What is the definition of Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a condition in which you are unable to move or speak right as you're falling asleep or waking up. During an episode of sleep paralysis, you are totally aware of what is happening.

What are the alternative names for Sleep Paralysis?

Parasomnia - sleep paralysis; Isolated sleep paralysis

What are the causes for Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is fairly common. Many people have at least one episode during their lifetimes.

The exact cause of sleep paralysis is not fully known. Research shows the following are linked to sleep paralysis:

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Having an irregular sleep schedule, such as with shift workers
  • Mental stress
  • Sleeping on your back

Certain medical problems can be associated with sleep paralysis:

  • Sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy
  • Some mental conditions, such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, panic disorder
  • Use of certain medicines, such as for ADHD
  • Substance use

Sleep paralysis that is not related to a medical problem is known as isolated sleep paralysis.

What are the symptoms for Sleep Paralysis?

The normal sleep cycle has stages, from light drowsiness to deep sleep. During the stage called rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the eyes move quickly and vivid dreaming is most common. Each night, people go through several cycles of non-REM and REM sleep. During REM sleep, your body is relaxed and your muscles don't move. Sleep paralysis occurs when the sleep cycle is shifting between stages. When you wake up suddenly from REM, your brain is awake, but your body is still in REM mode and can't move, causing you to feel like you're paralyzed.

Episodes of sleep paralysis last from a few seconds to 1 or 2 minutes. These spells end on their own or when you are touched or moved. In rare cases, you can have dream-like sensations or hallucinations, which may be scary.

What are the current treatments for Sleep Paralysis?

In most cases, sleep paralysis occurs so rarely that treatment is not needed. If the cause is known, for example, due to lack of sleep, correcting the cause by getting enough sleep often resolves the condition.

Sometimes, medicines that prevent REM during sleep are prescribed.

In people with mental health conditions, such as anxiety, medicine and behavioral therapy (talk therapy) to help treat the mental health condition may resolve sleep paralysis.

When should I contact a medical professional for Sleep Paralysis?

Discuss your condition with your provider if you have repeated episodes of sleep paralysis. They may be due to a medical problem that needs further testing.



Sharpless BA. A clinician's guide to recurrent isolated sleep paralysis. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2016;12:1761-1767. PMCID: 4958367 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4958367.

Silber MH, St. Louis EK, Boeve BF. Rapid eye movement sleep parasomnias. In: Kryger M, Roth T, Dement WC, eds. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 103.

  • Condition: Narcolepsy
  • Journal: Zhejiang da xue xue bao. Yi xue ban = Journal of Zhejiang University. Medical sciences
  • Treatment Used: Pitolisant, Solriamfetol
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This article discusses new pharmacological treatments for narcolepsy.
  • Condition: Narcolepsy
  • Journal: CNS drugs
  • Treatment Used: Pitolisant or Solriamfetol
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This review summarized the mechanisms of action, pharmacokinetics, effectiveness, and safety/tolerability of recently approved and emerging treatments for narcolepsy.
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Phase: N/A
  • Intervention Type: Behavioral
  • Participants: 20
  • Start Date: December 1, 2018
Meditation-Relaxation (MR Therapy) for Sleep Paralysis: A Pilot Study in Patients With Narcolepsy
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Participants: 360
  • Start Date: August 29, 2018
North American Prodromal Synucleinopathy Consortium