RE "One thing I had considered: has anyone looked into Resmed's CPAP machine that supposedly has an algorithm specifically for female breathing patterns?" Oh I hope you can get to the bottom of this get some good sleep without events!
I have a Resmed Auto BIPAP (Im a male, though). This machine is *supposed* to adjust to your breathing pattern. I have had this machine for over 2 years and still haven't gotten used to using it every night, all night. I do get exactly the same symptoms as you. Please ignore any medical professional who even hints that 'its all in your head'. That is baloney.
My events sound like yours: Sometimes I can fall asleep, and wake up at some point gasping for air, sometimes I sit bolt upright. its a fairly scary thing, sometimes my heart is beating very hard and very fast as well, and I can't get back to sleep. When I get these events, I wake up more exhausted then before I went to sleep. My doctor's basically don't want to hear about it either. its extremely frustrating.
The problem Ive had with this machine is that it doesn't track the changes in breathing patterns very well. Just as I'm falling asleep, I breathe a certain rate and depth. The machine seems to "tune into" this pattern, and when I wake up with one of these events, I am either breathing out of sync with the machine, and have to open my mouth (which basically means the machine is making things worse), or in my specific case, the machine goes into some kind of fail mode and the output is too low to help me.
I think we both need to fight a bit with our doctors to get them to listen to these issues.
If you can do it without too much out of pocket cost, try an auto bi-pap, maybe it will work for you,