In A Better You, Syndromes & Disorders, Wellbeing

What is Sleep Paralysis and What Causes It?

What is sleep paralysis? Have you ever woken up only to find that you are unable to move your body? This kind of feeling is attributed to Sleep Paralysis, which can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. It can even be terrifying if you have never experienced it before or if you do not know what it is as you awaken. It does not call for you to be worried, as this type of paralysis is only temporary and does not carry any serious or long term effects with it.

According to Snore Australia, your body naturally paralyzes itself when it goes into the stages of deep sleep. Occasionally, however, you may wake briefly between sleep cycles, which is when you notice this feeling of being paralyzed. If you are trying to rise completely from sleep, this feeling can be hard to wear off, or even keep you from waking completely for a few minutes. Or, you may experience Sleep Paralysis when falling asleep.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine conducted a study on the prevalence of paralysis throughout a person’s life in order to see when the side effect of sleep most often impacts them. They asked a variety of test subjects to recollect their sleep paralysis stories. One of the major findings was that minorities are more prone to sleeping paralysis than Caucasians. They also concluded that Sleep Paralysis occurs most in those with lack of sleep, jet lag, working in shifts, and in students.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis

So what causes sleep paralysis? The variations in sleep patterns often are the cause of sleep paralysis. More specifically, your muscles relax themselves and as a result, end up temporarily paralyzed. This is the body’s natural defense to keep you from lashing out in your sleep while you are dreaming. A look at REM cycles explains more of the cause behind paralysis.

During sleep, you switch between REM and NREM, which is basically the term for rapid eye movement. In general, each cycle lasts an hour and a half. In addition to the paralysis that occurs during this time frame, your heart rate also slows down, which links to muscle relaxation. When you wake up during one of your REM cycles, your body remains in this state while it is adjusting to your sudden awakening.

Sleeping paralysis can also be traced to other side effects, although these are rare and not a direct indicator of anything serious. These are conditions such as narcolepsy (the extremely powerful desire need to sleep at different times), sleep apnea (pauses in breathing patterns while asleep), insomnia (the inability to fall or stay asleep), and other psychological disorders. However, you should not be alarmed if you experience sleep paralysis at some point in your life.

Potential Problematic Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis causes a variety of symptoms that are easy to identify. In some cases, they even cause night terrors, hallucinations, sleep walking, and experiences with imaginative aliens or ghosts. More normal symptoms include the following:

  • Being conscious during the REM cycle of sleep
  • Slowly awakening or having trouble trying to become awake
  • A correct perceived environment and of other objects
  • Not being able to move
  • A feeling of being pushed down or eyelids fluttering
  • Feelings of abnormal fear and dreading the moment; also can include a sense of foreboding
  • May feel like an evil spirit is in the room
  • Extreme pressure on the chest and other parts of the body
  • Trouble with breathing
  • Paralysis occurring while sleeping on the back
  • Other abnormal feelings or sensations
  • Feelings of drifting or floating
  • Waking up feeling confused or lathargic
  • Hazy visions and eyesight
  • Sleep paralysis hallucinations

There are also additional ways of developing sleep patterns that lead to paralysis. It is estimated that 4 out of 10 people suffer from a degree of paralysis, and that this event may occur more in families. There are a few factors that may more easily lead to paralysis:

  • Extensive lack of being able to sleep or sleep in general
  • Changes in your sleep patterns
  • Mental disorders or conditions including stress, changes in mood, more specifically bipolar disorder
  • Additional sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and leg cramps at night
  • Specific medications
  • Use of substances and abusing them

The Possible Remedies for Sleep Paralysis

There are a number of ways to cure or ease paralysis in sleep with a change in your habits. Just a simple shift in attitude or intentional changing in a positive manner can make a world of difference. Before you resort to more extreme medical measures such as medication, be sure to research the various alternatives:

  • Stimulating a peaceful and restful environment that encourages sleep
  • Creating your own comfortable bed that makes you feel at home and secure
  • Making an exercise schedule and sticking to it
  • Exercising earlier in the day and not close to bed time
  • Decreasing your caffeine intake
  • Stopping yourself from eating or alcohol consumption close to bed
  • Decreasing your intake of nicotine, more specifically smoking
  • Decreasing the amount of any other stimulants that might inhibit sleep

A few home remedies also exist. These remedies include natural herbs and spices that naturally help you ease into sleep. They also help ease the transition between sleep cycles so that you are not as prone to waking up in between them. The more natural you are with your approach, the more long term the effects will be, keeping you from having to engage in medications. These home remedies include:

  • Valerian – This is a vitamin used for insomnia and cases of being nervous all the time. The chemical makeup of this supplement helps to manage and regulate sleep patterns. It is important to note that valerian should not be taken with any other sleep aids, as this could be catastrophic to your body.
  • Chamomile – This is a natural herb that is already used to help with stress and anxiety, as well as inducing you into deep, quality sleep. You are able to take this supplement in a variety of ways. This includes tea, extracts, ointments, and other topical manners. It is a natural sleep-relaxer and helps to induce restful sleep that may not otherwise be possible.
  • Melatonin – This supplement is widely known and used for those that suffer from the inability to fall and stay asleep. It can also help you in your journey to ease paralysis in your sleep. It is a hormone that is created by the pineal gland found in the brain. Circadian rythyms are needed to create peaceful sleep, so Melatonin helps to regulate this communication channel. It essentially works to relieve any outside contaminators or free, harmful chemicals that keep you from entering into restful sleep.

If none of the above begin to work in relation to your sleep habits, medication is available to ease your stress levels about awaking in certain paralysis. These types of medications are able to help you in an effective way. Just be sure to check with your doctor and to be aware of any medical conditions that may hinder your ability to take these medications. Also be aware of the side effects. Sleep paralysis treatment including medication is listed as follows:

The side effects may include:

  • Excessive cases of a dry mouth
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Sweating profusely
  • Trouble with urinating
  • Problems with drowsiness

The antidepressants work to affect moods that may cause sleep paralysis. A few antidepressants include tricyclic antidepressants and clomipramine. Severe paralysis can be eased and even cured with the use of antidepressants. Note that any side effects typically ease within 7-10 days, especially since your body takes time to get used to the extra chemicals and medication within it. If your side effects do not ease after this time frame, you do need to contact your doctor for a consultation.

How to Make Sleep Paralysis Happen

Some people like to know how to induce sleep paralysis so that they can practice lucid dreaming. One simple way of doing this is by setting an alarm during the time frame that your sleep cycles normally coincide and transition. To do this, you need to start keeping a sleep diary with your phone or other electronic device so that you can keep track of your own detailed sleep cycles.

First, set an alarm, typically in about four hours, and lay down at your normal time to go to sleep. When your alarm wakes you up, make sure that you get up and stay up. You can do this by reading a book or really anything that engages your brain and creates stimulation for activity. Then, go back to sleep on your back. Don’t move your body. Once your body tricks itself into paralysis, you are then free to practice your form of lucid dreaming.

Conclusion

Sleep paralysis is a common condition that should not frighten you. Take the time to research the full indications that paralysis has for you. It is a medical condition that is not serious, but can rarely lead to other serious implications.

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