Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to move? If so, you might be suffering from the common problem of sleep paralysis. This is the inability to move or speak when waking up from or falling asleep. People who have experienced this have also reported feeling a weight on their chest or a sensation of being choked. People have also been known to hallucinate during these episodes as well.
Sleep paralysis is more common than one might think. Around 3 million cases are reported in the U.S. each year. And, while it can be a terrifying experience, there is nothing paranormal about sleep paralysis. Scientists have been able to identify the causes of sleep paralysis, and with further study and care, people who are affected by sleep paralysis are able to reduce and even eliminate their occurrences.
What Causes It?
Sleep paralysis occurs when a person is in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and suddenly wakes up before the cycle is finished. In REM sleep, your body shuts down, making your muscles relaxed, and unable to move, so that when you dream about being chased by a bear, you don’t actually start running away. This, of course, is different from those experience sleepwalking, but that is a different topic of discussion.
When one wakes up in the middle of a REM cycle and cannot move, it is because their body hasn’t yet woken up, while their brain has become conscious. It’s essentially a very literal meaning of mind over matter when it comes to sleep.
Who is Affected By It?
There are some things that can trigger episodes of sleep paralysis in people who experience them. For example, those who have sleep apnea are more prone to waking up unable to move in the middle of the night.
People who take certain drugs, those with sleep disorders, and people who are sleep deprived are also more likely to have episodes of sleep paralysis. More recent studies have also suggested that those with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, are also prone to sleep paralysis.
Young people have also been shown to exhibit more occurrences of sleep paralysis. It is especially common if they have members of their family who have also had episodes of sleep paralysis.
How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis
While it is impossible to cure sleep paralysis, there are special measures and practices that will help individuals better prepare for sleep and stay asleep during the night.
If you are worried about the amount of sleep paralysis episodes you experience or are worried about your sleeping habits, it never hurts to consult a medical professional. Often times, good sleep hygiene can solve a number of sleep problems.
Eliminating alcohol and drugs three hours before bedtime and banishing all screens can help reduce sleep paralysis. Also, avoiding caffeine after 2 in the afternoon can also help with sleep.
What To Do If Sleep Paralysis Should Strike
If you’ve never experienced sleep paralysis, the first time can be an incredibly terrifying experience. However, it is just a temporary bodily reaction and will pass. Remembering this can help you relax during an episode. It can also keep your heart rate down while the rest of your body wakes up. This, like anything else, will pass. Stay calm and rest easy.