Dozing mid-sentence
December 13, 2012 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Last night, my mother was talking animatedly to us, when she suddenly dozed off for a few seconds. Should we be worried?

My mother is in her 50s, and is generally in okay health except for hypothyroidism, for which she is taking medication. All her other vital stats are normal.

She was lying in bed, propped up on her elbows, and says she had been feeling sleepy for a few hours, since she didn't get enough sleep the previous night. As she was telling a joke loudly and cheerfully, she stopped in mid-sentence and dozed off. I was startled and exclaimed something, and she woke up, with no awareness that she had dozed. She says she doesn't think this has happened before, though it's possible she just doesn't want us to worry. Any idea what may be going on? Is this something worth telling a doctor about?
posted by redlines to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If she drives, I would be concerned enough to check it out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:47 PM on December 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

IANAD, but what you observed could have been anything from a genuine sleep (result of apnea? narcolepsy?) to a seizure or even a minor stroke. If she had no awareness that she had dozed, that means it could have happened many times when she was alone without her being aware. Absolutely see her doctor about it.
posted by peakcomm at 9:04 PM on December 13, 2012

What is the difference between "dozed off" and "had a seizure", or "fainted"? Wouldn't they look similar? Not that all seizures are life-threatening...

However, if she'd been standing up, a fainting fall could be very problematic. The only reason I'm even responding to this question is that my neighbor suddenly fainted one morning and ended up fracturing her neck and getting painful nerve damage that affected her hands -- one hand didn't work properly for some time after that, and she may never gain back 100% functionality. This is all just side effect of the fall; no one knows what caused her to faint in the first place, as far as I know.

(This is a very vigorous woman; she's "mostly" better and is currently considering a temporary position overseas.)
posted by amtho at 9:05 PM on December 13, 2012

I think the fact that you posted this to AskMe means you know that you should be concerned and she should see a doctor, and she shouldn't drive until she is checked out. Actually amtho makes a good point, I'm not sure she should be left alone. I would call the doctor first thing tomorrow morning and make sure they understand that it's *urgent* and that they fit you in.
posted by radioamy at 9:33 PM on December 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Did she slow down her words a little before the dozing, leading into the dozing? Something like this happened to me last summer, very scary, but it was a vagus nerve response which is a totally minor thing that results from various small disruptions to the body. Yes, call the doctor and describe it, and watch and question for anything else that looks/feels wrong for the next 24 hours, but don't panic.
posted by Miko at 9:36 PM on December 13, 2012

Microsleep? I suffer from pretty bad bouts of insomnia and that has happened to me before, so I've been told. Definately see a doctor though.
posted by elendil71 at 2:35 AM on December 14, 2012

This sounds very like an instance with my grandmother- we were having dinner when she abruptly dropped her head and seemed to doze for a few moments. She waved it off but my pushy aunt insisted on the hospital; turns out she had a mini heart attack and got a pacemaker ASAP. Was fine thereafter! Moral: could be nothing, but, doctor.
posted by Erasmouse at 3:41 AM on December 14, 2012

I do something like this when very tired. Usually I say something meaningless then just kind of slip into sleep. Has she any incidence of sleep-walking as a child or adult? Lucid-dreaming?
posted by R2WeTwo at 4:01 AM on December 14, 2012

Sounds like a mini stroke to me. See a doctor.
posted by pmurray63 at 4:51 AM on December 14, 2012

My uncle did this last year at Easter, and was promptly bustled to a doctor. Ultimately in his case it was some funky reaction between some medication he was taking and the glass of wine he'd had with dinner, but the doctor said that everyone was right to be concerned.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:32 AM on December 14, 2012

IANAD, IANYD, I just read the internet way too much: absence seizure
posted by d. z. wang at 5:33 AM on December 14, 2012

Sorry, that wasn't a complete sentence - I mean that the doctor said everyone was right to be concerned because there were other things it could have been that would have been worse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:33 AM on December 14, 2012

For sure go see a doctor. I'm 50 and when I'm in bed, petting the kitties and watching TV I'll doze off. My snoring wakes me up.

What you're describing could be narcolepsy, or a mini-stroke or absolutely nothing. But a doctor will run appropriate tests and assess the situation.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:40 AM on December 14, 2012

If it looked like she fell asleep, it probably wasn't a seizure. If she stopped mid-sentence, stared, maybe made some repetitive motion with her hands or mouth- that's a more classic complex partial seizure.

Still, see a doctor. If they suspect seizure, she'll probably either get on antiepileptics right away or go in for a scalp EEG session or long term monitoring (a few days in the neurology inpatient ward).
posted by supercres at 6:23 AM on December 14, 2012

She said she was tired. She probably fell asleep. My sister has always done this- especially laying down. I do this but I have narcolepsy.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:37 AM on December 14, 2012

If you are worried, definitely suggest a doctor checkup. However as another data point, every winter before this one (when I have finally got a SAD light which has revolutionized winter for me!) I would experience absolutely intractable sleepiness from 7:30pm ish onwards & I would often do what you describe your mother doing. For me I think its just one of the things that my body does when I am intensely physically sleepy but trying to stay awake.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 2:55 PM on December 15, 2012

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