Have you ever woken up at night unable to move? This is called sleep paralysis and it’s quite a common condition. It’s a stage of complete consciousness right between the stages of being awake and falling asleep, or as their scientific terms hypnagogic and hypnopompic.
The hypnagogic is the stage right before you fall asleep while the hypnopompic is the stage right after you wake up from the REM phase.
This feeling of paralysis can be terrifying for many and can even trigger a panic attack as the person experiencing it feels like he has no control over their own body.
If you experience this often you shouldn’t be worried as you are not alone, the condition is very common and can’t cause any physical harm to your body.
As we start to fall asleep our body starts to relax and our mind loses awareness. But in the sleep paralysis our mind stays completely aware while our body is in a forced state of relaxation, rendering us unable to move a muscle.
During REM sleep our muscles are paralyzed, but our brain is awake when the person feels hypnopompic sleep paralysis.
Maybe you’ve never experienced it and you don’t know what we’re talking about, but there are many who struggle with this phenomenon. According to studies, 8% of the world population experiences sleep paralysis frequently.
The condition usually affects people with other forms of sleeping disorders like sleep apnea, or mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, or can happen as a result of certain drugs and medications.
WebMD lists the following factors as major contributors to the condition:
- Lack of sleep
- Sleep problems like narcolepsy or leg cramps
- Substance abuse
- Bipolar disorder, depression, stress and similar mental disorders
- Sleeping on your back
- Certain drugs and medications
- Changes in sleeping patterns
Sleep paralysis actually represents the inability for a person to move or speak for a couple of seconds or minutes during sleep and it’s not something that can be treated with medications. However, if the doctors are able to diagnose the underlying condition as the main cause for sleep paralysis they can try and treat that condition.
Usual treatments are:
- Seeing a sleep specialist
- Treat the sleeping disorder that causes it
- Following a strict sleeping schedule
- Sleeping aids
- Starting therapy with a mental health expert
The best thing you can do to prevent this condition is to try to get plenty of sleep every night and lower your stress levels. Also lower your intake of caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and try not to use any electronic devices before you go to bed. If you do experience sleep paralysis, try to stay calm and remember that it’s nothing serious and it’s going to pass within a minute or two.
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