Understanding Sleep Paralysis – An Overview of Its Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

June 2, 2023 (Last updated on: July 19, 2023)
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Sleep paralysis is a sleep disorder that affects many people worldwide. It is a condition where an individual cannot move or speak while falling asleep or waking up. Sleep paralysis occurs when the body alternates between REM sleep and non-REM sleep.

It is associated with other sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Introduction to Sleep Paralysis

It is important to understand sleep paralysis as it can be a frightening experience, and lack of knowledge can lead to distress or aggravate existing sleep problems. Despite the prevalence of this sleep disorder, most people are unaware of sleep paralysis diagnosed of its existence or underlying causes. Understanding sleep paralysis through education and seeking professional medical help can help manage the condition and improve the quality of life.

Types of Sleep Paralysis

There are three types of sleep paralysis: recurrent isolated sleep paralysis (RISP), isolated sleep paralysis (ISP), and recurrent sleep paralysis (RSP). RISP occurs when individuals have experienced at least one episode of sleep paralysis in their lifetime. In contrast, ISP occurs when individuals experience sleep paralysis without having any other associated sleep disorders. RSP, on the other hand, is when individuals experience episodes of sleep paralysis regularly.

Sleep Stages and Sleep Paralysis

There are five stages of sleep, with the first four being non-REM sleep stages and the fifth being REM sleep. Sleep paralysis is often associated with REM sleep, which is the stage of sleep when the body relaxes, and the brain becomes more active. Falling asleep or waking up during REM sleep can cause sleep paralysis, as the body is not fully awake to fall asleep.

A distressed individual experiencing sleep paralysis.

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

The causes of sleep paralysis are not yet fully understood, but studies indicate that several factors can trigger it. Genetic factors, irregular sleep schedules, sleep deprivation, narcolepsy, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse are some leading causes of sleep paralysis. Meditation, poor sleep hygiene, and disrupted sleep cycles can also contribute to the condition. It is worth noting that family medical history plays a crucial role. People with a family history of sleep paralysis or other sleep disorders are likelier to experience it.

Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis

The symptoms of sleep paralysis include the inability to move or speak, the sensation of a presence in the room, hallucinations, shortness of breath, and a racing heart. Episodes of sleep paralysis can be very frightening and lead to anxiety disorders, panic disorder, and bipolar disorder.

The phenomenon of the sensation of a presence in the room or an intruder hallucination when in sleep paralysis has been researched by scientists. According to a systematic review of the literature, the hypothesis suggests that this experience is related to the hyperarousal of the amygdala during sleep paralysis episodes.

Diagnosis of Sleep Paralysis

The diagnosis of sleep paralysis involves personal sleep logs, discussion of symptoms and sleep habits with a healthcare professional, and specialist consultations. Other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea, may be associated with sleep paralysis. Doctors may conduct a polysomnography or multiple sleep latency test to diagnose it effectively.

Treatments for Sleep Paralysis

The treatment of sleep paralysis involves various methods that aim to improve the quality of sleep and prevent the occurrence of sleep disorders. Establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding intake of stimulants and narcotics, properly regulating sleep, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, and improving sleep hygiene can help prevent sleep paralysis from occurring. Medications such as antidepressants and anxiolytics can treat sleep disorders associated with sleep paralysis. Talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and visual imagery rehearsal therapy have also been proven to treat sleep paralysis effectively.

Several studies have also shown muscle relaxation techniques’ effectiveness and improved sleep quality on sleep paralysis. To better manage the condition, alternative therapies include acupuncture, meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, or natural sleep aids such as chamomile or valerian extract.

A person with excessive daytime sleepiness, a sleep disorder related to sleep paralysis.

Coping Strategies for Sleep Paralysis

Coping strategies can help individuals manage sleep paralysis episodes. A helpful way of reducing the intensity of the attacks is to remind oneself that the episode is temporary, even though it may feel like a lifetime. One can resist the attack more effectively by attempting to move or breathe deeply. Practicing stress-relieving techniques, seeking support from family and friends, and participating in social activities and exercise can help mitigate the effect of sleep paralysis.

Research on Sleep Paralysis

Basic medical research has shown that sleep paralysis occurs when muscle atonia persists during REM sleep, contributing to hypnagogic hallucinations, visual hallucinations, intruder hallucinations, and lucid dreaming. Sleep medicine reviews have revealed the prevalence of sleep paralysis and current studies on sleep research on the biological mechanisms of sleep paralysis.

