Sleep Paralysis Diagnosis

Why is Sleep Important to the Human Body?

Sleep is an essential part of our body’s self-healing and repairing mechanism. It is when the body rests at night that the regeneration of damaged cells takes place. The body goes through cycles of REM or Rapid Eye Movement and NREM or Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep. The body switches through these two states at least four to six times during the course of the night. Each stage typically takes about 90 minutes to complete.

What is Sleep Paralysis?

At times when people wake from sleep, they are unable to move. Some may be able to open their eyes but are unable to speak. They are fully aware of their surroundings but are absolutely paralysed as their muscles refuse to respond to them. For those who are unable to even open their eyes, it can be a very scary experience. They may have hallucinations about some malevolent presence in the room with them. This state of immobility may last for two minutes on average.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

The reason the muscles are immobilized is that dreams occur when the body goes through the REM state of sleep. These vivid and clear images could make the dreamers thrash around in their sleep, and possibly injure themselves. This is why the brain sends a message to the neurons to immobilise the limbs. If the dreamer happens to wake before the 90-minute REM cycle is completed, paralysis is experienced until the brain’s second set of instructions sets the muscles free. There is no unnatural influence of ghosts, ghouls or witchcraft behind sleep paralysis.

How is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?

Isolated incidents of sleep paralysis are experienced by most of the world’s population. These do not have any ill effect on the body’s health or on the quality of sleep. Such episodes of sleep paralysis may take place either after the person wakes up or just before the person falls asleep. Most people who develop recurrent sleep paralysis get used to the condition. However, in case one becomes anxious about the condition, a visit to a healthcare provider for a formal diagnosis and advice on ways to manage it could help.

Is Sleep Paralysis Dangerous?

While being paralysed for a few minutes can be a very unsettling experience, the condition of sleep paralysis is not inherently dangerous to the health of the person. Very often sleep paralysis is caused by other underlying reasons such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important to find out the true cause of sleep paralysis, if any, and treat it, so as to improve the health of the person.

Can Sleep Paralysis be Prevented?

There are a number of reasons for sleep paralysis. If these triggers are removed, most people will begin to experience a reduction in the episodes of sleep paralysis. Eventually the condition may disappear altogether. Those with psychiatric issues as well as sleep paralysis may benefit from appropriate care and medication to address the main psychiatric issue. It is important to remember that medication for certain conditions is also a possible trigger for sleep paralysis.

How to Deal with Sleep Paralysis

Getting a good night’s sleep is the best way to avoid sleep paralysis, since such an episode is triggered by the person waking up before completing a REM cycle of the sleep state. Most people suffer from inadequate sleep and this predisposes them to episodes of sleep paralysis. Here are some ways to get a good night’s rest.

  • Ensure that the bedroom is clear of clutter, and the bed has a comfortable mattress. The room should have an ambient temperature such that the sleeper is neither too cold or too warm. Keep quilts and covers handy and easily accessible on the bed so that you don’t have to get up and hunt for them at night.
  • The bed should only be for sleeping. The person should not lie in the bed and read or play games or use digital media. The idea is to associate being on the bed with a restful night’s sleep. The only thing you should do in bed other than sleep is lie down and meditate with your eyes closed. This may aid in having a deeper, more relaxed sleep.
  • Ensure that you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. The weekends usually play havoc with the regular routine. This disrupts the sleep pattern of the person and could trigger sleep paralysis.
  • Limit the use of addictive substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, and the like, stopping at least an hour before you go to sleep. The chemicals in these substances will not influence your sleep pattern to a great degree if stopped well before bedtime and if you ensure that you are well hydrated before you go to bed.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 27, 2019

Cashmere Lashkari

Written by

Cashmere Lashkari

Cashmere graduated from Nowrosjee Wadia College, Pune with distinction in English Honours with Psychology. She went on to gain two post graduations in Public Relations and Human Resource Training and Development. She has worked as a content writer for nearly two decades. Occasionally she conducts workshops for students and adults on persona enhancement, stress management, and law of attraction.

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Comments

  1. Layla Anaya Layla Anaya United States says:

    I started having sleep paralysis since at the age of 15 years old, I'm 42 now. It was frightening at that age even in my twenties, I would sleep with a night light. It wasn't until a few years ago, I learned I can turn it to something pleasant lucid dreaming, yes you can control your dreams, when you are having an episode, all you have to do is relax, and you can feel yourself flying out of your body, I know it sounds crazy but try it, it's amazing. I dont get sleep paralysis that much anymore, but when I do, its treat because i have the ability to control it and fly anywhere I want to.  Good luck!

  2. Skuzzabuzz Skuzzabuzz United States says:

    I must sleep so deep. My dreams are like real life. Thats ok, but I find myself (daytime)sleepy all of the time. Am I in too much REM??  OR could it be something else. By the way, my dreams are great. Always crazy adventures. but many times I wake up and can't move for a bit. And at times its incorporated into my dream. Ie: something chasing me and i am frozen in place trying to run.

    • Melissa Bornbach Melissa Bornbach United States says:

      I read an article suggesting that worrying can cause too much rem sleep and not enough restorative sleep. This can be why sufferers of depression feel fatigue since they have too much REM sleep
      . The article suggested that getting emotional needs met during the day could lead to less worrying and help with the sleep cycle thus helping depression. So, if you were in too much REM, that might make you tired. I used to have dreams where I'd feel frozen. Often I'd be paralyzed while floating and levitating. I would float all over the place. I once saw my cat and tried to speak but couldn't. I wondered why I couldn't float somewhere pretty like outside. So, one night I floated outside into the bright day and floated up into the blue sky and looked down at the flowers. It was so pretty. After that, the sleep paralysis stopped.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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