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Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

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Old 08-09-2007, 01:49 PM   #1
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JohnC903 HB User
Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

Hello everyone !

I have a terrible problem, which started developing in the last few months: powerful adrenaline surges/jolts, immediately after falling asleep. More exactly: i'm going to bed, i'm starting to fall asleep and, during the second in which i'm losing consciousness and i'm drifting into sleep, bam, adrenaline jolt, heart racing, rapid breath. Let me add the fact that i'm not having any nightmares, night stresses, "bad" thoughts before going to sleep and neither in the moment of the jolt. It is a pure "body" reaction, without any particular state of mind. Sometimes, this goes on for the entire night.
As a medical background, I had "normal", daytime, anxiety attacks from about 1yr ago up to about 7 months ago, when I started doing heroin. Even this is the most despicable drug ever invented, it seems that heroin cured my anxiety attacks. I quit doing it about 4 months ago using Subutex (Buprenorphine) therapy. At the moment I'm still taking 2mg Subutex/day. These sleep time anxiety attacks started about 3 months ago and became EXTREMELY serious about 3 weeks ago. Now, I'm desperate because I cannot get any rest during the night, I cannot do my job, I'm like a vegetable all day long, always dreading the moment when I'll have to go to bed. Besides, I'm VERY scared about what is going to happen to my heart, since I'm sure that all these episodes of adrenaline surges combined with falling back to sleep are going to damage it.

Probably, I'll go to see a doctor, but I'm very curious to know if anyone ever had these kind of symptoms and, if yes, what was the problem and how did they solve it ?

Thank you so much !

Last edited by JohnC903; 08-09-2007 at 02:28 PM.

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Old 08-10-2007, 10:52 AM   #2
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goodintention HB User
Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

You shouldn't probably see a doctor, You DEFINITELY need to see a doctor.

Hopefully a good one. Because to a lay person, your case sounds like it is very particular and could be mistreated/diagnosed. Also, a good one, so they arent' "morally" affected about the heroin past.

So, yes see a doctor, and hopefully a really good one.

Old 08-10-2007, 10:53 AM   #3
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goodintention HB User
Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

Also, I apparantly shake my leg in my sleep. Sometimes this happens when I'm awake and lying down but I've been told it happens in my sleep as well.

Old 09-12-2007, 01:03 AM   #4
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Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

ugh i have the exact same problem as john. except every time i try to explain it to a doctor they think i'm crazy. i cant sleep anymore and im afraid to eat. i dont know if its my stomach, brain or heart.

Old 09-30-2007, 07:02 PM   #5
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Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

This sounds quite familiar to me as well. Not exact, but similar.

It only first occurred a few months ago, but seems to becoming more frequent and other oddities are present as well. Anyway, here's what happens:

I'll be just at the moment of sleep when I suddenly wake with a start. When it happens it's with a jolt, almost like I stopped breathing. Other than the shock of waking up so quickly, everything else seemed, at first, to be normal(no rapid breathing or heart racing). After a few times I recognized that I was bloated with gas and after a few good belches I was able to go back to sleep.

Recently though a new symptom has begun to occur, not only do I wake with a jolt and am filled with gas, but my whole body seems to be vibrating/quivering. The 2 or 3 times it has happened has been rather disturbing causing me to be distracted from sleep wondering if I was having a heart attack or something. After a few minutes of checking for pain or other discomfort I calm down and am able to ignore it as nothing else seems to be an issue.

All this happened again just last night and is the reason I ended up here after a Googling of the subject. So far from what I've read here and on another website it is quite a common(or not uncommon anyway) occurrence and not the edge of Life/Death that crossed my mind a few times while going through it. That's somewhat a relief, however the opinions I've read so far are from those experiencing it and not from a Medical Professional who may know the Ins/Outs of the subject. I won't be fully comfortable with these symptoms until some of that expertise is divulged.

Old 10-01-2007, 07:02 AM   #6
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Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

Congrats on getting off and staying off the drugs! I am thrilled to hear it. To many people give in and let drugs be their answer it is not. There have been other posts on this board about such occurances. I can not remember if drug recovery was an issue in them. Let me see if I can list your symptoms here.. I am a big list fanatic...
At the onset of sleep you:
1) have a startle reaction
2) initiating the fight or flight adrenal response
3) adrenaline flood, elevated heart rate and rapid breathing.
How long does it take you to be able to gather your thoughts and control them at this time? How quickly can you move after one of these attacks? What position are you slipping in when this occurs. I recently dug up some information on this for another on the board and my own curiosity. I occasionally have these jolts and spasm when trying to fall asleep.. often I am exhausted and falling asleep supline.. on my back. This is a summary of that information.