Research indicates that individuals with neuropsychiatric diseases, such as anxiety disorders, are likelier to experience sleep paralysis. Additionally, research has shown that young adulthood is a risk period for experiencing sleep paralysis. People who experience vivid dreaming or hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations may be more likely to develop the condition.

Improving Sleep Hygiene

Improving sleep hygiene is an essential part of treating sleep paralysis. A regular sleep schedule can help regulate the sleep cycle and prevent sleep deprivation. Establishing a calming bedtime routine can help the body relax before sleep, and avoiding stimulants and alcohol can reduce disturbances during the sleep cycle. One can also use a sleep diary to track sleep patterns and identify specific risk factors that may trigger sleep paralysis episodes.


Sleep paralysis can be a frightening experience, but understanding the condition and seeking appropriate medical help can help manage it. With a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, individuals can reduce the frequency and intensity of sleep paralysis episodes. In addition, changes in lifestyle and improving sleep hygiene can also play a crucial role in managing the condition. It is essential to remember that sleep paralysis is a treatable condition, and with the right approach, one can successfully manage symptoms and improve sleep quality.


What triggers sleep paralysis?

How do insomnias happen in sleep-deprived individuals? Disputed sleep pattern – like a shift job. Narcophobia is a long-term disorder characterized by sudden falls in sleep. PTSD).

Can sleep paralysis hurt me?

Sleep paralysis is quite common and can not be a serious health concern but frightening. There are ways you can avoid a severe episode experienced sleep paralysis. Your body may be temporarily paralyzed at various sleep phases, causing you to stop dreaming.

What are the horrors of sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis may involve a hallucination-like intrusion into an infected place or dark figure inside a room.

What happens during sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis occurs when consciousness diminishes, but the body is not moved. During the transition between wakefulness and sleep, the phenomenon occurs. This transition may not last longer than several seconds. Sometimes people with sleep paralysis feel pressure or choking sensations.

What is a sleep paralysis demon?

Kanashibari: Kanashibari means sleep experience or wakefulness—the source of paralysis, anxiety, or hallucinatory thoughts.

Can sleep paralysis hurt you?

Sleep paralysis can occur if you are not sleeping. It doesn’t affect your mental health conditions. It’s quick and could even be scary. It’s possible for everyone, but it primarily happens to young adults.

How do I know if I’m having sleep paralysis?

What are Sleep Disorder symptoms? You may experience isolated sleep paralysis if you can no longer sleep or talk for 1-2 seconds while waking or sleeping. Usually, this condition cannot be treated.

How do you break out of sleep paralysis?

If you’re experiencing sleep paralysis, it can be frightening, and you may feel stuck. However, there are some things you can do to regulate sleep and to try to break out of it:

  1. Stay Calm: Focus on your breathing and try to stay calm. Remind yourself that what you’re experiencing is temporary, and you will come out of it.
  2. Try to Move Your Fingers or Toes: Attempt to move your fingers or toes. This can help signal your body that it’s time to wake up.
  3. Focus on Your Breathing: Take deep breaths in and out. This can help slow your heart rate and relax your muscles, which can help you wake up faster.
  4. Try to Visualize Moving: Imagine yourself moving your arms and legs. This can help signal your body that it’s time to wake up.

It’s important to note that not everyone can break out of sleep paralysis easily. If you experience sleep paralysis frequently, talk to a healthcare professional. They can help diagnose the underlying cause stop sleep paralysis and recommend treatment options that can help reduce or eliminate sleep paralysis episodes.

How long can sleep paralysis last?

Symptoms of sleep paralysis can be anywhere between one second and two minutes long. This spell ends without any other or in sensitivity to the touch. In some rare circumstances, it is possible to experience dreams and hallucinations.

What happens during sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis occurs as sleep cycles change in stages. If your mind wakes suddenly from the REM cycle, your body will be awake. Typically sleep paralysis lasts about 1-3 seconds in length.

Is it normal to have sleep paralysis?

One in ten people has sleep paralysis. These common problems are most frequently noticed in teens. However, any woman is allowed to take it. Sleep paralysis can affect family members.