Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak that happens when you’re waking up or, less commonly, falling asleep. Although you’re awake, your body is briefly paralysed, after which you can move and speak as normal. The paralysis can last from a few seconds to several minutes.
Sleep paralysis doesn’t cause you any harm, but being unable to move can be very frightening. Over many centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an “evil” presence: unseen night demons. People often describe the feeling of somebody/something watching over them (and sometimes walking towards them) as they cannot move.
What causes sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis can sometimes be a symptom of narcolepsy. This is a relatively rare sleep disorder, which causes severe disruption to the sleep-wake cycle. An inability to stay awake for more than three or four hours is usually the main symptom.
Other things that increase your risk of getting sleep paralysis include:
- sleep deprivation
- irregular sleeping patterns
- age – it’s more common in teenagers and young adults
How to treat sleep paralysis:
The symptoms of sleep paralysis can often be improved by altering your sleep habits and sleeping environment. Sleep paralysis often affects people who are sleep deprived, so ensuring you get enough sleep may reduce the number of episodes you have. Most adults need six to eight hours of good quality sleep each night. Going to bed at roughly the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning may also help.
If sleep paralysis is an ongoing struggle then it may be time to go and talk to your local GP, they will be able to offer you counselling sessions and even refer you to a neurologist who may have the answers to your sleep paralysis nightmares.