Most commentators and researchers have concluded that sleep paralysis is a sign that your body is not moving properly through the stages of sleep. Rarely is sleep paralysis linked to underlying psychiatric problems. Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have often been described and often attributed to an “evil” presence; night demons; old hags and even alien abductors. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the accompanying feelings of terror.
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It usually occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, they may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds and up to a few minutes. Some people also feel a sense of choking. Sleep paralysis may accompany other sleep disorders such as Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is an overpowering need to sleep caused by a problem with the brain’s ability to regulate sleep.
Who suffers from Sleep Paralysis?
Possibly up to as many as forty percent of people may have sleep paralysis. This common condition is often first noticed in the teen years. But men and women of any age can have it. Sleep paralysis may run in families. Other factors that may be linked to sleep paralysis include:
Lack of sleep
Changes in Sleep schedule
Mental conditions such as Stress or Bipolar Disorder
Supine Sleeping (Sleeping on the back)
Other sleep problems such as Narcolepsy or Night-Time Leg Cramps
Use of certain medications, such as those for ADHD
How Is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?
Sleep paralysis is mainly diagnosed via clinical interview and ruling out other potential sleep disorders that could account for the feelings of paralysis. The main disorder that is checked for is Narcolepsy due to the high prevalence of Narcolepsy in conjunction with Sleep Paralysis.
If you find yourself unable to move or speak for a few seconds or minutes when falling asleep or waking up, then it is possible you have isolated recurrent sleep paralysis. Often there is no need to treat this condition.
Check with your doctor if you have any of these concerns:
You feel anxious about your symptoms
Your symptoms leave you very tired during the day
Your symptoms keep you up during the night
Your doctor may want to gather more information about your sleep health by doing any of the following:
Ask you to describe your symptoms and keep a sleep diary for a few weeks
Discuss your health history, including any known sleep disorders or any family history of sleep disorders
Refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation
Conduct an overnight sleep study or daytime nap studies to make sure you do not have another sleep disorder
How Is Sleep Paralysis Treated?
An understanding about sleep stages and the inability to move muscles during REM sleep is very important.
Patients’ should be evaluated for Narcolepsy if symptoms persist.
Treating any mental health problems that may contribute to sleep paralysis.
The safest treatment for sleep paralysis is for people to adopt healthier sleeping habits.
In more serious cases, a number of different medications may be used to help regulate Sleep Cycles. There is currently no drug that has been found to completely interrupt episodes of sleep paralysis a majority of the time.
In many cases, people need no treatment for sleep paralysis.