Forgetting how to breathe when falling asleep (5 tips)

In this article, we will highlight the struggles of forgetting how to breathe when falling asleep. We will look at how breathing gets affected when trying to sleep. 

Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can cause breathlessness, so we will first understand what it is, and how exactly should sleep apnea be treated?  

We will try to understand the link between sleep apnea and anxiety, and if anxiety can affect sleep. Finally, we will answer a few FAQs based on the topic to get a better understanding of it.

Forgetting how to breathe when falling asleep

When people experience breathlessness when they fall asleep, it is usually linked with sleep apnea. Which is a sleep disorder characterized by hypopnea. There is a decrease in the air intake during sleep or apnea which means a pause in breathing during sleep. It is a very serious condition that could lead to different health complications or might even lead to death.  

Sleep apnea is said to be comorbid with anxiety or sometimes even depression, according to a study done in December 2012, it is said that more than half of the patients diagnosed with sleep apnea have these disorders as well.

This study shows that anxiety isn’t severely seen in the patients, but it is only present. But also many other resources have linked sleep apnea and anxiety to some severe levels like post-traumatic stress disorder. It is seen that sleep apnea can intensify the symptoms of PTSD causing nightmares and sleeplessness, it is also associated with panic disorder. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder, in which breathing repeatedly gets affected, a person stops and starts breathing during sleep. When a person snores loudly in their sleep or feels tired even after a full night of sleep, they might have sleep apnea.

There are 3 main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: the most common form, is caused due to the throat muscles relaxing. 
  • Central sleep apnea: caused due to the brain not sending proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea: it is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, and it happens when an individual has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

If someone thinks they might have sleep apnea it is recommended to see a doctor, the treatment can ease their symptoms and might help prevent heart problems or other complications.

What are sleep apnea symptoms?

Both, obstructive and central sleep apnea signs and symptoms overlap, making it hard to determine which one someone might have for it to be treated rightfully. The most common symptoms seen in obstructive and central sleep apnea are:

  • Irritability
  • Loud snoring
  • Stop breathing during sleep 
  • Gasping for air during sleep
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive and central sleep apnea have different underlying causes.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to muscles relaxing at the back of the throat. When these muscles relax the airway narrows or even could close as the person breaths. This can lower the levels of oxygen in their blood, as there is a lack of air. When the brain senses the inability to breathe, it jerks the person awake from sleep so that the airway can open again, this awakening is very brief and the person might not even remember. 

This pattern repeats itself more than 30 times each hour, this obviously will impair the quality of sleep the person gets each night, as they can never reach deep and restful phases of sleep.

To improve your quality of sleep, add this pillow spray and the best anxiety sheets you can find to your bed. In addition, you can decorate it with stuffed animals and put some earplugs for the noises. We recommend the following Best Earplugs For Anxiety, where the Stiizy Pods and Pax Era Pod for anxiety stand out, where you can put Binaural Beats.

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to transmit signals to the breathing muscles. This means that the person makes no effort to breathe for a short period. They might awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep.

Patients with sleep apnea may have other comorbid mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or panic disorders. Due to sleep apnea, the brain receives a  “panic” signal that jerks the body awake, and the person resumes breathing again. 

A study was done regarding the link between sleep apnea and panic attacks, and it showed that people suffering from sleep apnea had more panic attacks than they did before. When a person gets up from sleep with feelings of breathlessness, this could lead to signs of anxiety caused by sleep apnea, if this is continued it could risk a higher chance of a panic disorder.

It is known that sleep apnea can alter the structure of the brain with time, it decreases the frontal lobe and damages similar brain regions, which is also seen in patients with panic disorders. Therefore sleep apnea is a risk factor for anxiety disorders. 

The basic correlation between anxiety and sleep apnea is enough for researchers to be intrigued and hope that treating one will lead to a resolution of both conditions, it is concluded that sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea affects the brain increasing anxiety.

So, therefore, people who are more anxious by nature are the same people who will suffer greater harm from sleep deprivation, restoring good quality sleep in these people who have anxiety can be a solution to alleviate their worry.

Also, repeated interruptions during sleep can set off a constant fight or flight response, sleep apnea can trigger a person to wake up suddenly which could cause the nervous system to react with increasing heart rate and the feeling of doom.

If you want to wake up and start your day calm, find out the best alarm clocks for anxiety.

Lack of sleep could increase panic attacks and other symptoms of anxiety, the biochemical reaction to this could make a person feel nervous and overstressed. The decrease of oxygen supply in the blood due to less air intake caused by sleep apnea can trigger panic attacks and also fear, Hence sleep deprivation can contribute to increasing anxiety attacks.


Continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) uses a machine to help a person who has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) breathe more easily during sleep. A recent study has been proven that treating sleep apnea with this method has worked and it was also studied to help those with anxiety and depression symptoms.

The two conditions already feed off of each other, so helping solve one may have a domino effect on the other. 

Treating sleep apnea means that the person’s sleep won’t be interrupted by those various apnea events that were jolting them awake at night, and they will be able to reach all the stages of sleep they need to wake up feeling rested.

Also, along with sleep apnea treatment, it is important to try to destress by stretching before going to bed and avoiding blue light, which helps a person reduce sleep apnea symptoms.

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FAQs: Forgetting how to breathe when falling asleep

Is CPAP therapy forever?

CPAP is the most effective treatment that currently exists to treat sleep apnea. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is forever, though. If the person’s sleep apnea is exacerbated by allergies, other treatments may help.

What is the main cause of sleep apnea?

the most commonly seen cause of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is excess weight and obesity, which is associated with the soft tissue of the mouth and throat. During sleep, when the throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked.

Can Sleep Apnea be cured?

CPAP and oral appliances work well, but they’re not cures for sleep apnea. The only sure way to rid of this condition for good is to either lose weight or have surgery to remove excess tissue from the palate or throat. But surgery can have side effects, which is why it’s usually viewed as a last resort.

What happens if sleep apnea is left untreated?

sleep apnea can increase the risk of health problems if left untreated, which include high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and even heart attacks.

Can someone suddenly develop sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can occur at any age, even in infants. It may be a developmental problem or the result of another medical condition.


In this article, we highlighted the struggles of forgetting how to breathe when falling asleep and explained what sleep apnea was, and we understood how exactly should sleep apnea be treated. We got a deeper understanding of the link between sleep apnea and anxiety, and whether anxiety can affect sleep. 

If a person is suffering from either sleep apnea or both these conditions, it is very important to seek immediate medical attention and get these conditions treated by talking to their doctor. If any questions regarding this topic, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.