There have been numerous myths regarding sleep paralysis and its association with supernatural phenomenons. Throughout ancient history, it has been linked to paranormal forces, from demon possessions to ghost hauntings.
The Western concept of this condition is interpreted through the idea of a demon known as ‘Incubus’ sitting on the top of your chest inducing bad dreams. Further, the concept of Old Hag haunting people originated from the concept of the incubus, which was also added to numerous horror movie plotlines.
However, science has time and again debunked myths and put forward scientific explanations for it. The same goes for this condition too. In the late 19th century, sleep researchers concluded the symptoms to be of sleeping disorder and named it sleep paralysis.
What is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when you are waking up or falling asleep. It is generally not harmful and occurs only for a few seconds or minutes, but it can be a frightful experience for the victim.
Majority of people have sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lifetime, while others experience it a few times a month or even regularly. Although it can affect people of all ages, it is most common in teenagers and young adults.
During an episode of sleep paralysis the victim:
- Will find it difficult to take deep breaths, as if a huge weight has been pressed onto their chests which restricts them from breathing properly
- Will be able to move and open their eyes, however, some patients claim of not being able to
- Will have hallucinations that there is someone or something in the room which will harm them during the episode
- Will feel scared and frightened which will lead to increased heart rate and panic attacks
The length of an episode may vary from a few seconds to a few minutes. Afterward, they will be able to move and speak again, however, they may feel unsettled and anxious about going to sleep again.
Sleep paralysis is common if it happens to you once or twice. It is not harmful and isn’t usually a sign of an underlying problem. However, it is a good idea to see your doctor if:
- You have been experiencing sleep paralysis regularly
- You feel anxious about going to sleep or you haven’t been getting enough sleep lately
- You feel excessively sleepy during the day, or have episodes where you fall asleep suddenly or lose your muscle control
Why does Sleep Paralysis occur?
Sleep paralysis occurs when Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep occurs while you’re awake. REM is a stage of sleep when the brain is very active and dreams often occur. In this phase of your sleep cycle, your body loses its motor movements.
It is not clear why REM sleep can sometimes occur even when you are awake but is closely associated with:
- Not getting enough sleep (Sleep deprivation or Insomnia)
- Irregular sleeping patterns due to Work shift disorder or Jet lag
- Narcolepsy – the condition of suddenly falling asleep at inappropriate times
- Family history of sleep paralysis
How can you treat Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis often gets treated over time, but improving your sleeping habits and lifestyle changes may help. If your sleep paralysis is severe, a sleep specialist will conduct a series of tests to identify the root cause of your condition. Then, according to need, they will prescribe you low dosage antidepressant medication, such as Clomipramine.
- Getting a good night’s sleep – most adults need 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night
- Creating a proper sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at exactly the same time each morning
- Creating a sleeping environment that’s comfortable, quiet, dark and has a moderate temperature for inducing sleep
- Avoiding eating big meals or junk foods, smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine right before bedtime
- Getting regular exercise but not within 4 hours of going to bed
- Reducing the exposure of your body to light at night
- Avoiding your phone or other devices before bedtime
Have you been suffering from sleep-related issues lately?
Swacon International Hospital offers state-of-the-art sleep study diagnostics aimed at diagnosing sleep disorders.
Our sleep specialists employ the latest technology to monitor various brain activities and body systems while the patient sleeps to produce a result that is utilized to recommend proper treatment to the disorder.
Health for All