Here's some medical info in the quotes: "Cheyne-Stokes respiration is a condition that causes abnormal breathing during sleep. This abnormal breathing often includes “apneas,” or periods of stopped breathing, which explains why the condition is so frequently referenced in sleep apnea medical circles.
These apneas occur because Cheyne-Stokes respiration generally causes a person’s breathing to follow abnormal patterns, or dysrhythmias. This means that breathing gradually increases and decreases during sleep...These cycles of increasing and decreasing breathing activity ordinarily last from 30 seconds to two minutes in duration, with five to thirty seconds of apneas."
It is interesting that breathing is one of the few bodily functions that are controlled by both the Somatic and Autonomic nervous system. That means, breathing goes on automatically, and it can also be controlled voluntarily.
More medical info: "The Somatic Nervous System is the part of the peripheral nervous system that handles voluntary control of body movements. ... The Autonomic Nervous System is the part of the peripheral nervous system that acts as an involuntary control system below the level of consciousness."
So when you go up to higher altitude, your body will naturally increase breathing. When you're awake, if the normal breathing regulatory systems are not adjusting properly, you can consciously increase your breathing to compensate, by breathing more often or taking deeper breathes. So far so good.
But then when you go to sleep, your body relies entirely on the automatic, unconscious (Autonomic) nervous system to regulate breathing, This mostly has to do with the level of carbon dioxide that's in your blood. This regulatory system can easily get out of balance during sleep, when you can't tell your body to breathe more to make up for altitude induced oxygen deficit. That mis-regulation causes you to stop breathing at times during sleep. Even hardened high-altitude climbers can experience this with rapid altitude gain.
Now if someone were to put a plastic bag over your head for a minute or two (don't try this at home kids) and you couldn't breath, you would of course feel an overwhelming sense of distress, anxiety and panic. Having your breathing cut off for any reason is a desperate, life threatening situation. Therefore, your body dumps all the adrenalin it has into your system in a fight or flight response. That's why people experiencing Cheyne-Stokes wake up feeling jittery and in a panic. Makes perfect sense. Except it's a real bummer and a horrible feeling.
I do some things to prevent this from happening. Try to acclimatize a day at seven or eight thousand feet. Stay hydrated. I've never had any AMS symptoms (headache, nausea, etc.) during the day at altitude, even when driving up from sea level and hiking up from the trailhead to 12,000 feet in one day. Of course I get tired faster, but I just huff and puff and keep going. But at night, when I can't tell my body to breathe more, that miserable Cheyne-Stokes stuff can happen beyond my control.
When it happens at night, I drink some water, pray a bit, and maybe have a little food. But the main thing is walking around, because that helps burn up the excess adrenaline from not breathing properly. It tends to get better after a couple of days up high.
Diamox is proven to help this condition (but I'm allergic to Sulfa drugs so I can't use it).
I would suggest showing this information to your friend who is having the Cheyne-Stokes problems, so he will at least know there is a logical medical reason for what he is experiencing. I don't let it keep me out of the mountains, that's for sure.
One medical caution for your friend who has been experiencing this for the past ten years. Congestive heart conditions can contribute to all forms of sleep apnea, so a medical check-up would be a good idea. If you lived in Mammoth or Tahoe your body would probably adjust, and hiking up high wouldn't be a problem. That would be great.
Keep breathing. Peace.
Last edited by balance
on Sat Aug 19, 2017 8:36 am, edited 7 times in total.