What Causes Sleep Paralysis


June 25, 2021

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Do you wake up unable to move? Also, you might be experiencing bouts of fear and anxiety but can't seem to figure out why. We have the answers and will help you clear your doubts about:

  • What exactly is sleep paralysis?
  • How do you wake up in sleep paralysis?
  • How do you get sleep paralysis?
  • How many Australians experience sleep paralysis?

People use to attribute the sleep paralysis phenomena to folktales, vengeful spirits, and alien abductions. However, from a scientific standpoint, this indicates a lack of sleep. Other causes include narcolepsy, stress, and sleeping on your back.

Sleep Paralysis: What is it?

Parasomnia is the term used to categorise sleep paralysis. It’s a type of sleep disorder. Mostly it comes to the surface under two conditions. Firstly, you might’ve sleep paralysis as you’re about to wake up. Hypnopompic is the term used for such cases. Another variety comes into play when you’re about to fall asleep. And that’s called Hypnagogic.

The only difference between the two is the moment sleep paralysis strikes. Other aspects, such as waking up gasping for air, are pretty much the same.

Additionally, what’s also similar is the state of the body during both these processes. So, for example, you’re in a state where you might be still dreaming as your eyes roll around the sockets.

At the same time, you don’t experience any tension in the muscles. These are all the components of what’s known as rapid eye movement sleep or simply REM.

How to Wake Up in Sleep Paralysis?

In simple terms, it’s practically quite hard to wake yourself up from sleep paralysis. It doesn’t matter how hard you try; you won’t be waking up until it’s over.

Nonetheless, a small population of people can do as much as move or wriggle their toes. Such individuals may also be able to do slight finger movements or move their facial muscles. Doing so helps them to wake up gradually.

Thus, that right there could be your answer to “how to stop sleep paralysis.” Also, the next time it happens, you can try out doing such movements. That’s if you’re able to.

What Happens When You Wake Up During Sleep Paralysis?

This section might be the reason why you’re searching for the causes of sleep paralysis. Primarily all the frantic situations result when you wake up during the process of sleep paralysis. That is, you regain partial senses in the midst of it.

You may already know by now that during these moments, it’s hard for you to speak, let alone move. Some instances also tell of people seeing figures and undergoing hallucinations.

You may also experience:

  • Seeing figures that might appear in the shapes of demons or witches.
  • Feeling like someone or something is choking and sitting or pushing down your chest.
  • The presence of somebody in and around the room you’re in.
  • A sense that something bad is going to happen to you.

How do you get Sleep Paralysis?

When you’re sleeping, your body relaxes, and so do your muscles. In that way, all the voluntary muscles in your body are at rest; that is, they don’t move. It happens to prevent you from hurting yourself while you’re fast asleep.

In simple terms, there is a direct correlation between a glitch in REM and sleep paralysis. During sleep paralysis, your body is in a state of limbo. As a result, you keep switching between a non-REM and REM.

When you’re asleep, that’s the state of non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM). Your mind and body relax during this phase. A complete cycle is about 90 minutes when it comes to REM-NREM. It’s in this phase that your eyes move frantically. Yet, at the same time, your body continues to be in a relaxed state.

Therefore, when your brain falls out of sync with the transition between REM and NREM, you get sleep paralysis. Your mind may be in a conscious state, but your body continues to be in a state of paralysis.

Furthermore, during this phase, the nerves responsible for sensing any form of danger work in overdrive mode. That is, these are in a susceptible state and reach their peak levels during sleep paralysis. To get a better idea of why so many people get sleep paralysis, you can check out this video below:

How Many Australians Experience Sleep Paralysis?

There isn’t enough data to state precisely how many Australians experience sleep paralysis. But data exists if we take sleep paralysis as one of the components of sleep disorders.

The majority of the Australian population suffers from one or the other type of sleep disorder. The numbers seem to be as high as 60 percent of the total population of the nation.

Besides, the percentage of people that meet the criteria for clinical diagnosis is around 14.8%. Find more Australian sleep statistics here.

How to Treat Sleep Paralysis?

In general, if you have sleep paralysis from time to time, you’ll not require any form of treatment. At the same time, you’ll require a diagnosis if the state of sleep paralysis emerges from other factors. These factors could be severe insomnia or narcolepsy.

If you don’t know about these factors, consider symptoms such as not sleeping or being anxious. Also, you may try out the following methods on how to cope with sleep paralysis:

  • Antidepressants may help you out. But only if your health care provider prescribes it to maintain your sleep cycles.
  • To treat the underlying causes, prepare a detailed analysis of your daily sleep cycles. For example, you can note down all the symptoms in a diary to record data on your sleep cycles. It’ll help you ensure whether you have other sleeping disorders or not.
  • If you’ve any bad sleeping habits, getting rid of those can be a start to treating your sleep paralysis. Moreover, doing so will improve your condition a lot since lack of sleep is among the leading causes of sleep paralysis.
  • If none of the methods seems to be working out for you, approach an expert.