What Is Sleep Paralysis? What Are The Causes And Treatment For Sleep Paralysis?

What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is when you cannot move your muscles while waking up or falling asleep. It happens because you are asleep, but your brain is active. 

During sleep paralysis, you may feel the following that can last up to several minutes.

  • awake, but you are not able to move, speak or open your eyes
  • that someone is present in your room
  • like you are being pushed down.

Sleep paralysis can occur in either of the two cases. If you experience it while falling asleep, it is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. If you experience it while waking up, it is called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.

Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis: Your body begins to relax when you fall asleep. You become less aware, and you do not notice the change. However, if you become aware while falling asleep, you may realize that you cannot move or speak.

Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis: Your body alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) during sleep. Each cycle of REM and NREM sleep lasts about 90 minutes. NREM sleep takes up to 75% of your overall sleep time. Your muscles rest during REM sleep. If you become aware before finishing the REM cycle, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.

Causes of sleep paralysis

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea(OSA): Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder of repeated lapses in breathing. Sleep paralysis is more common in people with nighttime leg cramps.

  2. Excessive daytime sleepiness: Sleep paralysis is common in people suffering from excessive daytime sleepiness.

  3. Erratic circadian rhythm: People with jet lag and shift workers with an irregular circadian rhythm who are not in sync with their local day-night cycle are at higher risk of sleep paralysis.

  4. Mental health conditions: Certain people with poor mental health, such as anxiety disorders, including panic disorders, are more likely to experience sleep paralysis.

  5. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or other physical and emotional distress are prone to sleep paralysis.

  6. Stopping alcohol or antidepressants: People trying to stop alcohol consumption or antidepressants can experience REM rebound, which causes sleep paralysis.

  7. Family history: Studies have shown that people with a family history of sleep paralysis have higher risks of sleep paralysis.

Treatment for sleep paralysis
The first step to treating sleep paralysis is to consult a doctor to identify and address underlying problems that are contributing to sleep paralysis. For instance, it could involve treatment for narcolepsy or managing sleep apnea.

Due to the limited scientific evidence about the best treatment for sleep paralysis, many people do not realize that the condition is relatively common and consider themselves crazy or shameful after episodes.

The connection between sleep paralysis and general sleeping problems makes it crucial to improve your sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a person’s bedroom setting and daily habits influencing the sleep quality.

The following healthy sleep tips contribute to better sleep hygiene: 

  • Stick to the same schedule for going to bed and waking up every day, including on weekends and vacations.
  • Keep a regular pre-bed routine to help you get comfortable and relaxed.
  • Invest in the best mattress and best pillow to suit your needs.
  • Ensure that your bedroom has limited intrusion from light or noise.
  • Reduce or avoid consumption of alcohol and caffeine, especially in the evening.
  • Stay away from electronic devices, including cell phones, for at least an hour before bedtime.

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