Waking Up Choking?
Top 3 Main Causes

If you need urgent information about the problem of waking up choking, then you are surely in the right place. 

However, the first thing you must know before we get started is that this is a very serious matter so listen carefully.

Okay, I'm going to present the top three causes for why people wake up choking. For each of them, please try to evaluate your own situation.

If you see that any more of the symptoms fit your situation, then you might have found the root cause.

At that stage, your next step would be to look into some remedies. But without finding which of these causes you are suffering from, no treatment will help you.

Alright, so let's get going with the top 3 main causes why you wake up choking in the night.

Cause #1 - Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

What actually happens when you suffer from OSA is that your airway in the throat becomes blocked by its own tissue. When you fall asleep, the muscles relax and the soft tissue gets in the way. This is why you suddenly wake up choking. Nothing of this is of course happening during daytime so it can be very hard to find out that the cause is sleep apnea.

The common knowledge is that mainly overweight people suffer from sleep apnea, but it is present for other people as well.

One quite common method that often manages to stop people from waking up choking and coughing is too simply change sleeping position. If you are able to avoid sleeping on your back, then the chances of this happening are very low. So try changing a bit and see if that can improve your condition.

Another night time symptom of sleep apnea is often extra loud snoring. So having someone to provide feedback about how you sleep is very valuable.

Also, symptoms that can be seen during daytime are sleepiness, drowsiness, lack of concentration and slow reflexes. All of these are basically affects from having irregular and poor sleep.

If you recognize any of the mentioned in your own life, then this is most likely your cause.

Cause #2 - Acid Reflux (GERD)

When you're waking up choking, if it feels like you have to cough in order to clear your throat, then GERD (Gastro esophageal reflux disease) might be the problem.

In essence, the liquid in the throat that you want to clear is caused by stomach acid. The reason is that the muscles that is suppose prevent food from going up again, is slightly weaker than required, thereby not fully preventing acid.

Another major symptom of GERD is heartburn, so in case you're feeling a burning sensation in your chest, then this is a strong indicator about your condition.

Also note that it's easier for acid to reach up the chest and throat during night time since you'll be lying down. So even if you don't suffer from heartburn as well, this could still be your root problem.

The best way of treating GERD is through so called "lifestyle changes". First of all, in order to use gravity when sleeping, one should elevate the top part of the bed in order to sleep slightly tilted instead of fully horizontally.

Food is another key part to reduce acid reflux. The general advice is to eat smaller and earlier meals. In addition to that, chocolate and peppermint is known to have beneficial effects. Actually, chewing gum is usually also helpful since it aids in saliva production.

Cause #3 - Post-Nasal Drip

Some of us are waking up choking in the middle of the night on our own mucus due to excessive production. Basically, it just feels like you can't breath before you have cleared your throat!

But it's of course fully normal for mucus to accumulate in the throat for healthy individuals. However, since it becomes mixed with saliva and is gradually swallowed, most of us don't experience any problem with it.

Only when too much or too thick mucus reaches the throat (or back of the nose) is when we start to experience it as a problem.

There are several potential causes for post-nasal drip. It could be allergies or a certain type of food (e.g. spices). The best thing is to look for patterns between good and bad nights.

The actual problem could actually also be that you are ineffective to remove the mucus (as opposed to producing an excessive amount).

In order to effectively treat post-nasal drip it's key that you find the real cause. So in this case, seeing a doctor is highly recommended.


I do hope that you have found some useful information through my summary above. Of course, in order to be exhaustive, I just also want to mention that there are other potential reasons. It could be asthma, anxiety, night terrors, a cold, etc.

But if you have been suffering for an extended period of time, then the root cause is most likely one of the three explained above.

So remember, find the cause first. Only then is it time for treatment.


Early Riser > Sleep Problems > Waking Up Choking

Thanks for reading! By Matthew M. McEwan


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