Sleep Paralysis

Of all of the sleep disorders that a person can face, sleeping paralysis may be one of the most frightening. Sleep paralysis is actually a normal part of the sleep cycle. It is activated during REM sleep by the brain to keep us from getting out of bed or acting out our dreams.

A sleep paralysis disorder occurs when this normal function happens at the wrong time. The physical paralysis takes place when the person transitions from being awake to being asleep and the person is conscious but cannot move their body or speak.

A sleep paralysis episode can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes but causes no permanent damage and is not dangerous, though the episode can be very frightening to the sleeper. Sleeping paralysis is frequently a secondary symptom of another sleep disorder, narcolepsy.

Sleep Paralysis Symptoms

Whether the sleep paralysis is a secondary symptom of narcolepsy or a sleep disorder on its own, the symptoms are identical: it is the temporary inability to talk or to move, either at the moment of waking or when falling asleep. The person feels frozen and pinned to the bed.

Because the sleep paralysis symptoms do not last very long and in some cases may not be remembered as actual paralysis by the person, it may not be noticed as readily as other types of sleep disorders.

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

If you have been diagnosed with a panic disorder, frequently experience jet lag or have a shift work disorder you are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. Additionally, a period of severe stress has been associated with a higher likelihood of sleep paralysis.

As with narcolepsy, sleep paralysis may be caused by certain genetic disorders and conditions and may be related to a reduced production of a particular protein in the brain. It is also frequently misdiagnosed as other conditions before being correctly identified.

Sleep Paralysis Treatment

Most sleep paralysis episodes occur when the sleeper is lying on his or her back. Sleeping on your side can reduce the frequency and severity of episodes. The treatment for sleep paralysis will depend on the underlying cause and the extent to which it affects the individual’s overall health. Treatment may include medications such as anti-depressants.

If the sleep paralysis is a secondary symptom of narcolepsy, direct treatment of narcolepsy is the first approach to treatment. In addition to any treatment plan prescribed by your doctor, exercise and maintaining good sleep habits can be very effective at treating the symptoms of sleep paralysis.

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