Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis is a medical condition characterized by the inability to move temporarily when awake and can often be accompanied by hallucinations. Sleep paralysis, most oftentimes, is associated with Narcolepsy. On occasion, however, there are those who experience sleep paralysis without suffering from Narcolepsy. Sleep paralysis is not harmful, although, people usually report a feeling of fear during an episode.  

In many cultures, it is believed that demons or evil spirits cause sleep paralysis but in actuality sleep paralysis is a very real condition where the brain awakes from an REM state of sleep but the body is still in a state of paralysis.  This is where hallucinations often manifest themselves as REM sleep is where dreams mostly occur.

To those that suffer from sleep paralysis, the good news is that it is not considered a dangerous health problem.

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis occurs during the onset of sleep or while waking up. If it occurs while the person is falling asleep, the person remains awake while their body shuts down for REM sleep. This type of sleep paralysis is known as hypnagogic or perdormital sleep paralysis. When sleep paralysis occurs while the person is waking up, it is known as hypnopompic or postdormital. This type of sleep paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes and happens when the person wakes up before the REM cycle is complete.

Risk factors for Sleep Paralysis

While sleep paralysis is often a symptom of another sleep disorder, several factors have been identified that are associated with an increased risk of sleep paralysis including Insomnia and sleep deprivation, stress, overuse of stimulants, physical fatigue and medications used to treat ADHD.

Sleep Paralysis Symptoms

  • An inability to move body or limbs when falling asleep or waking up
  • Brief episodes of partial or complete skeletal muscle paralysis
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations or extremely vivid hallucinations that occur when falling asleep or waking up.

Diagnosing Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is diagnosed, typically by ruling out other sleep disorders that could cause similar symptoms to sleep paralysis. Because sleep paralysis has such a high correlation in relation to Narcolepsy, Narcolepsy is typically ruled out before a sleep paralysis diagnosis can be made. If all other conditions can be ruled out, your doctor will match your description of symptoms to the disorder to diagnose sleep paralysis.

Treatment options for Sleep Paralysis

  • In severe cases, medication may be used to treat sleep paralysis; however, symptoms of sleep paralysis can be minimized with good sleeping habits such as:
  • Receiving adequate sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reducing stress
  • Keeping a regular and consistent sleep schedule