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Breathing issue

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
This doesn't really have to do with skiing, but I'm going to try to take advantage of the impressive amount of all sorts of expertise available in these forums ...

I had a strange episode last week where my involuntary breathing sort of just ... stopped ... I don't know how to describe it except to say that I had to think about breathing in order to do it; otherwise, I would hold my breath and feel like I was drowning.

I wasn't exercising, or doing anything out of the ordinary. I just noticed that I couldn't breathe, so I consciously breathed for a while, then when I started thinking of something else, I would stop.

I've heard of sleep apnea; this was more like awake apnea?

Maybe it's common, I don't know. Never happened to me before. Just wondered if it's happened to anyone else, or if it has a name?
post #2 of 19
I wonder if this strange feeling masked something else going on? You say you weren't exerting yourself at the time. Were you exhausted, stressed or anxious at the time? Could it have been hyperventilating, anxiety or asthma attack?
post #3 of 19
Sounds almost like a panic attack.

Have you tried meditated relaxation or practiced deep breathing exercises (from the gut/diaphragm)? I would bet this would help.
post #4 of 19
That's happened to me before. I attribute mine to stress or sadness. What did you do to recover from this? I've found that taking a short brisk walk and eating or drinking water will make me remember that I am not supposed to keep track of each breath, except in yoga of course (which would help, too).
post #5 of 19

dont go to sleep

if this were true you wouldnt be around to read the reply.
post #6 of 19
Would you describe your breathing pattern like this:


If so, check out these links on Cheyne-Stokes breathing and other central sleep apnea problems, some of which can occur when awake:

If, by some chance you were at high altitude when this incident occurred, you probably don't have anything to worry about (it's even happened to me), but if it is happening with any regularity under normal conditions, you probably should get it checked out. There are some serious underlying conditions which can cause it.


Tom / PM

PS - I don't even play a doctor on TV, I just happened to read up on this condition after it happened to me (many years ago).
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses -- no, I was not at all panicked, stressed, or sad when it happened. I wasn't at high altitude, either. I do have mild asthma, but this was different. (Different from past troubles, but maybe another form?)

Cheyne-Stokes is interesting ... thanks for the link. It hasn't happened again, but I have been having some mild dizziness over the past week or two, which isn't totally unusual (I had bp taken Tuesday, it was 85/52).

I'll definitely call the doctor if it happens again, or if I have any additional dizzy spells.
post #8 of 19


i check with the pulmonologist across the street, and he said cheyne-stokes was a terminal event. so i dont think thats you
post #9 of 19
Originally Posted by duke walker View Post
i check with the pulmonologist across the street, and he said cheyne-stokes was a terminal event. so i dont think thats you
I don't think it is what she had, either, but, for the record, something definitely got lost in the discussion you had with your neighbor. Cheyne-Stokes is extremely common when mountaineers go up to altitude too quickly, and often, the worst it does is disturb their sleep. (This is how I experienced it.)

OTOH, Cheyne-Stokes can also displayed by terminal patients, therefore, you certainly can't infer one way or the other that death is near if someone experiences Cheyne Stokes breathing.

Here are some links to Cheyne-Stokes and mountaneering:


http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html (scroll down to the bottom of the page): "... This type of breathing is not considered abnormal at high altitudes. However, if it occurs first during an illness (other than altitude illnesses) or after an injury (particularly a head injury) it may be a sign of a serious disorder...."

Here are links to other pulmonary symptoms that are much more highly correlated with a terminal or near-terminal state:


This discussion is getting to me. From now on, I'm going to stick to sidecuts, the newest greatest skis and powder stoke pix.

Tom / PM
post #10 of 19

Weird Breathing Problem

Hi SegBrown!

I too had exactly the same problem a couple of years ago, however, mine mostly occurred at night. It seemed like every time that I would try to doze off to sleep, I would forget to breath. This went on for almost 3 sleepless nights before I sought medical attention. Of course, the first thing they did was to send me to a neurologist who ordered a Cat Scan and a sleep study that included millions (I'm exagerating) of probes glued onto my scalp and chest to find out what was going on.

These very expensive test revealed nothing, and I was given many prescriptions for anti anxiety medications. I kept telling the docs that I wasn't stressed or anxious, I was half asleep.

Then I found an internist who saw me the morning after I had had one of these episodes and she discovered that I had Asthma! Now I'm on Advair and Singulair and things are back to normal.

I hope that this helps Segbrown! I thought I was loosing my mind when this problem happend to me. I skied 66 days last year and we had a really crappy winter here in Michigan. So, life is good.

Good Luck!

post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks Snowmiser -- as I said, I do have some mild asthma, so this was probably related.

I already had an appt to visit an allergist last week, and I discovered that I am allergic to .... everything. (I already was getting indications of that, since my allergies have gotten much more severe in the past year or so, which is why I finally went to the doctor about them.)

