Do You Know the Causes Of the Dreaded Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis Is One Of the Most Feared Parasomnias.

Sleeping person

Most of the population has experienced or will experience sleep paralysis at some point in their life. Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

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Most of the population has experienced or will experience sleep paralysis at some point in their life, which consists of the inability to move or speak during the last stage of sleep when waking up or when we are falling asleep. In popular culture, sleep paralyzes are famous for the paranormal explanation that has been given to them. However, science has an explanation for this phenomenon and the tools to prevent it. 

Sleep paralysis is considered a parasomnia, that is, a sleep disorder. During these, you have abnormal movements, talk in your sleep, express different emotions, or do unusual things when sleeping such as eating or having sex, according to information from the Cleveland Clinic.

A Terrible Feeling

If you have experienced sleep paralysis, what you remember most is the feeling of tightness in the body, which some people associate with something paranormal, that is, having some kind of supernatural entity on your body. The UK National Health Service (NHS) also describes other associated symptoms such as:

  • The inability to move any limb of the body or to speak.
  • The feeling that someone is in your room.
  • Terror, which may be accompanied by visual or auditory hallucinations.

Basically, what happens is that the brain "wakes up" before the body, so that the person is conscious for a few moments (which may seem like an eternity) before their body "catches up" with their brain.

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Causes Of Sleep Paralysis

According to the Cleveland Clinic, sleep paralysis does not have a specific cause, however, it is related to other sleep disorders and diseases, so it could be considered a symptom of some of these. Among them are:

  • Insomnia.
  • Irregular sleep patterns.
  • Narcolepsy, a disorder in which people fall asleep suddenly, in some cases in situations that put them in danger.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Anxiety disorder.
  • Panic disorder
  • Family history of sleep paralysis.
  • Stress.
  • Migraine.
  • Parkinson.
  • Some medications for sleep, asthma, depression, psychotic disorders, hypertension, allergies, and infections.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Pregnancy or menstruation.
  • Disorders such as epilepsy.
  • Poor sleep hygiene

Sleep Hygiene?

In general, mental health is often looked down upon. We associate hygiene with physical health but rarely with mental health. Sleep hygiene is nothing more than good sleep habits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for its acronym in English) of the United States Department of Health. These habits can reduce the chances of suffering from sleep paralysis.

The habits that the CDC recommends to improve our sleep hygiene are:

  • Have consistency at bedtime: Sleep and get up at the same time, even on weekends, this will allow your body and mind to fall asleep and wake up more easily.
  • Take care of the environment where you sleep: Make sure the bed is comfortable, turn off the lights, take care that the place is clean, that there is no noise, and that the temperature is adequate.
  • Say no to electronic devices: Take screens, cell phones, tablets, computers, and everything that produces blue light out of the room.
  • Dine light: Avoid "heavy" dinners which are those that include meat, fat, caffeine and alcohol.
  • Exercise: If you stay active during the day it will be easier for you to sleep at night, exercise is the best way to "tire" yourself to go to bed.

If you have good sleep hygiene habits and still continue to experience paralysis or any other sleep disorder then do not hesitate to go to the doctor. Paralysis can be a symptom of other sleep disorders or other illnesses that require specialized care. Remember not to medicate if you have not been instructed by a doctor, doing so could make it worse, hide the problem or put your health at risk.

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