You are in your bed about to fall asleep, and suddenly you realize that you can’t move. It’s as if your limbs seem to have a mind of their own. This feeling only lasts for a short while, but it seems much longer. Though this might sound scary, sleep paralysis is relatively common. What do we know about this phenomenon?
Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak for an indeterminate amount of time during sleep. This typically occurs as you are about to fall asleep or right as you are waking, and it can last for as long as a few minutes or as short as a few seconds. Some people hear loud noises or feel as if they are being pulled during this experience. Others describe not being able to breathe properly. Some report having hallucinations during the paralysis. Sleep paralysis can affect men and women alike, and it can happen at any age, though it most often happens for the first time in the teen years (14 to 17). Changes in one’s sleep schedule, stress, and lack of sleep can be contributing factors, as well as different medications and various health conditions such as bipolar disorder. What’s interesting to note is that when people experience REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, their bodies are often temporarily paralyzed; however, people typically are not aware of it during this time because, well, they’re sleeping.
As sleep paralysis is a symptom that is caused by other factors, it isn’t directly treated. Instead, finding and treating the cause of the sleep paralysis is the best plan of attack. For example, if one were to narrow it down to a medication that is causing them paralysis during sleep, then an alternate medication could be used. Changing medications would hopefully eradicate the sleep paralysis that was occurring. It’s important to keep in mind that anyone who experiences sleep paralysis should first rule out sleep deprivation as the cause. Getting and maintaining a regular sleep schedule with quality sleep may be all that a person needs to stop this from occurring. If a person has repeated bouts of sleep paralysis, however, it’s best to talk to a medical professional. As is often recommended when dealing with sleep, a person should watch what they eat, drink, or otherwise consume before bed, and be mindful of their daily and nightly activities as they can also affect sleep. Avoiding naps and also sleeping on one’s back, if possible, can be beneficial as well because these are things that are believed to cause occurrences.
I have never personally experienced sleep paralysis, or if I did, I don’t remember it. I am grateful for that, as it seems to be a terrifying thing to go through. I am going to make sure to maintain healthy sleep so that, hopefully, I will never have to deal with it in the future. I hope you don’t have to deal with it, either!