What Is Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which one individual is conscious. One experiences an inability to be mobile, speak or react. This happens for a short duration of time; a few seconds to a few minutes. It is most likely to happen during the transition state of wakefulness and sleep.
Is Sleep Paralysis Common?
Many people experience sleep paralysis rarely. Others may go through it every few days. According to research, approximately 8% of world population experience an odd phenomenon at least once in life.
Sleep Paralysis Symptoms
The most common symptom is the inability to move and speak. Sleep paralysis is often characterized by the following symptoms:
- One may feel chest is being pressed. It may be a crushing or restriction sort of feeling.
- The feeling of choking as if something is stuck in the throat.
- An odd feeling of heavy breathing.
- Having a fearful feeling that there is someone in your room – This bizarre feeling is called hallucination.
- Having headache post episode
- Having stomach ache (This happens rarely).
- Anxiety may last for a few minutes after the sleep paralysis episode is over.
Sleep Paralysis Causes
Sleep paralysis occurs during the onset of sleep or awakening. Our sleep consists of two types of stages. One is REM; rapid eye movement. Other is NREM; non-rapid eye movement. In REM, the body can move the eyes and the muscles used in breathing. Dreams occur during this phase. In the later one, the body relaxes.
In sleep paralysis, the body and brain are not in coordination. It occurs during the transition phase of a REM cycle. An individual may feel if he/ she is awake. But the body remains in the sleeping state.
Few factors have been found to be linked with this disease. Those are listed below:
- Sleep deprivation: When one person is unable to get an adequate amount of sleep. This may happen due to a busy lifestyle.
- Stress: Stress and depression trigger incidents of sleep paralysis.
- Insomnia: a sleep disorder where people may experience trouble going to sleep.
- Narcolepsy: It is a sleep disorder. Suffering people tend to sleep excessively in odd times
- Genetics: Family history plays an important role in such disorders
- Uncomfortable sleeping position e.g. sleeping on the back. Not changing sleep position whole night may also cause it.
- Anxiety: a natural feeling of fear about the next day or future. It may disrupt the natural sleep cycle
- Hypertension: blood pressure gets higher than the normal range
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Lucid dreams are an awareness that you are dreaming. To some extent, an individual can control what one dreams about. The experience of this disease is somewhat closer to that of the lucid dream. In both cases, the body is sleeping while the brain is consciously aware. Some patients of this disease actually start enjoying the weird phase. This happens when they know that fear is only a state of mind. It comes with the understanding that the phenomenon cannot physically harm them. They transform the episodes of sleep paralysis into the lucid dream by somewhat controlling what they dream or experience.
Treatment Of Sleep Paralysis
There is no set treatment for sleep paralysis. The odd experience cannot physically harm one. However, it may leave anxiety and depression after one is fully awake. The treatment of sleep paralysis often includes finding out the triggering factors. Patients then avoid these factors that disrupt sleep. The option of treatment is considered only when one experiences it frequently. One should consider treatment when he/ she feels anxious and fearful to sleep. In minority cases, it can cause severe levels of distress. In such severe cases, sleep physicians treat the condition with antidepressants and sleep-inducing medicines. The diagnosis and treatment may include an overnight sleep study.
Sleep Paralysis In Children
Sleep paralysis affects adults more. Majority undergo this from the onset of adolescence. Children may experience “Night terrors”. In the case of night terrors, the kids do not remember after he/ she is up. However, one can remember vague details of this disorder after enduring it. Parents can differentiate between the two phenomena by understanding the phenomena. After experiencing night terrors, kids wake up screaming and anxious. Sleep paralysis leaves one with wide open eyes and deep breath. The body is calm as it is unable to move.
Old Hag Syndrome
During sleep paralysis, one may hallucinate. Hallucination means; seeing, hearing or feeling someone supernatural. It causes fear and anxiety. Many people have reported it to be someone with the appearance of an old woman sitting on the chest. We can also say that old hag syndrome. Hag means an old wizened woman. Some people do not perceive it as female. They feel its something supernatural. This sensation of evil presence is quite disturbing. It is also called sleep hag.
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How To Prevent Sleep Paralysis
It is recommended gaining knowledge about the triggering factors of sleep paralysis. Few preventive measures are listed below:
- One should limit the use of alcohol. Alcohol is reported to induce sleep-related problems.
- Sleeping on the back may disrupt the sleep cycle.
- Follow a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and rise approximately at the same time each day.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment. The temperature should be not too cold, not too hot.
- Don’t take bigger meals during the day.
- Regular workout is essential for general health maintenance.
Generally, sleep paralysis is once in a lifetime experience. Many people tend to live with the reassurance that the experience is not going to harm them physically. Preventive measures are helpful in minimizing recurrence. A better understanding of causes makes us avoid triggering factors. Understanding the phenomenon also elevates the level of tolerance to such incidences. However, if the problem persists, its best to see General Physician. If it is disturbing sleep routine, one should explore treatment options with a certified sleep medicine physician.