I imagine it's all related somehow ... I'm on some treatment now, so we'll see what happens.
post #12 of 19
Who else here has "adult onset asthma" and how did you come to understand and determine the diagnosis?
post #13 of 19

adult onset asthma

I developed adult onset asthma in my forties. It began when allergy season was in full swing, either late spring (tree pollens) or fall (ragweed/molds). If an additional catalyst was added to the mix (prolonged exposure to smoke or horses) -middle of the night wheezing ensued. STarted to keep an inhaler of fast acting bronchodilators on hand. Then began to have problems when I exercised. Then couldn't even run a half mile without feeling someone was standing on my chest. Finally gave in and started on Advair. Allergies worsened, lost hearing in one ear due to swelling and mucus, so got tested. Basically allergic to most of the natural world. Doing allergy shots, singulair, Advair and nasal steroids. I hope to gradually wean off most of the meds as the shots are definitely working.

Most important for me was what I discovered was the cause of my "altitude sickness" THe chronic fluid in my ears!! Each year, would start to feel dizzy, nauseous and awful around day 3 of wasatch/rocky mt. skiing.
The cure=SUDAFED. Just gotta be sure to bring my own since all the druggies manufacturing crystal meth are ruining it for the rest of us.:
post #14 of 19
[quote=LCS;545554]I developed adult onset asthma in my forties. It worsens when allergy season is in full swing, either late spring (tree pollens) or fall (ragweed/molds). If an additional catalyst was added to the mix (for me it was exposure to wood and dry wall dust as a worked in my home in 2000) -middle of the night wheezing ensued. STarted to keep an inhaler of fast acting bronchodilators on hand. Then began to have problems when I exercised. Then couldn't even run a half mile without feeling someone was standing on my chest. (This particularly got my attention, since I have been a life long jogger.) Finally gave in, saw a pulmonologist and started on Advair/Singulair mix. Now Advair only. Don't have as many problems as LCS. Sometimes I go weeks between hits of Advair. Winter (ski season) seems to be my best breathing time :-)

Most important for me was what I discovered was the cause of my "altitude sickness". I too had noticed some susceptibility to altitude, more so than my less fit friends. QUOTE]

My story is similar enough to LCS that I just modified his/her post. Could add, that reflecting back I now realize that I had mild sypmtoms of Asthma long before my "diagnosis". Fitful sleeping, occasional exercise induced wheezing, alt sickness vulnerability, lots of sinus/allergy activity earlier in life. There's a great thread at epic that talks to some of this. One thing I liked hearing was that for some folks with asthma, living long term at altitude might actually reduce bronchial inflammation, something to do with less friction from air molecules?

One of several good threads on this topic:
post #15 of 19

asthma etc

FYI, LCS is female.
The only note of caution is that Advair works best after regular usage-at least 7 consecutive days. It's for long term quelling of asthma symptoms. You might want to consider discussing your usage with your MD. Some other med might be better for your current symptoms.
Nice to know I have company. I felt like a hypochondriac for a while, but I'm over it!
post #16 of 19
Good point LCS. Actually, I use Advair fairly religiously about 11 mos out of the year. But I have an unfounded concern that using it for years and years (been on some form of it since 2000) might lead to some bad side effect. Therefore, will illogically skip a dose once every week or two when feeling paranoid. No side effects seen yet from usage or skipage. For sure I don’t like to go without it in the Spring.
Sorry for thread hijack segbrown.
post #17 of 19

continuing slight hijack

The allergist I see tried to get me off Advair a year ago with a switch to singulair. Advair has two components and one of them is steroidal in nature. Long term steroids can be problematic.
Advair is more localized in nature and not systemic, but the potential for some adverse reaction is possible. I began wheezing, especially at nite, without the Advair so restarted. THis was in the fall, my worst allergy time. Come winter, I cut back on the Advair to once a day. This holds me. I feel better about the reduced dosage and will try to discontinue this late fall and see if I can do without (with the knowledge that I may need to restart in late spring). IF seasonal dosing is all I need, that'll be great.
:You might want to try once a day and see if that is all you need to suppress symptoms.
I am not a md, but am in a health related field, so feel some clinical comfort with tweaking medicine regimes. You have to decide if you feel the same comfort.
Can't wait to ski again. Like biking, running and yoga. Can't wait to hit the snow.
post #18 of 19


I've had some allergies problems in the past. Typically the first day I'm at altitude I have a restless night and a little breathlessness. Then I seem to adjust. Only point is thin air could be an exacerbating influence.
post #19 of 19

Adult onset asthma

Adult onset asthma hit me when I turned 40. I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking I was forgetting to breath! It took a while to diagnose it because by the time I was able to get into see the doctor, my symptoms were gone.

I take Singulair in the morning as well as Advair in the morning and before bed. This combination works well for me. Whenever I forget one of the medications either in the morning or night, I have a problem. That Advair disk needs to have a beeper to let me know it's empty!

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