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Sleep Paralysis

What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is described as a temporary inability to move or speak during bedtime, despite being consciously awake. Sleep paralysis most of the times occur when you are waking up from a night’s sleep and should pass in a few seconds. Usually, this condition is harmless and almost everyone has experienced at least one episode of sleep paralysis during their life.

Sleep Paralysis Signs and Symptoms

The main symptom of sleep paralysis is being consciously awake and aware of your environment, but not being able to move, open your eyes or speak, which for most can be very terrifying. Additionally, people experiencing sleep paralysis might also have the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hallucination and have the sensation that there is someone or something else in the room with them

Most episodes of sleep paralysis usually last a few seconds, but occasionally, they might be prolonged into several minutes.

Sleep Paralysis Causes

Normal human sleep patterns have a stage called rapid eye movement (REM), in which your brain is very active and creates dreams. Normally, during this stage, you are unable to move. Sleep paralysis occurs when you are in REM sleep stage while being consciously awake.

The main reason for this event is not clear yet, but there are some associations described:

  • Sleep deprivation.
  • Irregular sleep pattern.
  • Suffering from narcolepsy.
  • Sleep paralysis family history.

In any case, this condition is a harmless one and usually is not related to any other health problem.

Sleep Paralysis Diagnosis

Most cases of sleep paralysis don’t require any additional tests or even treatment. Most people present some episodes in a specific point during their life and will not experience it any more. However, if you have recurrent sleep paralysis episodes or if the condition starts interfering your daily life, visit your doctor for further information.

Your doctor will recommend the following:

  • Sleep dairy about your symptoms and their frequency
  • Will discuss with you your health and family history of sleep disorders.

And, as a last resource, will perform a polysomnography, in order to detect any other sleep disorder affecting your night sleep.

Sleep Paralysis Treatment

Most cases of sleep paralysis will never need treatment. However, there are some recommendation for you to follow in order to reduce the frequency of your sleep paralysis episodes, including:

  • Getting a good night sleep.
  • Going to be roughly the same time every night.
  • Creating a healthy, calm, comfortable and quite sleeping environment.
  • Having regular exercise and a healthy diet, avoiding heavy meals shortly before going to bed.

In case your symptoms are severe and don’t get better after conventional recommendations, your doctor may suggest taking a very low dose of an antidepressant medication which can alter the REM sleep stage, improving the symptoms of sleep paralysis.

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