Dream themes related to untreated sleep apnea

I have learned so much in talking with others who have sleep apnea. Our stories are amazingly similar.

As people tell me what their sleep was like before diagnosis and treatment, nearly all mention dreams, or should I say nightmares.

Most of us remember the nights when we would suddenly wake up, gasping for air, chest pounding, choking, arms or legs flailing, sweaty, scared. Wondering for a second, was it real or was I dreaming? I was dreaming.

While it’s interesting that so many fellow patients bring up the bad dreams, it’s remarkable that the dream themes are so similar!

The 3 main themes :

Water/drowning, treading water to the point of exhaustion and fear of drowning before waking up choking, gasping for air

Falling, falling, falling, an endless frightening feeling of falling and imminent death before the sudden awakening

Running from the boogeyman, being chased by someone or something ominous and waking up just before being caught

Can you relate?

I experienced both the drowning and the falling. How quickly that all stopped after successful treatment.

Oh Brother, can I relate! My dreams are so bad, so vivid, so long, and so disturbing – sometimes I just want to cry. They are often scarey dreams, but they are so involved and long that I just feel worn out when I wake up. And I talk in my sleep constantly. I never used to do that. I am now so close to being awake that I hear myself talking and I can remember everything I said when I’m fully awake. It used to be that I would just wake up gasping for air – that I can handle – but now these dreams are so disturbing that I dread going to bed at night. I read the three “themes” of your dreams and I’ve had none of those. My dreams often involve the house that I lived in for 35 years, my X-husband (I don’t want to dream about him) or other people from my past. I also dream about my children when they were small. When I am fully awake I can always remember the entire dream and I feel exhausted.

Are you treating your sleep apnea? If so, are you still experiencing these dreams with sudden awakenings in the middle of the night?
Once my bilevel therapy was successful, this stopped for me. I have needed to have my machine pressures increased over the years. I always knew it was time when my apnea symptoms reappeared…morning headaches, the sudden dreams and awakening, snoring while on bilevel…a simple pressure increase always resolved. You might want to have a discussion with your sleep doctor about confirming that your machine pressures are adequate.

I still have weekly sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations, but that’s another story and I do not think related to my sleep apnea.


Have you downloaded our SleepHealth mobile app study yet? I am
encouraging all friends, family and fellow patients to participate. This gives
us all a voice in research!