Sleep Paralysis Is Most Likely Quite Different Than What You Imagined
In most cases, it is merely a signal that your body is unable to move smoothly through the different stages of sleep.
Only in extremely rare cases is sleep paralysis linked to deep underlying mental issues.
The sleep disorder has been described in many different ways over the past centuries.
The most common description of sleep paralysis is sensing an “evil” presence while people are in bed at night.
In ancient times, they are described as demons. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet it is the old hag. Today, many even describe abduction experiences by aliens.
Near to every single culture around our beautiful planet has a story about dark creatures that instill fear in people during the night.
But what is sleep paralysis really and what are the causes for the sleep disorder?
Let’s take a deeper look at these questions and also take a look at how to stop sleep paralysis and how to prevent it in the first place!
What Is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is the inability to move while feeling conscious during the night.
It kicks in when someone is transitioning from being awake to falling asleep.
During this shift, we may find it difficult or even impossible to move and speak. This can take anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes.
Where it gets even more uncomfortable is that many experience pressure or even choking during sleep paralysis.
The sleep disorder is also often linked and accompanied by others, such as narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy causes an extremely strong urge to sleep. Those who suffer from it lose their ability to regulate sleep properly.
What Does Sleep Paralysis Feel Like?
Many describe the experience as frightening or even terrifying. It is the loss of control over our body that may create a feeling of panic!
In addition, 75% of sleep paralysis cases include hallucinations that are usually linked with nightmares over good dreams.
The most frequent hallucinations include intruder hallucinations, chest pressure hallucinations, and vestibular-motor hallucinations.
An intruder hallucination involves perceiving a threat or a dangerous person in the room.
Chest pressure hallucinations are also known as incubus hallucinations. Many describe a feeling of choking or even suffocation. This type often comes together with intruder hallucinations.
Finally, vestibular-motor hallucinations can be described as an out-of-body experience or a feeling of abnormal movement, such as flying.
When Does Sleep Paralysis Normally Kick In?
Sleep paralysis occurs either during takeoff or landing to dreamland.
Hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis occurs as you are falling asleep. Hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis on the other hand, happens as you wake up.
The Difference Between Nightmares, Lucid Dreaming, and Sleep Paralysis
A nightmare is a bad dream, usually connected to and caused by negative feelings, such as fear or anxiety.
Lucid dreaming on the other hand, is a dream where the dreamer becomes aware of the fact that they are dreaming.
Sleep paralysis fits somewhere in between those two. It is often associated as a negative experience (the nightmare element), while people are conscious and aware of their state (the lucid dreaming element).
Can You Die From Sleep Paralysis?
Yes, sleep paralysis can be a horrifying and terrible experience.
However, there is nothing to be worried about at all. You won’t be able to cause any physical harm to your body.
Remember, you’re unable to move!
In addition, there have also never been any known clinical deaths connected to sleep paralysis.
So the answer to the question is: no, you can’t die from sleep paralysis!
Fun Fact: The Origin of The Word “Nightmare”
Here is a little something you may not know about: In Scandinavian folklore, a Mare is an evil spirit which rides on sleeping people’s chests, giving them bad dreams. Thus, the word “nightmare” was born.
How Does Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis Occur?
When we go to bed, our body is able to finally wind down and relax.
As we slowly dose off, we usually don’t notice the change.
However, people suffering from sleep paralysis do, which is why they are conscious of the fact that we are unable to move or speak as we transition into sleep.
How Does Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis Occur?
As we sleep, we transition between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep.
NREM is the first stage we slip into, which is also known as the light sleep phase.
It also takes up 75% of our total sleep time, and is the phase where our body relaxes and is able to rejuvenate.
At the end of NREM, we shift over to REM sleep, also known as the deep sleep phase. Each cycle of both REM and NREM sleep lasts for about 90 minutes.
During REM sleep, our eyes move quickly and we begin to dream while the rest of our body remains fully relaxed. In fact, our muscles are technically switched off during this sleep phase.
