Once you are into a deep sleep you usually don’t know what is happening with your body, unless you wake up or go to the bathroom. But, can you reach that point in your sleep when something serious happens but you can’t control it? or Can you experience sleep paralysis in your sleep?
Sleep Paralysis – Basics
Simply said, sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or to speak when you wake up or fall asleep. How serious this occurrence is? In general, sleep paralysis lasts for only a few seconds and should pass in a few seconds or even minutes, but truth be told it can be more than frightening.
Luckily, sleep paralysis is usually seen once or twice in the life of many people. On the other hand, some people experience it a few times a month or more regularly. And yes, it can affect anyone, regardless of age and it’s equally seen in young adults and teenagers.
Sleep paralysis is not life-threatening condition, although it brings some serious feelings and emotions. Person may have the feeling as if someone is choking him or her. In some rare cases, it can be followed by hallucinations and vivid and intense fear. It can cause anxiety, or even other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy.
Fast facts on sleep paralysis
- Most likely to occur during adolescence.
- The length of episodes may vary from a few seconds to a few minutes.
- Triggers may include stress, sleep deprivation (especially in teenagers), and even jet leg.
- Sleep paralysis is always followed with an inability to speak or move.
- In some rare cases, hallucinations may be included.
- Sleep paralysis can be prevented.
- Sleep paralysis is not physically harmful.
What Is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is known as a parasomnia, or an unwanted event that is associated with sleep. Sleep paralysis occurs just after falling asleep or upon awakening in the morning, exactly in the time between sleep and waking.
Episodes of sleep paralysis are often followed by visual, auditory, and sensory hallucinations, otherwise known as hypnagogic experiences.
Sleep paralysis occurs during the transition between waking and sleeping and they fall under one of these three categories:
- Intruder: this phase implies a shadow man, a sense of a threatening presence in the room, shuffling foot steps, or the sound of doorknobs opening.
- Incubus: this phase suggest feelings of pressure on the chest, hard time breathing, and belief that you are about to die.
- Vestibular-motor: this phase implies a sense of falling, flying, spinning, or floating.
Because sleep paralysis is a short-living appearance that can happen at any time, people remember it as horrifying and haunting. Moreover, this is the main reason why in different cultures, people believe that this condition is connected with mystical forces and out-of-the-body experiences.
Symptoms Of Sleep Paralysis
This condition comes with one crucial symptom which is seen in being completely aware of your surroundings, but temporarily unable to talk or more. In most cases, this occurs as you’re waking up, but it can also happen when falling asleep. But, what can you expect to experience during an episode of sleep paralysis?
- having difficulties to breath
- you may have a feeling as if your chest is being crushed
- you will be able to move your eyes only
- have a hallucination that someone or something is in the room with you
- you will feel very frightened
As mentioned earlier, the length of an episode can vary from a few seconds to several minutes. Once the episode is done, you will be able to move again normally, although you may feel reluctant to go back to sleep again.
When Does Sleep Paralysis Usually Occur?
Sleep paralysis occurs at one of two times. It can occur while you are sleeping and in that case its called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis can occur as you are waking up and in that case, it’s called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.
What Is Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis?
As you fall asleep, your body starts to relax. You become less aware, so you don’t notice the change. But if you remain or become aware while falling asleep, you may notice that you can’t move or even speak.
What Is Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis?
During sleep, your body goes from REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep.
Good to know: One cycle of REM and NREM sleep lasts about 90 minutes.
NREM sleep happens first and takes about 75% of your overall sleep, and during this stage, your body relaxes and restores itself. At the end of this stage, your sleep goes to REM. This stage implies that your eyes move quickly and dreams occur, while the rest of the body remains relaxed.
During this stage, your muscles are kind of ‘turned off’. Basically, if you become aware before the REM cycle has finished, you may notice that you cannot speak or even move.
Who Develops Sleep Paralysis?
According to practice, one of every 10 people may have experienced or is about to experience sleep paralysis. As a general rule, this common condition is often seen in the teen years, although women and men of any age can have it. Also, sleep paralysis may run in families.
Causes Of Sleep Paralysis
Many factors can be linked to sleep paralysis including:
- Substance abuse: Using alcohol and drugs can massively interfere with your sleeping patterns, and overall your quality of sleep. Altogether, this can lead to a strong and increased probability of sleep paralysis.
