by Eric Stengle, Founder of Family Sleep Diagnostics
Waking up in the middle of deep sleep and being unable to move or speak can be a harrowing experience for anyone. The condition, commonly known as sleep paralysis, can also occur while in the process of falling asleep.
Regardless of when it occurs, sleep paralysis is not harmful and usually lasts for a few seconds or minutes. However, because it can leave a person feeling completely helpless in that short period of time, there is a certain level of fear associated with the condition.
What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is an experience associated with sleep. When your body is in the dream state or going through the REM sleep stage, your muscles tend to relax. This happens so that the body does not physically react to dreams.
If, however, you become conscious while your body is still in a state of relaxation, usually right after the REM stage, your body will be unable to move. This is what you experience during an episode of sleep paralysis.
Sometimes vivid dreams or even hallucinations can accompany an episode of sleep paralysis. And this can add to the fear factor associated with the condition!
Is Sleep Paralysis Harmful?
As mentioned above, sleep paralysis does not cause any harm. What makes an episode of sleep paralysis scary is the fact that during those few seconds or minutes, a person is unable to move despite being awake.
The feeling of having no control over your limbs, the inability to speak, or even move your head or body is far from pleasant.
It is also important to note here that during an episode of sleep paralysis; some people might find it difficult to breathe normally. However, by itself, an episode of sleep paralysis is not harmful and does not pose any major health risks.
Because only 1 out of 4 individuals experiences sleep paralysis at some point in their lives, it is considered a relatively common sleep related experience. While some people might experience sleep paralysis only once in their lifetime, others might experience it more often.
If you experience frequent episodes of sleep paralysis, it is best that you consult with a professional sleep coach. There is a high possibility that your sleep paralysis might be associated with other sleeping disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or narcolepsy.
Common Triggers for Sleep Paralysis
Factors such as stress, lifestyle habits, or sleep deprivation can be triggers for an episode of sleep paralysis. On top of this, if you are someone who suffers from shift work sleep disorder, it can also increase your potential for experiencing sleep paralysis.
Other common triggers for sleep paralysis include the following:
- Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
- Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea.
- Consumption of alcohol before bedtime.
- Use of certain drugs and medications.
- Family history of sleep paralysis.
- Mental stress and physical fatigue.
6 Steps to Prevent Sleep Paralysis
Profound sleep hygiene is one of the best remedies for preventing sleep paralysis. Here are some of the most effective steps for preventing an episode of sleep paralysis.
- Create and stick to a sleeping routine – make sure you stick to this routine even on weekends.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is quiet and peaceful.
- Remove all disruptions that can affect your quality or sleep.
- Ensure your bedroom has a comfortable temperature – it shouldn’t be too hot or too cold.
- Avoid consuming high-energy, high-calorie foods and beverages and stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime.
- Practice de-stressing techniques (yoga, meditation, listening to relaxing music, or a warm bath) before bedtime.
When Should You See a Professional Sleep Coach?
If you experience sleep paralysis on a frequent basis or if you think an underlying mental health condition is triggering your sleep paralysis it is best to consult with your doctor at the earliest. If you suspect a sleep disorder is a factor for your sleep paralysis, you should consult with a professional sleep coach.
Treating the underlying factors or triggers could help in preventing the occurrence of sleep paralysis.
Family Sleep Diagnostics – Saving Lives and Marriages
Do you suffer from sleep paralysis? Or are you suffering from another other kind of sleep disorder? If yes, we can help. You can reach us at Family Sleep Diagnostics or give us a call at (972) 714-0011.