Sleep paralysis is a common, but often disquieting experience in which you wake up, but your body is essentially still asleep and you are temporarily unable to move. Unlike dreaming, your mind is completely aware that you are in fact, awake. Sleep paralysis is caused by a signal the brain sends to the body to make it remain still during sleep. Known as atonia, this natural mechanism can help prevent you from physically acting out your dreams and possibly injuring yourself. If you have ever kicked or jumped while sleeping and dreaming, it’s probably related to atonia.
Sleep paralysis is most common when you are just falling asleep or during the wake cycle. When it occurs during the time you are drifting off to sleep, it is known as hypnagogic sleep paralysis. If you are waking up and it occurs, it is called hypnopompic sleep paralysis.
All About Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis can be very unsettling as you can breathe normally, however you may otherwise be unable to move or speak. It may last from a few seconds to several minutes. Sometimes making an intensely focused effort to rouse yourself can break the temporary immobility. In some cases, people may actually hallucinate during the experience, making it even more frightening. Some people experience sleep paralysis more often than others. Many people go their whole lives without an episode, while others experience it more frequently. It is without question a frightening experience, and one that you may want to talk to a sleep specialist about.
It is more common among adolescents and often peaks in the 20’s and 30’s. Linked to narcolepsy, frequent bouts of sleep paralysis may be a symptom of an underlying disorder. Medications, substance abuse, and other health conditions may cause sleep paralysis. People with mental illness are also more likely to suffer from sleep paralysis, yet it can also be related to a severe lack of sleep. Participating in a sleep study may help determine why you are not getting restful sleep, or if there are other health concerns that need to be addressed.
In many cases, restful deep sleep can reduce the chances of sleep paralysis. If you, or a loved one, is concerned about not getting enough sleep or having poor quality of sleep we can help. Call (704) 944-0562 or request an appointment online with Dr. Gingras at Gingras Sleep Medicine in Charlotte and Concord, North Carolina, for exceptional care and sleep medicine. Don’t let a lack of sleep ruin your days. Call now, so you can wake up and have a better tomorrow.