Sleep problems are an increasingly common phenomenon. People often hear about things like insomnia, but there are many other sleeping problems that are lesser known. While many of these things aren’t too worrisome and can be treated at home or and on your own, some of them are not as commonly talked about. One of those things is sleep paralysis.
What is sleep paralysis? If this is a term you’ve heard before, you’re probably wondering what it is and what causes sleep paralysis. Hopefully this article can help you to understand what it is, what causes it, and even how to enter sleep paralysis.
What is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis happens when you are falling asleep or waking up and you’re not able to move, speak, or respond to the world around you. In basic terms, most sleep researchers will state that sleep paralysis is a sign that you’re not moving through each stage of sleep in the proper manner. If you’re wondering how to enter sleep paralysis, it is when you’re feeling awake but you’re not able to move. This is why it often occurs when you are falling asleep or waking up. You feel conscious and can hear and maybe even see the things around you, but you cannot respond or move.
If you experience sleep paralysis when you’re falling asleep it is known as preformital or hypnagogic sleep paralysis. When you fall asleep your body begins to relax. Often the drift into sleep is so subtle that you may not even notice. Sleep paralysis sets in when you become aware that you’re falling into sleep but you cannot move or even speak.
When you’re waking up it is known as postdormital or hypnopompic sleep paralysis. During sleeping hours, your body will move between REM and NREM sleep. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes a piece. When you first fall asleep you’re in NREM and that lasts for about 75% of your sleeping time. This is when your body is able to relax and restore for the coming day. REM comes after NREM. Sleep paralysis occurs in this phase, when you wake before REM has finished and can’t move or speak.
What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
It is estimated that about 40% of people experience some form of sleep paralysis. Generally, diagnosed in the teen years, it can often be something that runs in families, and is evenly occurring in both males and females. A variety of other things can lead to sleep paralysis and it’s not the same for everyone. Some reasons for sleep paralysis might include lack of sleep, changing sleep schedules, or even certain medications.
Sleep Paralysis Hallucinations
While sleep paralysis doesn’t always cause hallucinations, sleep paralysis hallucinations can occur in some people. Like traditional sleep paralysis, hallucinations occur in those moments between waking and being asleep. Like with sleep paralysis, hallucinations can occur before sleeping (hypnogogic) and when waking up (hypnopompia). Hallucinations are more common when waking up than it is with falling asleep and can cause fear as common hallucinations include muscle tightness and/or difficulty breathing. Sometimes sleep paralysis hallucinations happens when you feel like you’re falling or you think you feel a presence in your room.
As you can see, sleep paralysis is something quite common and usually isn’t something that requires medication or help from a doctor. However, if you are distressed or find your sleep suffering you should certainly consult your physician.