Sleep paralysis is a sleeping disorder usually associated with narcolepsy but it does also have its own independence i.e. can affect an individual who does not necessarily have narcolepsy. Sleep paralysis disorder occurs when a person is unable to move for a couple of minutes.
This happens when the person has just woken up from sleep or is just getting into it. Once considered a rare disorder, about half of all people are now believed to experience sleep paralysis sometime during their life.
It affects both sexes equally and can be “inherited” in some cases. It normally starts at a young age and becomes most common during the teenage years and should become less and less common as you get older.
Cause of sleep paralysis
When we sleep, most often we dream. This happens when we have got to what is known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is the deepest level in sleep cycles. So to protect us from acting out our dreams, the body secretes some hormone that paralysis our muscles except those related to the eyes and our diaphragm.
This mechanism created to protects us from acting our dreams is called “muscular atonia”. So now, in a case of sleep paralysis, the person is woken up from REM sleep only to find that the paralysis hormone is still active in the body thus making the person remain motionless for a few minutes. As the brain was dreaming, this may then result in terrifying hallucinations for some.
Types of sleep paralysis and their causes
There are two common types of sleep paralysis, HSP or hallucinatory sleep paralysis (hypnagogic) and CSP/ Common Sleep Paralysis.
Generally, the cause of sleep paralysis is caused by fatigue, sleep deprivation, and some of the kind of drugs they are taking. Common sleep paralysis has been described above, where the sufferer will wake up to find that the hormone meant to protect us from acting out the dreams is still active in the body. The Common Sleep Paralysis usually only lasts from a few seconds to a minute or two in total, though sometimes it can go a little longer.
A hallucinatory sleep paralysis is a rare form of sleep paralysis that is accompanied by a nightmare like hallucination and can even last a bit longer than the common sleep paralysis. The hallucination can be very terrifying and may feel like someone is in the room and sometimes strangling you or sitting over your body. As terrifying as the hallucinations may be, there is no physical harm involved.
It is important to note the difference between common sleep paralysis and night terrors – night terrors happen at stage four of sleep while sleep paralysis happens at stage one. Hallucinatory (hypnagogic) sleep paralysis causes can most likely affect people who tend to sleep on their backs. Some of the known symptoms include sensations of noises, smells, paralysis, terror, and images of frightening intruders.
Sleep paralysis diagnosis
The sleep paralysis diagnosis can be done with a polysomnography test. This test is conducted at a sleep center and tracks the sleeping habits of the patient.
Cure for sleep paralysis
More than anything, the best cure for sleep paralysis is knowledge. Knowing what causes this disorder can help in reducing the fear and sometimes the frequency of the attacks. Although some medication can be administered to some with severe cases, most often following some simple routines can help minimize the effects of sleep paralysis.
 Get enough sleep:
Irregular sleeping schedules are most likely to increase the frequency of attacks. Do not deprive yourself of sleep, ever.
 Those with narcolepsy:
May need some antidepressants, speak to a doctor for a prescription.
 Try to relax:
Take a hot bath just before bed if you can.
 During the attack:
Try moving your eyes of any facial muscles that you can move even if it’s a minor movement. Do you know everything there is to know about Narcolepsy? Do you have it or…?
This can help you to snap out of the attack.
 Reduce stress
 Exercise regularly but avoid doing it just before bed.
 Avoid caffeinated products before bedtime
 Learn to recognize the symptoms. Track your sleep patterns and the attacks so that you may identify the triggers and take appropriate action. This may also come in handy when you decide to see a sleep paralysis doctor.
 You should also do research on the experiences of others. There are many videos posted on Youtube about narcolepsy and sleep paralysis.
 Sex is also attributed as one of the ways to treat sleep paralysis.
 Avoid falling asleep facing up if attacks come when you are in this position
 Learn to Lucid Dream.
Also Read: Sleep Apnea