Imagine struggling to wake up in the middle of the night, but you are unable to move a single muscle of your body or utter a single word while your mind is still in alert mode. Sounds terrifying right? This is what Sleep Paralysis is. You may have this condition without realizing it, as approximately 8 per cent of the estimated population suffer from sleep paralysis. This is different from your “one of the nightmares” as it has been linked to underlying mental disorders like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personality Disorder, Insomnia, etc.
Now that you have a brief introduction, let’s dig into the types of sleep paralysis, symptoms, correlation with the REM cycle, triggers, and medications or methods to conceal the condition.
Sleep Paralysis and its Types
Described as loss of voluntary muscular movement with persistent temporary alertness when you are about to sleep called as Hypnagogic or Predormital or when you are about to wake up known as Hypnopompic or Postdormital due to a rough shift from NREM to REM cycle. The condition lasts from a few seconds to minutes until you lose your consciousness again but can be horrifying and sometimes have a pernicious effect on your sleep cycle.
However, in most cases, sleep paralysis is self curable and self-diagnosable and occurs in most adults but if it occurs more frequently affecting your day-to-day life then you are advised to visit the psychiatrist for the prescription of antidepressants.
During the course of Sleep Paralysis, the common symptoms or emotions that you may endure includes:
- Breathlessness or Pressure on the Chest.
- Hallucinations — Visual, Auditory, and Tactile.
- Fear and Anxiety due to the arousing of senses in between sleep.
- Presence of Non-existential creatures. Example: demons or monsters trying to choke you, overhearing sounds like someone is approaching towards you, dreaming inside a dream, etc.
REM and Sleep Paralysis
The sleep cycle of the human body consists of 5 different stages and is repetitive throughout the night.
Stage-1 and Stage-2 are considered light sleep.
Stage-3 is the phase of deep sleep.
Stage-4 is the REM phase.
Stage-5 is known as the awake phase.
The REM (rapid eye movement) phase is a phase of elevated brain activity but lacking muscular movements. This phase is responsible for your dreams or can be said imaginations are the objective of REM. The intention behind the temporary paralysis of the muscles is to prevent you from re-enacting your dreams but sometimes due to dysfunction of the transition from the Non-REM phase to the REM phase the mind gains consciousness before the end of the REM phase, this condition is Sleep Paralysis.
Factors affecting Sleep Paralysis
Some of the factors that can complicate the condition are as follows:
Poor Mental Health – Individuals with existing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, panic attack, and severe disorders like PTSD and DID are more likely to experience Sleep Paralysis.
Sleeping Disorders – Sleep disorders like Narcolepsy (a condition of excessive daytime sleep), Insomnia directly influences the sleep cycle.
Sleeping on the Back – This may sound irrelevant to some, but sleeping on the back is one of the major causes of Sleep Paralysis, as easy and relaxed breathing is not attainable in this posture.
Genetic – Like various other disorders are concerned with genes, Sleep Paralysis is one of them, accounting for 56 per cent of cases.
Preventive and Measuring Strategies
There is no sure cure for Sleep Paralysis, but the condition can be prevented by avoiding triggers like Stimulants including caffeine or Tea, Alcohol consumption before bedtime, and Noise or Light to avoid auditory or visual hallucinations during the nap.
A few measures for a good night sleep include:
- Sleeping on the side
- Use of Diffusers
- Antidepressants (REM suppressing properties)
- Relaxing playlists, etc.
Also Read: What is SIDS and why should we be talking more about it?