If you have ever experienced waking up at night, unable to move any part of the body, it means that you have experienced a sleep paralysis.
This is a conscious condition that can happen when you pass the stages of sleep and wakefulness, or in other words hypnopompic and hypnagogic stage. The first stage happens as soon as you wake up, and the second stage happens when you fall asleep.
This is a strange and very frightening situation, which can even cause a panic attack because you cannot control your own body. But, you need to know that this phenomenon is not rare, and cannot cause physical damage to your body.
When you fall asleep, our mind and body become less aware, but when we are in the hypnagogic sleep paralysis, our mind is aware, but our body is in a relaxation state that is involuntary, and that is the reason why we cannot move.
During REM sleep, the muscles are paralyzed, but our brain wakes up when the individual is experiencing hypnopompic sleep paralysis. There are people that never experience this phenomenon, but there are also people that often times suffer from sleep paralysis. According to the researchers at Penn State University, eight percent of the population frequently experiences sleep paralysis.
This phenomenon is also common in people that are suffering from sleep issues like sleep apnea, in cases of mental disorders like anxiety and depression, or because of the use of some medications.
These are the risk factors
- Lack of sleep
- Substance abuse
- Sleep problems like narcolepsy and nighttime leg cramps
- Mental conditions like stress and bipolar disorder
- Frequent changes in sleep schedule
- Sleeping on the back
- Some medications like the ones that are used for treating ADHD
This phenomenon is characterized by an inability to move for several seconds or even minutes and the inability to speak during that time. It cannot be treated with the help of medications. Despite that fact, when doctors diagnose some other condition that can cause this problem, they usually prescribe some of the following treatments:
- Referral to a sleep specialist
- Treatment of any underlying sleep disorders
- Implementation of a sleeping schedule
- Sleeping aid prescription
- Referral to a mental health specialist
- Prescription for some anti-depressants
This disorder can be prevented by improving the quality of your sleep and by managing stress. Yet, you need to take into consideration that if you rarely experience this problem, do not seek professional help, but instead try and improve your sleeping habits.
Also, limit the intake of nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and always avoid using electronic devices before going to sleep. Also, if you experience this phenomenon at night, remember that you need to remain calm, because nothing can happen to you, and the whole thing will be over soon.