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Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

 Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious, but unable to move. It’s a condition that occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these episodes, you might not be able to move or speak for few seconds or few minutes. Of all the weird sensations that we can experience in life, perhaps there’s nothing stranger than not being able to move; more specifically, not being able to move when you’re aware of your surroundings.
 
When Does Sleep Paralysis Usually Occur?

Sleep paralysis occurs at one of two times. If it occurs while you’re falling asleep, it’s known as hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. If it occurs as you’re waking up, it’s known as hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.

What Happens with Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis?

As you drift off to sleep, your body slowly relaxes. Usually, you become less aware, so you don’t notice the change. However, if you remain or become aware while falling asleep, you might notice that you can’t speak or move.

What Happens with Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis?

When you’re asleep, your body alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. One cycle of REM and NREM sleep lasts about 90 minutes. NREM sleep occurs first and takes up to 75% of your overall sleep time. During NREM sleep, your body relaxes and starts to restore itself. At the end of NREM, your sleep shifts to REM. Your eyes move quickly, and dreams occur, but the rest of your body remains relaxed. Your muscles are “switched off” during REM sleep. If you become aware of this before the REM cycle has finished, you may notice that cannot move or speak.

Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis
As mentioned above, the main symptom of sleep paralysis is being completely aware of your surroundings, but being unable to move or talk. However, during an episode, you might also:
• be able to move your eyes (some people can open their eyes while others cannot)
• find it difficult to take deep breaths, as if your chest is being crushed or restricted
• have a feeling that there is someone else in the room with you
• feel very frightened
 

Who Does This Happen to?

As many as four out of every 10 people may suffer from sleep paralysis. This condition is often first noticed in the teen years, but men and women of any age can have it. Individuals with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are more prone to frequent episodes of sleep paralysis. Other factors that may be linked to sleep paralysis include:

• Lack of sleep
• Sleeping on your back
• Other sleep issues such as narcolepsy or night time leg cramps
• Sleep schedules that change
• Use of certain medications, such as those for ADHD
• Substance abuse 

How is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?

If you find that you’re unable to move or speak for a few seconds or minutes when waking up or falling asleep, then it’s likely that you have isolated recurrent sleep paralysis. There’s often no need to treat this condition.

However, if you have any of the following conditions, you should get them checked out by a doctor:

• You feel anxious about your symptoms
• Your symptoms leave you tired throughout the day
• Your symptoms keep you awake at night

How is Sleep Paralysis Treated?

Most people need no treatment for sleep paralysis. Treating any underlying issues such as narcolepsy may help if you’re anxious or unable to sleep well. These treatments may include:

• Improving sleep habits – such as making sure you get 6-8 hours of sleep every night
• Taking antidepressants if they are prescribed to help regulate sleep cycles
• Treating any mental health problems that might contribute to sleep paralysis
• Treating any sleep disorders such as leg cramps or narcolepsy

As a rule of thumb, one episode of sleep paralysis does not warrant a trip to the doctor’s office. Healthcare professions recommend that those who suffer from rare episodes of sleep paralysis pay particular attention to their sleeping habits, as sleep deprivation increases the chances of an episode.
 

Source: webmddoctorinsta, and nhs
Images: depositphotos

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