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Why do I choke on my saliva while I am sleeping?

I am a 40 year old mother of two and have recently been waking up in the middle of the night choking on my saliva. I have tried sleeping with my head propped-up but that does not seem to make a difference. Almost every night I wake in a panic and gasp to catch my breath. I am getting to the point where I do not want to go to sleep. Are there sleep doctors or someone that can help me with this? I am not currently on any medications.
This is an issue that should be discussed soon with your primary care doctor, as poor sleep can affect your health in many ways, not just affect your quality of life. While you don't provide any additional details, I would be interested to know if you are overweight. The symptoms that you are describing sound very much like obstructive sleep apnea, which is more common in people who are overweight. In this increasingly common disorder, the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes while you sleep, and then it falls into the airway. During the day you don't notice this because you can swallow or adjust the soft tissue in other ways, but this obstruction while you are asleep gradually causes you to feel that you are not getting enough oxygen, which eventually sends a signal to your brain. Your brain feels this panic feeling that you are describing, and then wakes you up in order for you to swallow and breathe appropriately. Then you fall back asleep and the cycle repeats itself. Please see either your primary care physician to diagnose this condition and see if anything else is happening, or he or she will refer you to either an ear-nose-and throat surgeon (AKA ENT AKA otolaryngologist) or a sleep medicine specialist for a more complete workup, possibly including a sleep study. There are treatments available.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under ZocDoc’s Terms of Service.

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