What is sleep paralysis?

What is sleep paralysis?

Ever had a feeling like you can’t move in your sleep and you’re trapped in your dream? Sleep Paralysis is a condition affecting every 1-in-10 people in the UK.  

Sleep Paralysis is a temporary feeling of not being able to move or speak, that occurs when you’re falling asleep or just waking up. It’s not harmful and should only last a few minutes, but it can be a very frightening experience.

Many people experience Sleep Paralysis once or twice in their lives, while others will experience it more regularly, on a monthly basis. It can affect all ages, but is most common amongst teens and young adults.

People who are affected regularly by Sleep Paralysis tend to avoid going to sleep because of the fear of going through another episode of Sleep Paralysis, but our sleep expert, Dr. Nerina proposes that “we are meant to spend around a third of our lives sleeping and it’s abundantly clear that pure sleep has the ability to restore, heal and reorganise 75 trillion cells”.

The main symptom of Sleep Paralysis are: being completely aware of your surroundings but temporarily unable to move and talk, this usually occurs when you’re falling asleep.

During an episode of Sleep Paralysis you can experience difficulty breathing; it feels like your chest is being restricted. Some people also experience a feeling of someone else being in the room with them (a hallucination), many feel that the presence is there to hurt them.

Sleep Paralysis is something that happens when parts of REM sleep (rapid eye movements) occur whilst you’re awake. The NHS has some points on what causes Sleep Paralysis:

  • Not getting enough sleep (sleep deprivation or insomnia)
  • Irregular sleeping patterns – from shift work or jet lag
  • Narcolepsy – a long term condition causing someone to fall asleep at inappropriate times
  • Family history of Sleep Paralysis
  • Sleeping on your back

Sleep Paralysis often gets better over time but we’ve put together a helpful list for the meantime; here are some tips from our sleep expert, Dr. Nerina on improving your sleep:

  • Get a good night’s sleep – Around six to eight hours a night for the average adult                                                                                  
  • Have a regular sleep routine – go to bed roughly at the same time every night and get up at roughly the same time, every morning
  • Have a sleeping environment that is comfortable – quite, dark and a good room temperature
  • Get regular exercise

If you experience Sleep Paralysis on a regular basis go see your GP, they can suggest ways to improve your sleep. If your Sleep Paralysis is partially severe, then a specialist doctor may prescribe you Antidepressants, these work by altering REM sleep.  


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