Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious, but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. – WebMD
This condition is a very scary phenomenon. Imagine being fully awake without being able to move any part of your body. Sleep paralysis is very common, and even though it’s scary, it doesn’t cause any physical damage to the body.
There are two stages during which sleep paralysis can occur.
The first one is called “hypnagogic” and it happens before falling asleep, and the other is “hypnopompic” and it occurs as a result of waking up from Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep.
When we fall asleep, our body gets relaxed and the mind loses awareness. When hypnagogic sleep paralysis occurs, our body is in a relaxation state, but our mind is fully aware. That is why, you can see and hear everything around you, but can’t move a muscle, and it can be pretty terrifying.
During hypnopompic sleep paralysis, our body is in REM sleep and all the muscles are paralyzed, but some part of the brain wakes up. Therefore, you can be wide awake but not be able to move because your body will stay paralyzed.
This phenomenon occurs in around 8% of the population. Some people experience it once or twice and some of the experience it very often.
This condition tends to be more common in people with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, and also people with sleep apnea and people who use special medications.
WebMD revealed a list of the most common factors that lead to sleep paralysis:
- Sleep problems like nighttime leg cramps or narcolepsy
- Lack of sleep
- Mental conditions, like bipolar disorder or stress
- Substance abuse
- Frequent changes in sleep schedule
- Certain medications, like the ones with ADHD
- Sleeping on the back
When sleep paralysis occur, the person cannot speak or move for several seconds and sometimes minutes. It usually occurs shortly after falling asleep, or immediately after waking up.
When it comes to treatment, there is no medication that can prevent or treat this condition. If the condition persists, the doctors may prescribe a treatment such as:
- Treatment of any underlying sleep disorders
- Prescription for sleeping aids
- Referral to a mental health professional
- Implementation of a sleeping schedule
- Prescription for an anti-depressant
- Referral to a sleep specialist
Reducing stress and good sleeping habit can help in preventing sleep paralysis. Since this issue is rare, if you experience it once, it doesn’t mean you will again.
Make sure to eliminate any stress, caffeine and alcohol intake, and try to always get a quality good night sleep.
Keep in mind that this condition is not scary and try not to panic.