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What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis happens at night when you are conscious but unable to move. Essentially, the body is still asleep but your mind is awake and aware. Such an occurrence is more common than we know. As of 2018, WebMD quoted that at least four in every ten people have it at some point in their life. However, lack of knowledge can be frightening for those experiencing it, and it is noteworthy to mention that it does not have any effects on the body.

What Happens During Sleep Paralysis?

  • Unable to move the body;
  • Unable to speak;
  • Experience dreams like hallucinations;
  • Usually happens when you wake up or when you try to fall asleep;
  • It does not physically harm the body.

Science Explains Sleep Paralysis

Researchers have concluded that it occurs when you are in between the stages of wakefulness and sleep. In light of this, there are two types of sleep paralysis based on the stage it occurs.

  1. Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis occurs when you are about to fall asleep. This happens when the body relaxes and falls into a state of sleep while the mind is active and yet to fall asleep. As a result, the body is unable to move because it achieves a natural state of relaxation.
  1. Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis occurs when you are about to wake up from REM* sleep. Human beings experience four stages of sleep wherein the fourth stage, REM sleep is achieved. This stage typically induces dreams and as a result, the body is immobile so as to not act out while dreaming. Once the fourth stage is completed, wakefulness begins and one has no control over the body yet. However, the mind is already aware and the dream causes sleep paralysis.

When Does Sleep Paralysis Occur?

  • Higher chances of sleep paralysis if you are sleep-deprived;
  • No proper sleep schedule or frequent changes to sleeping patterns;
  • Mental health like stress or even bipolar disorders;
  • Sleep issues where one call fall asleep in any relaxing surroundings or suffering from nighttime leg cramping;
  • Certain prescribed medications can also induce it, better to check with your doctor beforehand;
  • Substance abuse.

Common Experience During Sleep Paralysis

Based on people who have commonly reported sleep paralysis, there are three common experiences.

  • A sensation of pressure on the chest which causes people to wake up gasping once the sleep paralysis is complete;
  • People have also described as if a shadow figure is lurking in the room. For which, scientists have described this is as a hypervigilant state of mind that perceives even the slightest external stimuli as a threat;
  • The most common of all is the out-of-body experience where people have described their body to levitate while they are sleeping in bed. This could also be associated with lucid dreaming.
  • On the flip side, people have also reported pure joy and peace as part of the hallucination or dream, making it the best experience of their life.

Treatments for Sleep Paralysis

While there is no fixed treatment for sleep paralysis, if the doctor is able to identify the underlying cause, you can get that treated in order to stop it. Based on the above-mentioned underlying cases, certain treatments are:

  • Regulate the bedtime routine or sleep schedule;
  • Find ways to relax before bedtime, either listen to soothing music or consume a naturally sleep-inducing diet;
  • Avoid sleeping on your back for the entire night. Reports by The Sleep Paralysis Project identifies that people sleeping on their back for the whole night are at a higher risk of sleep paralysis;
  • Learn about sleep paralysis and talk to your doctor, so the next time it happens, you know not to worry and that it will eventually pass without any physical harm.
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