by: Dr. Amitabh S.
In my years of practice as an alternative medicine healer and a regression therapist I have come across many patients who have complained of Sleep Paralysis.
In the words of one of my patients, Nisha who narrated her feelings and emotions during her sleep, it was terrible numb paralytic and chocking feeling and all the while it was happening she felt as if someone was sitting on her chest and trying to choke her to death. As she under went all this she felt helpless to respond to the outer force. Also in her words she tried hard to wake up her mom who was sleeping next to her but her mom shares that she did not and perhaps saw that in her dream too. For Nisha it was all too real.
In most cases, sleep paralysis is simply a sign that your body is not moving smoothly through the various stages of sleep as sleep researchers suggest. Mostly sleep paralysis is not associated to any kind of underlying psychiatric problems.
Since times unknown symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an “evil” presence, unseen spirits who bother us in our sleep, and alien abductors. All across the globe we hear stories of shady evil creatures that terrify and sometimes torment helpless humans at night. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the accompanying feelings of terror.
So What Is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It happens when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. Sleep paralysis may accompany other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is an overpowering need to sleep caused by a problem with the brain’s ability to regulate sleep.
When Does Sleep Paralysis Usually Occur?
Sleep paralysis usually happens at one of two times. If it occurs while you are on the verge of falling asleep, it’s called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. If it happens as you are waking up, it’s called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.
Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis-As you fall asleep, your body slowly relaxes. Usually you become less aware, so you do not notice the change. However, if you remain or become aware while falling asleep, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.
Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis-During sleep, body alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. One cycle of REM and NREM sleep lasts about 90 minutes. NREM sleep occurs first and takes up to 75% of your overall sleep time. During NREM sleep, your body relaxes and restores itself. At the end of NREM, your sleep shifts to REM. Your eyes move quickly and dreams occur, but the rest of your body remains very relaxed. Your muscles are “turned off” during REM sleep. If you become aware before the REM cycle has finished, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.
Sleep Researches suggest that as many as four out of every 10 people may have sleep paralysis. This common condition is often first noticed in the teen years however men and women of any age can have it. Some factors that may be linked to sleep paralysis include:
Lack of sleep
Sleep schedule that changes
Mental conditions such as stress or bipolar disorder
Sleeping on the back
Use of certain medications, such as those for ADHD
Diagnosing your Sleep Paralysis
If you find yourself unable to move or speak for a few seconds or minutes when falling asleep or waking up, then it is likely you have isolated recurrent sleep paralysis.
You can consult your doctor in case:
You feel anxious about your symptoms
Your symptoms leave you very tired during the day
Your symptoms keep you up during the night
Refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation
Conduct overnight sleep studies or daytime nap studies to make sure you do not have another sleep disorder
Is Sleep Paralysis Treatable?
Most people need no treatment for sleep paralysis however following practices may ease off your challenge:
Improving sleep habits — such as getting six to eight hours of sleep daily
Using antidepressant medication if it is prescribed to help regulate sleep cycles
Treating any mental health problems that may contribute to sleep paralysis.
Images: google images