Sleep Paralysis: All That You Need To Know

Many individuals wake up suddenly and find it difficult to move or make sounds. They also sense someone watching them from the side and feel heaviness on their chest or a hand covering their throat.

They may at times also feel as if they are not sleeping and flying in mid-air instead. These horrifying incidents make up to what is known as a well-known sleep disorder, Sleep Paralysis.

A 2011 research shows that 7.6% of the world’s populations have witnessed sleep paralysis at least once in their whole life. Mostly it was common in students and psychiatric patients especially those who have post-traumatic stress or panic disorder. This disorder is a well-known symptom of narcolepsy, a disease occurs because of increased sleepiness, sleep attacks and unexpected loss of muscle control, as told by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep paralysis deficient of narcolepsy is known as ‘isolated sleep paralyses or when it happens frequently as ‘recurrent isolated sleep paralyses.

Short-term paralysis and intense hallucinations

Recently, scientists are trying to research and gain better knowledge about sleep paralysis as a neurological disorder. This disorder begins because of interrupted REM (rapid eye movement) which happens when an individual is sleeping.

“During sleep paralysis, you have two aspects of REM sleep going on when you’re awake,” as told by Brian Sharpless, who is an authorized clinical psychologist and co-author of the book, ‘Sleep Paralysis: Historical Psychological, and Medical Perspectives’. He also says that, individuals will dream when having REM sleep and this would make the body paralyzed and so ‘you don’t try to act out your dreams’.

When a person goes through a period of sleep paralyses, he is paralyzed for a few seconds or even minutes when they’re about to fall asleep or wake up. Many also have incidents of vivid hallucinations when they’re asleep in their bed sheets.

Some also say, they feel as if there is a wicked existence in their room. A study was issued in the journal, Sleep Medicine last month which showed results that from 185 patients who were diagnosed of sleep paralysis, 58% felt there was someone in their room, frequently it is a non-human and 22% saw a real being in their room that they didn’t recognize.

This disease makes some feel heaviness on their chest and makes different body movements without their control according to American Sleep Association. Some feel that out of body hallucinations enjoyable because it makes them feel free of any weight but most find it uncomfortable. These illusions also might be a symptom of REM sleep. The core cause of the hallucinations is not yet known to anyone as told by Daniel Denis, a postdoctoral scholar.

Risks associated with sleep paralysis and its remedy

Different factors such as substance used, genes, past family sufferers of trauma, psychiatric diagnosis, weak body and sleeping patterns make it more vulnerable for an individual to get prone to sleep paralysis as found in a research conducted in 2018. The number of times it happens is connected to people who have anxiety and difficulty in sleeping.

Denis told Live Science, “This may explain why sleep paralysis comes in waves or bouts, episodes might coincide with a period of stress.”

As for the cure, there is no orderly medication available for this disease but doctors advise the diagnosed patients that they need to have a fixed bedtime routine and also tune their sleep schedule. If a patient is suffering heavily they should be given antidepressants as told by the National Health Society of the UK. These medicines might reduce the issues faced by sleep paralysis by ending factors of REM sleep.

How would you combat sleep paralysis if you encounter it?

“If you have rare episodes of sleep paralysis, but haven’t seen by a sleep specialist, make sure your sleep hygiene is solid,” Shelby Harris who is the director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York City. It could also be, as suggested by her, that you may be sleep deprived.

Harris also advised that those suffering from sleep paralysis should get enough hours of sleep consistently and also avoid all kinds of drugs 3 hours prior bedtime such as alcohol, nicotine. A reduction in caffeine drinks after 2 pm and electronics shouldn’t be in the same room as yours was also mentioned.

Harris added, “If these things don’t help and you’re having episodes that are becoming somewhat more frequent, see a sleep specialist to see if there’s any underlying medical disorder that might be causing the sleep paralysis.”