Sleep paralysis occurs when a person has the feeling of conscious but unable to move, and it is the stage when a person passes between being both asleep and awake.
There is nothing stranger that not being able to move while being consciously aware of one’s surroundings.
Sleep paralysis is actually a frightening phenomenon. Moreover, the person experiencing it cannot move any part of its body, yet remains conscious. These people are often terrified which is an understandable reaction because they don’t have control over their movements.
Fortunatelly it is a very common happening and it doesn’t cause harm to the human body. Sleeping paralysis occur between two stages: “hypnagogic” and “hypnopompic”. The former occurs before the person falls asleep, and the latter when the person wakes up from REM sleep.
While falling asleep our body becomes relaxed and our minds less aware. But when hypnagogic sleep occurs, the mind remains aware while the body involuntary becomes relaxed. Then comes the realisation that the person cannot move despite the efforts and then comes the feeling of panic.
During REM ( rapid eye movement) sleep we don’t act out our dreams because our muscles are paralyzed. When the person experiences hypnopompic sleep, this means that a certain part of the brains awakes sooner. However, this state doesn’t affect the part in the brain which is responsible for REM paralysis. This results in wakefulness and no control over muscles.
WHO DOES THIS HAPPEN TO?
While some people only experience sleep paralysis once or twice in their lifetime, others go through this phenomenon quite often, sometimes as often as a few times a week. According to a study conducted by Penn State University, nearly 8% of the population experiences recurrent sleep paralysis. The study also found that people with mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are more inclined to recurrent episodes of sleep paralysis.
Other risk groups include people suffering from sleep apnea, people on certain medications, as well as those with an underlying sleep condition.
As stated by WebMD, the most common risk factors include:
– Sleep deficiency
– Frequent changes in sleep schedule
– Mental conditions, such as stress or bipolar disorder
– Sleeping on the back
– Sleep issues including narcolepsy or leg cramps during sleep
– Certain types of medication, such as those with ADHD
– Substance abuse
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
As we already mentioned, sleep paralysis normally occurs in the initial stages of falling asleep, as well as after the REM stage. In almost all cases, the symptoms are the same – inability to move or speak for a period of a few seconds to a few minutes.
Sleep paralysis is not harmful per sei, but it may be a symptom of an underlying cause that requires treatment. You can even get a referral to a sleep specialist if this condition continues or worsens.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS?
Sleep paralysis is a normal sleep phenomenon. However, the fact that it can be triggered by other underlying conditions, sometimes requires a suitable treatment. The most common treatments include:
– Designing a specific sleeping schedule
– Starting an anti-depressant therapy
– Referral to a mental health professional
– Referral to a sleep specialist
– Treatment of any underlying sleep disorder
– Sleeping pills
Sometimes even the slightest lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep and reducing the amount of stress can prevent the occurrence of sleep paralysis.
Even health experts recommend that those with occasional episodes of sleep paralysis should first consider changing their sleeping habits, as sleep deprivation significantly increases the risk of this phenomenon.
Cutting down or cutting out alcohol/drugs, nicotine and caffeine is also highly recommended. Electronic devices should also be kept outside the bedroom in order to improve sleep quality.
If an episode of sleep paralysis still occurs, remember to stay calm as it will pass on their own.