Where people experience sleep paralysis as they wake up is if they become conscious before the REM cycle ends.
Until it does, we are unable to move or speak.
Sleep Paralysis Causes
Did you know that 4 of every 10 people experience sleep paralysis at least once in their life?
It is a common condition which most often occurs in teenagers, while both men and woman experience the sleep disorder equally.
In addition, some studies have found that people who are more imaginative and dissociative from their environment are more likely to experience sleep paralysis.
Daydreamers are a good example for this!
Here are a few more factors which have been linked to sleep paralysis:
- Sleep deprivation
- Irregular sleep schedule or significant changes in them
- Mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder or simply stress
- Sleeping on the back
- Other sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy
- Some types of medication
- Alcohol or drug abuse
The issue with the current state of research is that a lot of correlations are known while causation remains unclear.
Sleep Paralysis Symptoms
As mentioned earlier, the symptoms for sleep paralysis are recurring nights where you find yourself unable to move or speak as you fall asleep or wake up.
While it is normal for it to occur a few times throughout your entire life, it shouldn’t occur frequently.
Sleep Paralysis Diagnosis
In the majority of cases, there is no need to treat this condition as it should happen in very rare cases.
However, if you have any concerns or experience any of the symptoms below, we highly recommend you to check with your local doctor!
- Fear or nervousness about your symptoms
- Your sleep quality drops, making you feel tired throughout the day
- You are unable to either fall or stay asleep during the night
What Can I Expect From Visiting a Doctor About My Sleep Paralysis?
The doctor will mainly try to find out more about your sleep health and sleep hygiene.
Usually, they will begin by asking you to describe your symptoms in as much detail as you can. In many cases, you will also be asked to keep a sleep diary for up to a month.
They will also take a deeper look at your medical history. This is because sleep disorders may be running in your family. Another reason could also be that you may have suffered an injury which could be linked to the condition.
In the more severe cases, you might also have to stay overnight to do a sleep study. This is also to ensure that you don’t have any additional sleep disorders.
How To Stop Sleep Paralysis
As mentioned earlier, the majority of us won’t need to go through sleep paralysis treatment.
However, if you are suffering from other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, you should have them treated. That’s because the different sleep disorders are often connected with each other.
Treating one may even fully get rid of the other!
In addition, try one or more of the following:
- Improve sleep hygiene and habits
- Only use antidepressants if it is prescribed by your doctor to aid regulate your sleep cycles
- Treat any mental health issues you may have
- Treat any other sleep disorders you may have
How To Prevent Sleep Paralysis
Let’s take a look at how you can prevent sleep paralysis!
Start by making sure that you get enough sleep. That is an extremely strong positive contribution to your overall health and wellbeing!
Apart from that, ask yourself whether there are any large stressors in your life. Is there any way for you relieve yourself from them?
That one is very important, especially right before you go to bed.
In addition, try to avoid sleeping on your back. That’s because only back sleepers have been found to experience sleep paralysis!
Sleep Hygiene Tips
There are no specific treatments you can undergo to fully get rid of sleep paralysis.
However, what you can do is implement better sleep hygiene and habits into your daily routine.
As we know, prevention is better than cure – and the same applies in this case!
- Nap smart – don’t nap too late and no longer than 90 minutes
- Do not use any electronic devices in bed
- Exercise regularly and leave at least 2 hours of room before going to bed
- Create a good sleep environment – it has to be dark, quiet and comfortable
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before going to bed
- Eat healthy and at the right times
- Add mindfulness techniques to your routine
- Use muscle relaxation and breathing techniques before going to bed
Finally, it is also important to have the right mattress, topper or pillow to sleep on.
Vita Talalay latex for example is soft yet supportive, meaning that it will be deliciously soft and comfy while always giving the support your body needs and deserves.
If you haven’t tried one before, we invite you to do so in one of our many retailers around the world!