritated respiratory paths.

Pneumonia and sinusitis can also cause choking when you are asleep but this is usually temporary. Other respiratory conditions to cause this problem include upper respiratory tract infections

The above mentioned minor conditions are not likely to cause choking unless the person experiences the worst symptoms of the infections. This can be dealt with by taking over the counter meds or prescribed antibiotics.

Tonsillitis is a condition that does cause choking thought not common. If the tonsils swell large enough they can cause blockage thus cause choking. You should check your tonsils after experiencing a choking episode so as to rule out this condition.

Heart failure and pulmonary embolisms are severe but uncommon causes of nighttime choking. They have similar symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, swelling legs, pain in the chest and fatigue. You should seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you are suffering from any of these two conditions as they are very dangerous to your health.

Studies by institutions like the Mayo Clinic indicate that GERD and sleep apnea cause the repeated occurrence of sleep choking. GERD is a disorder that causes excess acid to flow back into the esophagus instead of being neutralized as is normally expected. People suffering from this condition often experience heartburn and in severe cases, they may experience vomiting.

GERD sufferers may sometimes experience panic which causes coughing and increased heart rate. This affects their sleep causing them to experience fatigue and sleep deprivation. It can even cause pain in gums and teeth and on rare occasion sinuses.

Sleep Apnea is a condition that disrupts reflexive breathing when one is asleep thus causing the patients to gasp for breath while they are asleep. The cause is usually blocked breathing passages and it can cause fatigue due to sleep deprivation.

How to prevent choking while sleeping?

You can prevent sleep choking by implementing the following changes in your life:

  • Sleep with your upper body raised so as to ensure your airways remain open
  • You can try and lose some weight
  • Avoid taking alcohol, antidepressants, sleeping pills or stimulants before going to bed
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid falling asleep on your back
  • Avoid eating acid causing food before you go to bed


It is a traumatizing experience for anyone to start choking while they are sleeping. You should try and change your lifestyle to help you prevent such occurrences because they can sometimes become fatal.

The causes of nighttime choking are common enough that anyone can suffer from it. It is important to always ensure that you take care of yourself. If you are suffering from a common cold or any other respiratory infection, always visit a doctor and get treated to avoid it causing you to choke in your sleep.

The best way to ensure you sleep soundly through the night is by using a mattress wedge to incline your mattress to ensure that you sleep with your upper body raised. If you don’t have access to a mattress wedge you should ensure that you sleep on a pillow.


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