If you have ever woken up and felt like you couldn’t move, then congratulations (well, not really) you have experienced sleep paralysis. It is medically defined as a state of being conscious but unable to physically move any part of your body. This usually happens when there is a little miscommunication during the phases of sleep and waking up. Those who have experienced it consider it to be nothing lesser than a frightening experience.
That’s because they are consciously awake and mentally aware of their surroundings, but their body is still asleep, and they have no voluntary control over moving any of their body parts.
Although it sounds strange, it is actually quite a common experience, and does not harm your body or mean that there is anything seriously wrong with you.
Sleep Paralysis Two Types:
When we fall asleep, our minds and bodies are both super relaxed and slowly become less aware of their environment.
When we experience the Hypnagogic phase, the paralysis which happens before we fall asleep, our minds are consciously aware of what’s going on, however our bodies are still in an unconscious state of relaxation. So, no matter what the person does or is consciously awake for, they will be unable to move their body, which will obviously make them panic.
When experiencing the Hypnopompic phase, the paralysis which happens after the person wakes up from ‘rapid-eye movement’ or REM sleep. During REM sleep, the person is in deep sleep, and dreaming, for which the brain paralyzes the muscles so that we don’t act on our dreams, almost like tying our body up subconsciously. So when someone experiences hypnopompic sleep paralysis, a part of their brain wakes up, but the part which is responsible for REM sleep and the muscle’s paralysis is still asleep. So, this is another state of sleep paralysis experienced where you are conscious, may possibly see your dreams unravel in front of you, but won’t have any conscious control on your own movements. It is a terrifying experience if you are having a nightmare and can’t move a muscle to dodge what’s in front of you.
Who Experiences Sleep Paralysis?
People experience sleep paralysis only around one to two times in their lives, on average. But some have this experience close to few times a month! Penn State University conducted a sleep study and found that around 8% of the population who had frequent sleep paralysis issues, also suffered from mental disorders like depression, anxiety and sleep apnea (short-term inability to breathe while asleep), were also more vulnerable to experiencing it too.
You are more likely to experience sleep paralysis for the following reasons:
1. Alcohol Abuse
3. Have inconsistent sleep timings
4. Lack of deep sleep or previous cases of insomnia
5. Sleeping on your back and not your side
6. Bipolar and related mental disorders
7. Sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy (random and involuntary phases of deep sleep) or even nighttime leg cramps.
8. Taking certain kinds of medicines, especially used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
Some Advised Treatments:
Since this a condition that is triggered by the body naturally, there is no real medication form of treatment, but if a doctor does find a source that is causing frequent sleep paralysis, here are some usually advised treatments:
-Providing you with a consistent sleep schedule
-Counseling with a mental health professional
-Treatment for any possible sleep disorders
-Getting adequate amount of sleep
-Making sure you get good quality sleep by doing something to destress before going to bed
-Reduce caffeine, alcohol and drug consumption
-Switch off or keep electronic devices away from you at least half an hour before sleeping
-Drinking some warm turmeric and honey milk or warm lemon water, before going to sleep.
In case you do experience sleep paralysis, remember to just stay calm, focus on your breathing, lie back down, relax, and remember that it will pass.