- Lack of sleep: having a proper sleep schedule is the first step toward having healthy sleeping and living habits. If you get less sleep, you will feel more grumpy the following day and you will miss on everything else. Moreover, a constituent lack of sleep can lead to severe physical and mental issues.
- Sleeping on the back (this should be especially important for sleep in pregnancy): so far the practice showed that you are more likely to experience an episode of sleep paralysis if you are constantly sleeping on your back
- Sleep schedule that is not consistent: again, if you don’t have a proper sleeping schedule you are more likely to experience moodiness and decrease of your health
- Stress: stress or anxiety can make a wreak on your sleeping habits. Moreover, this is one of the strongest triggers for sleep paralysis
- Mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder: yes, if you are no stranger to mental diagnosis, you know how hard it is to have stable and strong habits and not only sleeping habits. Therefore, if your mental disease is linked with your sleeping patterns or sleep in general you can expect to have additional issues in your sleep. Having a mental disorder doesn’t mean that you will experience sleep paralysis definitely, but it does mean that you are prone to certain disorders.
- Sleep problems, such as narcolepsy or leg cramps Those who already suffer from certain form of sleep disorder, such as restless leg syndrome or nighttime cramps are at higher risk of experiencing sleep paralysis.
How Is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?
If you find yourself, for no reason, unable to move or speak for just a few seconds or even minutes when waking up or falling asleep, then it’s likely that you have sleep paralysis.
In most cases, there is no need to treat this condition, because it usually happens only once. However, better safe than sorry, so make sure that you check with your doctor if you have any of these concerns:
- Feeling anxious about your symptoms
- You are extremely tired during the day
- You can’t fall asleep
- Get a good night’s sleep every night – learn how much sleep do you need based on your age
- Have a sleep routine – go to bed at roughly same time each night and get up at the same time each morning
- Have a proper sleeping environment – make sure that you create a proper sleeping environment that’s quiet, dark, comfortable, and not too cold or too hot
- Avoid things that can mess up your sleep – avoid heave food before your sleep, a night cap, and caffeine
- Go physical – have regular exercise but in a time that won’t interfere with your bed time
If you are worried that you may be experiencing sleep paralyzes you should try to keep a sleep diary for at least two weeks so you can track your sleeping habits.
In addition, this is also a great way to have recent ‘sleep history’ that you will be able to share with your doctor. Also, don’t forget to mention any sleep disorders that have been running in the family for generations.
Don’t forget to get enough sleep, including the daily power naps, so you can rule out that you are getting enough sleep. If you feel that you should, refer to a sleep specialist for additional examination.
Is There A Treatment For Sleep Paralysis?
There is no single pill that will magically protect you from experiencing sleep paralysis or even prevent any of the future episodes. However, this doesn’t mean that you should panic or feel miserable about it. No, you just have to learn to shape your needs, day and sleep around it.
Luckily, there is no need to treat this condition medically, because such action would be identical to taking shots in the dark. But, you can treat it successfully by improving sleeping habits and by eliminating risk factors.
One thing about sleep is sure – sleep paralysis gets better over time. However, for that to happen, you need to improve your sleeping habits and your sleeping environment. You can incorporate simple moves that will get you where you want to be with your sleep. So, it can help to:
However, if your sleep paralysis is severe, make sure that you visit a specialist doctor. In this case, your treatment may be supported by medicine.
How To Stop Sleep Paralysis – Tips For Better Sleep
Although there are no specific medical treatments that can help you stop sleep paralysis, you can still work around it and manage it. Check these 10 tips for improving sleep hygiene:
- keep bedtime and wake-up time consistent, including weekends and holidays
- have a comfortable sleep environment
- have a proper pillow and comfortable sleepwear
- keep your bedroom dark and cool
- your bedroom is for sleep, not for working
- avoid napping after 3PM
- don’t eat heave dinner meal and avoid alcohol before bed
- don’t sleep with lights on
- avoid caffeine products
- exercise daily, but not 2 hours before your bedtime
Also, don’t forget to leave electronics outside of your bedroom. Also, create your bedtime routine that will prepare you for your sleep and let you easily start your well-deserved sleep.
How To Stop Sleep Paralysis – Conclusion
If you get to experience sleep paralysis or you just experienced it, no need to be scared. It’s a normal occurrence which may be triggered by numerous everyday factors, and not by mystical forces or even aliens. Stay calm, take a deep breath and wait for paralysis to stop.
Handle stress, have a proper bed routine and try a new sleeping position if you are sleeping on your back. Moreover, if you are worried about these symptoms, contact your doctor.