When sleep paralysis occurs, patients may feel scared because they are often aware of what is happening even though they cannot move. – Wellness.com
What is Sleep Paralysis and Why Does it Happen?
Sleep paralysis can be a terrifying experience. As we fall asleep, our body becomes deeply relaxed while our minds concurrently become less aware. However, when hypnagogic sleep paralysis occurs, the mind remains aware while the body achieves an involuntary state of relaxation. The person then realizes that they’re unable to move despite their efforts, often leading to feelings of panic.
During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, our muscles are paralyzed so that we don’t act out our dreams. When one experiences hypnopompic sleep paralysis, a certain part of the brain wakes sooner. This wakeful state does not affect the part of the brain responsible for REM paralysis, however. The result is a certain degree of wakefulness and no voluntary control over muscles.
Sleep Paralysis Caught on Video (with commentary)
Who is Affected?
Some people are fortunate enough to experience sleep paralysis just once or twice in their life, if ever. Unfortunately, some people experience this phenomenon often – even multiple times a week.
According to a study at Penn State University, 8 percent of the population has frequent issues with sleep paralysis. People with certain types of mental disorders such as depression and anxiety will have more episodes of sleep paralysis than most.
People affected by sleep apnea; people on specific types of medication, and those with an underlying sleep condition may experience more frequent episodes of sleep paralysis.
Here are some risk factors for sleep paralysis and other sleeping disorders, according to Wellness.com:
- Lack of sleep
- Frequent changes in sleep schedule
- Mental conditions, such as stress or bipolar disorder
- Sleeping on the back
- Sleep problems such as narcolepsy or nighttime leg cramps
- Certain types of medication, such as those with ADHD
- Substance abuse
Treatment for Sleep Paralysis
Because sleep paralysis occurs naturally, there is generally no prescribed treatment. However, if a medical professional detects an underlying condition in the process of diagnosis, a treatment regimen may be in order. Such prescribed treatments are:
- Implementation of a sleeping schedule
- Prescription for an anti-depressant
- Referral to a mental health professional
- Referral to a sleep specialist
- Treatment of any underlying sleep disorders
- Prescription for sleeping aids
Often times, making adequate sleep a priority while limiting unnecessary stress (especially before bedtime) will suffice as a deterrent to sleep paralysis. Because of the enigmatic nature of the condition, the effectiveness of formal and informal treatments to alleviate it is ambiguous at best.
Just remember, if you wake up and find yourself experiencing sleep paralysis, do your best to stay calm and know that it will pass. For more information on sleep paralysis and other types of sleeping disorders, please visit Wellness.com