Sleep paralysis can feel like a fearful phenomenon. It’s led to myths including those that believe the devil is holding them down. The truth is far more banal, however, yet it can still leave you unsettled. According to a study conducted by National Institutes of Health, sleep paralysis affects less than eight percent of the general population while between 25-50 percent of Americans have experienced it at least once. The good news is that while it can seem like a nightmarish scenario, it doesn’t pose a risk to health.
Sleep paralysis is when you’re unable to move or speak but your mind is aware of your surroundings. You may hallucinate and see or hear things that aren’t really there. It happens when falling asleep (hypnagogic sleep paralysis) or when awakening (hypnopompic sleep paralysis) and can last for seconds to a couple of minutes.
Sleep paralysis happens when you wake up before REM sleep is completed. This stage is characterized by vivid dreaming and muscle paralysis to prevent you from acting out your dreams. Since you wake up before the completion of this stage, your dreams ‘translate’ to reality and you may hallucinate although you can’t move.
There are certain factors that can trigger sleep paralysis. They include sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, genetics, stress, mental disorders, and medication. People who have narcolepsy may experience sleep paralysis more often although not all narcoleptics have it. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder where people struggle to stay awake for longer periods and have episodes of sleep attacks. They may also have cataplexy, a condition where they physically collapse as a response to strong emotions like laughter.
The symptoms of sleep paralysis are fairly straightforward. You may be unable to speak or move and may hear noises, see things or feel them. You may have excessive daytime sleepiness too.
Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression may trigger sleep paralysis. If you’ve not been feeling yourself lately and feel anxious or depressed, make an appointment with your doctor who can chart a treatment plan.
Many who experience sleep paralysis say they do so while sleeping on their back. If this holds for you too, try changing your sleep position.
Following good sleep hygiene can help you sleep better. Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, including on the weekends and holidays. Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time every morning. Getting undisturbed sleep can reduce sleep paralysis.
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If you have sleep apnea, consult a doctor who can find out what type of apnea it is and prescribe a treatment plan. Even if you don’t experience sleep paralysis, it’s important to treat sleep apnea as it can increase the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Keep your bedroom quiet and dark to encourage sleep. You should keep it cool to facilitate the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. A comfortable bed can also make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. You can use pillows and a mattress that properly supports the length of your spine.
Nuvanna is a mattress designed for better sleep. It’s the brainchild of an industry expert who has over 20 years of experience. It features three layers with each performing a different function. The top layer is a cooling gel layer that draws body heat away and disperses it so that you sleep cool. The middle layer isolates motion so that you and your bed partner don’t disturb each other when you move. The bottom layer uses a Progressive Support System that keeps the spine naturally aligned and supports individual body parts.
Sleep paralysis can be frightening, but it doesn’t have to be a frequent occurrence. Since sleep paralysis is usually the result of an underlying cause, your doctor can diagnose the problem and prescribe a treatment plan. Meanwhile, there are things you can do to prevent it as well including having a healthy bedtime routine, meditating to reduce stress, and practicing good sleep habits.