Sleep paralysis is the inability to perform any of the voluntary movements while awake or while falling asleep. During this time, the person may not be able to move or talk. This feeling may last for few seconds to minutes, and may be quite scary for some. This may happen just once, or occur frequently for several nights. Some even have it more than once during the night. Although scary, this condition is not considered to be very serious or life threatening. It is a condition in which the person is conscious but unable to move as they pass from one stage to another in sleep.
Sleep paralysis that occurs when a person falls asleep is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. Paralysis that happens when the person wakes up is called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis. As a person falls asleep, body relaxation gradually sets in. Under normal conditions, a person may not be aware of the gradual change that happens in the body. If the person becomes aware while falling asleep or waking up, he or she may realize the change and find that they are not able to move or sleep during the transition. Thus, sleep paralysis occurs when the mechanism that helps the muscles to relax during sleep remains even after waking up.
Sleep paralysis is very common symptom of narcolepsy.
Some other factors that increase the risk of sleep paralysis include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Certain medications
- Mental disorders like bipolar disorder
- Substance abuse
In some cases, it is seen to run in families. One should contact a doctor if disturbed sleep makes you tired the next day. Specific treatment may not be needed in most cases. If sleep paralysis is caused by underlying conditions, like narcolepsy, treating the same may be useful.
Some of the methods that may be helpful to improve your sleep include:
- Developing good sleep habits – Try to go to sleep at the same time everyday
- Treating mental health problems – If sleep paralysis is caused by mental problems, treating the same may reduce the chances of sleep paralysis
- Treating sleep disorders – If sleep paralysis is caused by narcolepsy or leg cramps, appropriate treatment may be needed
- Get adequate sleep – Try to get six to eight hours of sleep everyday
- Relieve stress – Learn relaxation methods to relieve excess stress
- Antidepressant medication – It may be recommended for a few to regulate sleep cycles.