Hypnagogic and hypnopompic (visual and auditory) hallucinations frequently accompany Sleep Paralysis (SP). This was noted back in 1976. More recent research studies in 1996 and 2001 has provided evidence that these hallucinoid experiences fall into three major categories. The first is Intruder experiences involve a numinous sense of a threatening presence followed or accompanied by visual,auditory and tactile hallucinations. (not what you are going through) Second Incubus experiences include breathing difficulties, choking or smothering, bodily pressure, typically on the chest, and pain (most common in sleep apnea sufferers). The SP-subjects sometimes interpret these sensations as an assault by the intruder. The Intruder and Incubus factors are moderately positively correlated with one another and with intense fear. The qualitative features of the two types of experiences are coherently interpretable as experiences of immanent threat and assault. These can cause stress added anxiety and amplify innate insomnia tendencies amplifying sleep deprived states and effects. This is going somewhere I promise.. bear with the ramble. This is where I started doing the HUH, very interesting.. The third factor comprises a variety of spatial, temporal and orientational (STO) experiences of the body and include feelings of floating, flying, falling, out-of-body experiences, and autoscopic hallucinations. These occur in the early stages of sleep when a brief rapid transition in and out of REM occurs in a semi-conscious state. BINGO! I have done this jerk, jolt, stuff so many times.. it has become amusing. This factor is somewhat less strongly associated with the first two fear and anxiety amplified factors though all three are positively correlated. The STO is not, however, significantly associated with fear but rather with feelings of loss of control, which may be accompanied or followed by fear as well. Regular dreams (four bulk studies in 94, 96, 98, 01) have been found to have variable affective content or sometimes none at all with fear being reported in approximately one-third of dreams. These studies showed SP hallucinations are very strongly (78–98% report fear during SP) associated with fear.

SO I guess it is a natural leap for the researchers to propose that SP with Intruder and Incubus hallucinations and high levels of fear implicates an amygdalar threat activated vigilance system (TAVS) (simply fight or flight.. your body goes into iminant threat defense mode). Another factor these guys have picked up on is that SP also bears some resemblance to the tonic immobility (TI) emergency response to predation. Man that is a mouth full.

So what does this mean? Basically when your whole system in the fight or flight stage so you can react if the need arises to this REM inspired threat.. you are not going to be able to go back to sleep, your body has too much adrenaline and natural stimulants in your system to allow you to fall easily back into sleep. More recent studies are being performed to try and link TI as a potential model or cause for SP. Tonic immobility (TI) is a state of profound but temporary paralysis found in many animals as a response to being grabbed, flipped on their back and held down. This is being seen to some degree in SP intense Intruder and Incubus hallucinations which occur more frequently in people sleeping the supine position on there back. There is also a great occurence of sleep paralysis in back sleepers followed by belly sleepers. Why? No definite reason has been identified as of yet.. but let us look at the reasons why we are supposed to sleep on our sides.
1) less weight on the lung making it easier to breather.
2) better blood flow and circulation when on the left side.
3) Sleeping on the left side raises the stomach-esphogus port reducing GERD effects.
There are more, but I think that gets the point across.. sleeping on you back has also been known to cause nerve issues in the spine. I am not saying this is what you have, but it is becoming one of the more commonly detected reasons for the jolt and adrenaline surges in early sleep stage sleepers. So maybe trying to sleep on your side will help you. I do think that you should see a sleep specialist. Sleep paralysis is often a side component of another sleep disorder or medication.

If we learn by our mistakes, I am working on one hell of an education.

Old 10-23-2007, 11:34 AM   #7
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Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

i have a similar problem. I will start to drift off and when i do it's like a sudden jolt first in my brain then my heart races instantly. it's like i am aware that i am falling asleep and my brain says no not yet. it's frustrating and happens over and over again through the night. I chuck it up to anxiety and take xanax and sometimes a OTC sleep aid. It's been better at times but just came back recently. And with sleep adis still doesn't go away. i feel better knowing I am not alone now with this matter.

Old 11-25-2007, 07:11 PM   #8
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floyddd HB User
Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

Hi everyone,

I have the same symptoms. Started about three weeks ago. It was very scary at first, I thought I was not breathing every time I feel asleep and I would wake with a jolt.

Some nights, I'm fine. Others, it takes about 3 or 4 tries to fall asleep.

It may be related to anxiety, but I've never experienced anxiety issues before - awake or otherwise.

I guess I feel better that others have this same problem, but it is very depressing that all my searching and reading only finds the reported problem and no real help or solutions.

Old 12-13-2007, 10:47 PM   #9
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apesb HB User
Re: Adrenaline surges/jolts during sleep, maybe anxiety attacks ?! - PLEASE help !!

Originally Posted by PumpkinSeed View Post
ugh i have the exact same problem as john. except every time i try to explain it to a doctor they think i'm crazy. i cant sleep anymore and im afraid to eat. i dont know if its my stomach, brain or heart.
I may have personal and educational insight to the issue you describe.

As I understand it, our bodies have two regulatory systems. A sympathetic and parasympathetic. One conducts voluntery responses and the other involuntery, such as heartbeat, breathing...

While your boby "falls" asleep, one system takes over primary control as the other takes the passenger seat. The two systems must be in synch with each other as you start to fall asleep. If one system is disrupted, or falls out of synch, you are "jolted" awake. Some describe a "falling feeling. This is an automatic response, that allows your system to restart the transition process.

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