On this page, we aim to give you a detailed overview of what Sleep Paralysis is. From the information, you should be able to self-diagnose yourself with Sleep Paralysis, if you think you have been suffering from the condition. However – no website is adequate replacement for the advice of your own GP, and we suggest you speak to them as a matter of urgency if you have any symptoms of Sleep Paralysis, in the unlikely event that it is something worse.
Sleep Paralysis is the term given to a period of inability to perform voluntary movements. It can happen when you are falling asleep (known as Hypnogogic or Predormital form) or when waking up (known as Hypnopompic or Postdormital form).
Usually, the sufferer of an episode of Sleep Paralysis will report that they felt an inability to move any part of their body whilst falling asleep, or immediately upon waking up – the whole body feels paralysed.
The sufferer is fully aware that they are awake, but have great difficulty moving. The experience can produce great anxiety and fear, as the sufferer will struggle to “wake up”.
What causes it?
You might not realise, but Paralysis while you are asleep is a normal condition. Your body secretes hormones which relax certain muscles and prevent you from acting out your dreams.
If the hormone kicks in too fast when you are going to sleep, you may feel paralysed although still conscious. The process of waking up is paralysis in reverse, where the hormone doesn’t wear off fast enough as you wake up. Thus, you remain paralysed though conscious.
It is harmful?
No – in the vast majority of cases it is not. The after effects may include a period of fright, followed by a period of restlessness. Occasionally, you may fear going back to sleep by worrying that it may occur again, but this can pass quickly.
Regular sufferers will find it easier to cope with episodes of Sleep Paralysis, as deep down they know that it causes no lasting effects and does pass in time.
How can I break an episode of Sleep Paralysis?
Knowing that you will eventually “wake up” from the episode of Sleep Paralysis, some sufferers will rest in the condition, allowing it to pass naturally. Others will struggle to “wake up” each and every time it occurs. A good way to leave the paralysed state is to breathe in a calm, relaxed fashion and make attempts to move small body parts, such as the eyelids or fingers and toes.
You may find it helpful to arrange with your sleeping partner that, should they hear muffled cries or sense minor body movements, they can wake you up, jolting you from the paralytic state.
Repeated occurrences can happen within a relatively short period, so changing sleeping positions can stop further episodes that night.
Sleep paralysis is sometimes associated with narcolepsy. This is a neurological condition in which a sufferer sleeps uncontrollably. There are also many people who experience Sleep Paralysis without having signs of narcolepsy.
For more information and frequently asked questions on Sleep Paralysis, click here.