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What is Sleep paralysis?

It is a state of being conscious but not being able to make movements. It happens when a person is awake as well as asleep. In this situation one may or may not speak some time. One may also feel like being choked. Like sometimes a person may be conscious of being what is going around but not able to do anything or may have being scared and unable to ask for aid. This stage is known as sleep paralysis. It may make a person feel terrified (usually if the person sees or hears which is not real). This may take place simply one time or may occur more than once. It is not a very serious problem and can be treated. When a person has sleep paralysis it is a sign that the body is not going through the phases of sleep easily and sometimes it is also associated with psychological problem. Also over the years all this is said to happen due to the devil and many cultures have made tales about demons terrifying people during nighttime.

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Sleep paralysis may also result in narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is an intense desire or need to sleep. It is due to some problem with the brain capability to control sleep. Sleep paralysis may happen when the person is falling to sleep. This phase is known as ‘hypnagogic’ or predormital sleep paralysis. Also sleep paralysis may occur when the person wakes up; this phase is known as ‘hypnopompic’ or postdormital sleep paralysis. It could happen due to lack of sleep, stress or certain medicines. It can be treated by having good sleeping habits.

When a person falls to sleep the body gradually becomes relaxed and tends to become unaware about the happenings going around but if the person remains alert to the happenings going around while going off to sleep then, the person may know what is going around him but will not be able to make movements. This happens in the phase of hypnagogic sleep paralysis.

When a person is sleeping, the body changes between rapid eye movement and non rapid eye movement sleep. The series of each rapid eye movement and non rapid movement sleep is of around ninety minutes. First non rapid eye movement takes place which occupies about seventy five percent of the sleep. When this phase the body relaxes and repairs. During the last phase of non rapid eye movement the sleep moves to rapid eye movement and at that time the eyes move fast leading to development of dreams whereas the body is relaxing. At this phase the muscles do not work i.e. not make any movements and if at this time the person becomes aware when the rapid eye movement is not completed, the person will be alert but not able to make any movements or talk.

Symptoms of Sleep paralysis

  • Some of the symptoms of sleep paralysis are migraine, hallucinations.

Causes of Sleep paralysis

Usually forty per cent are affected by sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis can affect people of all ages but especially it is seen among the teenagers and also male and female both may suffer from sleep paralysis irrespective of age. Sleep paralysis results in hallucinations which are very terrifying. Some of the causes and risk factors of sleep paralysis are as follows:

  • Family history of sleep paralysis
  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Stress
  • Less sleep
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol
  • Sleep problems like nighttime leg cramp or narcolepsy
  • Usage of some medicines
  • Sleeping on back or supine position

Diagnosis of Sleep paralysis

If a person is not able to make movements or talk for some seconds or minutes before getting up or going to sleep, it means that the person has isolated recurring sleep paralysis. Usually it needs no treatment but one has to consult the physician if the person is very uncomfortable or anxious about it else the person feels very exhausted or is awake the whole night due to the symptoms. One has to give detailed information to the doctor regarding the sleeping habits. The physician may need particulars about the sleeping habits by performing the following:

  • Carry out the study of day and nighttime sleep habits to conform whether there is any disorder in the sleeping habits
  • May recommend maintaining records of the sleeping habits for some weeks and explaining the symptoms of sleep paralysis.
  • May want to have information regarding the health of the person and also if any member of the family had sleep disorders or earlier the person had any sleep disorder.

Treatment of Sleep paralysis

Usually people do not treat sleep paralysis. Still those who want to treat it, following are some options:

  • Improve sleeping habits: One has to sleep for at least for 6 to 8 hours every night.
  • Antidepressant: One can use antidepressant medicines; it will help in regulation of sleep patterns.
  • Treating stress problems
  • Treatment of sleep disorders like leg cramps or narcolepsy.
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