Why Sleep Paralysis Happens

Why Sleep Paralysis Happens

Sleep paralysis can be an alarming experience. Anyone who has ever experienced sleep paralysis will know the symptoms quite well, with the telltale inability to move, despite some level of awareness. The worst incidences of sleep paralysis can also include hypnopompic hallucinations, as well as the feeling of breathlessness or suffocation.

Signs of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis involves something called atonia, which refers tot he temporary loss of muscle control. It can happen either immediately after falling asleep, or upon waking. Sleep paralysis is a form of parasomnia, a complex spectrum of sleep disorders. People who suffer from parasomnia tend to experience a slate of abnormalities during as sleep cycle. Sleep paralysis itself is deeply rooted to the rapid eye movement stage of a normal sleep cycle. As such, sleep paralysis is categorised as an REM sleep disorder.

Regular REM sleep involves both atonia as well as vivid dreams, with atonia preventing us acting out what we are dreaming. In most cases, atonia is deactivated upon wakefulness, meaning most of us will never experience sleep paralysis.

Key Causes of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep specialists are still unsure as to the what exactly causes sleep paralysis, although the consensus is that numerous factors are involved in producing episodes of sleep paralysis. What is clear is that sleep paralysis is tied to other medical conditions, including obstructive sleep apnea.

Those who fail to get enough sleep during the night, or suffer from pronounced sleepiness during the day, also  have a tendency to experience sleep paralysis. Misaligned circadian rhythms can also lead to sleep paralysis episodes. Shift work with irregular sleep schedules, as well as those contending with jet lag, will often find their circadian rhythms impacted, putting in the higher risk category for sleep paralysis.

Other underlying conditions such as anxiety and panic disorder can also put someone more at risk of suffering from sleep paralysis. Mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder is have a particularly well documented association with sleep paralysis. People experience sleep paralysis when cutting out on alcohol, or when they cease taking prescribed medicines like antidepressants.

The Health Implications of Sleep Paralysis

Although many of us will suffer from some form of sleep paralysis in our lifetimes, the incidence is infrequent and will not usually cause any problems. However, those who suffer from recurrent isolated sleep paralysis may experience a significant impact on their sleep quality and overall wellness. Recurrent episodes of sleep paralysis can trigger feelings of anxiety when it comes to bedtime, making it much more difficult to drift off to a restful sleep. This can trigger insomnia and sleep deprivation, leading to fatigue and tiredness during the day.

Overcoming Sleep Paralysis

If you are suffering from sleep paralysis on a regular basis, you should definitely think about seeking medical advice. A doctor or sleep specialist can help you identify any underlying issues that might be contributing to sleep paralysis episodes. They may also be able to help you manage existing ailments that trigger such episodes. However, due to grey area surrounding the root cause of sleep paralysis, no specific treatment currently exists. Improving your overall sleep hygiene is a good first step in tackling the issue. Ensuring your bedroom facilitates good sleep and your daily routine will not impact healthy stages of sleep will almost certainly limit the impact of sleep paralysis.

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