Sleep Paralysis

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis is a sleeping disorder in which a person develops a temporary inability to talk or move while falling asleep or right after waking up. This has been found to be a very common sleeping disorder; and there almost around three million people in America every year who suffer from this discomforting disorder. Sleep Paralysis can actually be a terrifying experience for the person who suffers from it because it renders them immobile and makes their body seem useless as they have no control over it.   This condition usually lasts for around a minute or two but as mentioned; these few minutes can be quite frightening.

Sleep Paralysis commonly happens to people who are suffering from Sleep Apnea or Narcolepsy but it is not a hard and fast rule that only these people can. Recently, it was found out thatanyone can suffer from Sleep Paralysis irrespective of their gender or age. It has also been found that individuals from the age of three to thirteen are relatively less affected than those who are fourteen and above.

Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis like any other disorder has its own defined signs and symptoms. Medically, the most common symptoms of Sleep Paralysis are hallucinations, anxiety attacks and panic attacks. However, over the centuries there have been symptoms which are described as presence of evil demonic creatures in a human’s body. These “symptoms” were believed back in the ancient times but up to some extent even in today’s day and age, they are thought to be true.

How Is Sleep Paralysis Caused?

Sleep Paralysis is directly linked with Rapid Eye Movement (REM). This is the state of a mammal’s mind in which their muscle tone relaxes while their eyes move rapidly. REM causes a person to be able to dream properly as it allows a soothing state of mind. Sleep Paralysis occurs when parts of Rapid Eye Movement state of sleep persists until the point of wakefulness. This means that a person is fully awake, however, their body is temporarily paralyzed because it is not responsive to the neurological function as of yet. In order to know how Sleep Paralysis is caused in a better way it is imperative to understand what REM sleep is.

  • REM Sleep

When we sleep, there are many cycles that take place in our body physically as well as neurologically. In each cycle there are two main phases which take place. These cycles are:

  1. REM Sleep
  2. Non-REM Sleep

Our brain is highly active during the REM sleep phase. Most of the dreams that a person sees happen during this particular phase of sleep. It is quite interesting to note that our body is almost completely paralyzed during this phase except for the eye movement and movement of thediaphragm muscle which helps us breathe. Our body is paralyzed in order to prevent us from acting out our dreams which can lead to a possibility of serious injuries.

Major Factors Causing Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is mostly caused due to various physiological and psychological reasons. In order to understand the gravity of this disorder, it is imperative to fully understand these factors which lead up to it. Here is a list of the most common factors which cause Sleep Paralysis:

  • Age: Age is a major factor in causing Sleep Paralysis. It has been found that majority of the people who suffer from this disorder are teenagers and young adults.
  • Sleep Deprivation: Sleep Deprivation has been found to be a major leading factor in causing Sleep Paralysis. Sleep deprived individuals and those who have not been able to get the required amount of sleep often find themselves suffering from the discomforting feeling of sleep paralysis.
  • Irregular Sleeping Patterns: Irregularity in sleep patterns on itself is a very unhealthy condition. However, what many people don’t know is that these irregular sleep patterns can actually cause them to suffer from Sleep Paralysis.
  • Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is a condition in which people suffering from it find it very hard to stay awake, especially when they are in relaxed and soothing surroundings. People who suffer from narcolepsy often have a tendency to suffer from Sleep Paralysis as well.
  • Genetic Linkage: There is a large debate on whether Sleep Paralysis is passed down the family tree. While some experts are of the opinion that it is in fact hereditary, there is more research that needs to be done to prove these beliefs.
  • Anxiety or Stress: Anxiety and stress are one of the most leading causes of Sleep Paralysis. People who are highly stressed often find themselves suffering from Sleep Paralysis on the exact same night while others face these episodes for weeks if they are stressed.

Is Sleep Paralysis Hereditary?

Yes, there is a very high chance of sleep paralysis being inherited and transmitted genetically. Doctors and sleep experts conducted an extensive research study to find the link between these two.

According to this study, researchers collected data from around eight hundred twins and siblings and conducted an experiment in which they learned that genetics is somewhat responsible for causing Sleep Paralysis in siblings as well as twins. It is not however to be forgotten that most of these patients were also suffering from high levels of stress and anxiety which could either be an added factor or the root cause of Sleep Paralysis for them. This is why this research needs more backing up with scientific evidence in order to make more headway in the medical world.

There was an additional finding in this study; scientists repeatedly found out that in the case of each and every individual, Sleep Paralysis was caused during the REM sleep stage.

Is The Body Functional During Sleep Paralysis?

The human body is quite functional during Sleep Paralysis. However, the major question should be whether the body is mobile during sleep paralysis. The human body goes numb during Sleep Paralysis. Eye movements and diaphragm movements are the only two movements which take place during the time a body is in state of Sleep Paralysis

Is Sleep Paralysis Linked With Epilepsy?

In order to answer this question and determine if there is a link between the two disorders, it is necessary to understand Epilepsy in a wider perspective.

  • What Is Epilepsy?
  • Epilepsy is a common serious neurological disorder in which the patient tends to suffer from sudden seizures. This is caused mainly due to disturbance in the brain’s electrical activity. Epilepsy is one of the most serious neurological conditions known to medical history and has been proven to be extremely dangerous and fatal. It cannot be stressed enough how imperative it is to get this condition diagnosed and treated immediately. Additionally, it is extremely common in America. According to recent statistics, almost two hundred thousand to three million people suffer from Epilepsy in America alone every year.

Sleep Paralysis and Epilepsy are similar in the feeling they cause for the patient, however are very different from each other and less likely to be linked. While Sleep Paralysis renders a person motionless during the time they sleep, an Epileptic patient can suffer from seizures any time of the day. While some people who suffer from Epilepsy have been known to experience Sleep Paralysis and vice versa, there have been no confirmed links between the two conditions.

Is Sleep Paralysis An Indicator Of A Serious Neurological Disorder?

While sleep paralysis alone is not harmful, it is quite a jarring experience for the person who suffers from it. Additionally, it can lead to serious neurological disorder such as Apnea and Narcolepsy.

Can Sleep Paralysis Cause Hallucinations?

Yes. Hallucinations have always been a discomforting companion of Sleep Paralysis. A person who suffers from Sleep Paralysis usually feels these three types of hallucinations:

  1. Presence of an intruder around them.
  2. Pressure on the chest, caused due to some entity which holds them down
  3. Levitation or an out of body experience

Usually, when a person freshly wakes up from an episode of Sleep Paralysis they feel that something or someone is on top of them and is rendering them immobile. Due to their immobility they feel like they cannot move from the bed and often feel a strong sense of suffocation.

Sleep Paralysis Myths

Sleep Paralysis for centuries has been commonly associated with horror ghost stories. The condition’s discomforting state makes a person feel that maybe some sort of demon or an evil presence has taken over their body. Superstitious people still believe that rather than a sleeping disorder, these episodes are the cause of some supernatural activity.

However, as mentioned above, the gravity of this condition is not to be taken lightly and it should be diagnosed and treated effectively.

Can Sleep Paralysis be treated?

Yes. Sleep Paralysis is in fact a very treatable disorder. There are various lifestyle changes which one can introduce in their lives in order to fight sleep paralysis. Here are some of the most trusted and prescribed tips to keep Sleep Paralysis at bay:

  • Maintaining a regular sleeping pattern
  • Reduction of Caffeine intake
  • Reduction of Tobacco intake
  • Prohibition of Alcohol before bedtime
  • Comfortable sleeping conditions