Learn About Sleep Paralysis

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.

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What are the alternative names for Sleep Paralysis?

Parasomnia - sleep paralysis; Isolated sleep paralysis

What are the causes of 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 of 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.

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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.

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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.

Sleep patterns in the young and aged
What are the latest Sleep Paralysis Clinical Trials?
Meditation-Relaxation (MR Therapy) for Sleep Paralysis: A Pilot Study in Patients With Narcolepsy

Summary: The aim of the study is to evaluate, with a small-scale pilot study, the efficacy of Meditation Relaxation therapy for Sleep Paralyses in patients with narcolepsy. The study involves two arms, with intervention with Meditation Relaxation therapy or sham over a period of three months.

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What are the Latest Advances for Sleep Paralysis?
Efficacy and Safety of Daridorexant in Older and Younger Adults with Insomnia Disorder: A Secondary Analysis of a Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial.
Lemborexant, an orexin receptor antagonist sedative-hypnotic: Is it useful for insomnia in psychiatric disorders?
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Type 1 narcolepsy without cataplexy and treatment progress: a case report.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: April 19, 2021
Published By: Allen J. Blaivas, DO, Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, VA New Jersey Health Care System, Clinical Assistant Professor, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, East Orange, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep education: sleep paralysis. sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders/sleep-paralysis/. Updated August 2020. Accessed July 29, 2021.

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.

Vaughn BV, Basner RC. Sleep disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 377.