Understanding Sleep Paralysis

understanding sleep paralysis

Have you ever waked up in the middle of the night, terrified from the nightmare you were experiencing? You try to sit up, move your body, but you find it difficult to do that.

You try to turn your head, but you realize that not only you can’t move your body parts, but you can’t even speak. This clearly means you are having sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is when the mind is awake and conscious, yet the body is totally asleep. When you feel a presence in the room, an ominous shadow in the corner, at the foot of the bed, or even sitting upon your chest, that is sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is when you can’t breathe from the crushing weight of some invisible force holding you down.

Your whole body is alive with an electric buzz as if you are hooked up to a string of car batteries. You feel hopeless and helpless when you are having sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is a term for that feeling when you seem to wake you, but you are frozen. Some people call sleep paralysis as hallucinations whereas, some call it as a waking nightmare.

If you have ever experienced this condition in your life, you are not alone. Research have found that around 65% of people experience sleep paralysis at least once in their lives.

Many people throughout the course of history, have reported similar experiences of their sleep paralysis, some only once or twice, while others more frequently.

Although, some stories might differ to varying degree, yet there are some common threads to most of the stories mentioned above.


What happens to the body?

sleep paralysis

There are two parts of every sleep cycle. The cycle is known as Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM) and non-REM sleep.

During the stage of non-REM, you slowly drift through three stages of sleep. With each stage, your breathing pattern grows more rhythmic and you become less awaken, even in the louder noises.

After that, you go through the stage called REM sleep, when you start to dream about things. A neurotransmitter called glycine occurs during this stage, which helps you to put your body into a temporary state of paralysis.

During this phase, your body can move the involuntary muscles, but you cannot be able to move your arms and legs to prevent you from hurting yourself or someone due to some bad dreams.

If you suddenly wake up during the stage of REM sleep, even though you are conscious, the glycine medicated paralysis may still be in effect to your body. This is why you might not be able to move for few seconds after you wake up.


What are the causes of sleep paralysis?

sleep paralysis causes

Sleep paralysis can literally affect anyone. However, certain behaviors and conditions seem to point to a specific risk factors or cause that can increase a chance of sleep paralysis.

For instance, for those with sleep disorders resulting in frequently waking up or insomnia have a high chance of having sleep paralysis. Also, shift workers seem to suffer from sleep paralysis more frequently.

The basis cause of sleep paralysis is usually related to poor sleeping habits. Sleep paralysis happens to most of the people because they have irregular sleep patterns.

It also can be caused by anything that spurs frequent awakenings like chronic pain, substance abuse, or noises of various things around.

Additionally, you are likely to encounter sleep paralysis if you are under a lot of pressure and stress due to work or everyday life.

You are also likely to encounter sleep paralysis if you have experienced threatening or traumatic life events or having some anxiety and depression.

Also, you are more likely to encounter sleep paralysis if you have the habit of using excessive medication and illicit drug.


How to stop sleep paralysis?

how to stop sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis can be extremely terrifying and relatively harmful to health. Addressing the underlying causes of sleep paralysis and working on it can be a best way to stop sleep paralysis.

However, here are some specific tips that anyone having sleep paralysis might need to stop it:

Wiggling the toe

Wiggling the toe or a finger is a good way that works for many people. Most of the feelings of paralysis are in the belly, chest, and throat. So, if you try to give all your attention on the toes or fingers and try to move it back and forth, this might be helpful for you to stop sleep paralysis.

Focus on your breath

An easy way to stop sleep paralysis is to focus on your breath. Simply try to draw your breathe at a normal rate, and exhale it fully, using your lung capacity. This will help in keeping you calm. A few moments of focus breath can be effective and helpful to stop sleep paralysis.

Get help

If someone share your bed, you can tell him/her about your sleep paralysis and give him/her symptoms in difficulties. You can use your voice for coughing into wakefulness. Like breathing, coughing can be automatic or consciously regulated which will help your partner to wake up and help you with your sleep paralysis.

Don’t fight back

If you are experiencing sleep paralysis, do not fight back. Not only fighting back is likely to increase the feelings of being held down, but will increase more fear inside you, making you more weak. Fighting back will trigger the emotional centers of the brain and strengthen the nightmare. So, instead of fighting just relax.