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Have you ever awakened in the middle of the night, and you’re feeling awake but unable to move or speak? This unsettling experience is known as sleep paralysis, and it affects millions of people worldwide. Sleep paralysis can have a significant impact on your sleep quality, leaving you feeling tired and groggy during the day. Let’s learn more about it and how to avoid suffering from it.
What Is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a condition where you cannot move or speak while going between sleep and wakefulness. It is most commonly experienced during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of the sleep cycle when the brain is active and the body is still. During this stage, the body is naturally paralyzed to prevent movement and injury during vivid dreams. However, in people with sleep paralysis, the brain wakes up before the body, leaving them temporarily unable to move or speak. Long story short, according to Stanford Health Care, sleep paralysis is actually a regular part of REM sleep, but it is considered a disorder when it occurs outside of REM sleep.
Some common symptoms of sleep paralysis include a feeling of pressure on the chest, hallucinations and a sense of impending danger. It can be a frightening experience, but it is not harmful.
If you witness a friend or loved one experiencing sleep paralysis, it’s important to understand your usual methods of how to wake someone up properly don’t apply here. Normally we think that calling a person’s name softly or gently shaking them is a good idea. However, it is not recommended to touch or shake someone who is experiencing sleep paralysis, as it can cause more stress and anxiety. Instead, waiting it out and letting the episode pass naturally is suggested. The person will eventually wake up from sleep paralysis on their own.
Clinical Reasons for Sleep Paralysis
Many things can contribute to sleep paralysis. These include sleep deprivation, an irregular sleep schedule and certain medical conditions such as narcolepsy. Genetics and stress can also play a role in sleep paralysis. Speaking with your healthcare provider and working with a sleep specialist can help you better understand your own situation.
Practical Tips and Home Treatment Options: Dos and Don’ts
1. Do: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps you avoid sleep paralysis. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, reducing the risk of sleep paralysis. It’s also worth noting that higher rates of sleep paralysis have been found in people whose circadian rhythms are not aligned with their local day-night cycle. For example, those with jet lag and shift workers. So if you’re prone to sleep paralysis, having a schedule that follows the day-night cycle of your geographical location is ideal.
2. Don’t: Consume excessive caffeine or alcohol before bedtime.
Caffeine and alcohol can disrupt sleep and increase the likelihood of sleep paralysis. Avoiding these substances in the hours leading up to bedtime is best.
3. Do: Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
A relaxing bedtime routine can help prepare your mind and body for sleep, reducing the risk of sleep paralysis. Consider taking a warm bath, reading a book or listening to calming music before bed. By taking time to lean back and relax on your comfy bedding pillows and wind down properly, your body prepares for the next sleep, and your chances of sleep paralysis are lessened.
4. Don’t: Use electronic devices before bed.
The blue light from the screens of electronic devices can disrupt sleep and increase the risk of sleep paralysis. It is best to avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before bedtime. If you must use them, find the blue light filter on your device and enable them. This will help lessen the effects but may not entirely mitigate them.
5. Do: Optimize your sleep environment.
Choosing the right mattress and pillows can bolster sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep paralysis. Consider investing in a mattress that provides the right level of support and choosing comfortable and supportive pillows. The best mattresses will meet your sleep style, are large enough to accommodate you and any sleep partners — human and pet alike — and support your body so you wake feeling rested and ready for your day.
6. Don’t: Sleep on your back or stomach.
Sleeping on your side is probably the best sleep position for avoiding sleep paralysis, according to the experts. Sleeping on your back can increase the risk of sleep paralysis, as it can cause the tongue to fall back and obstruct the airway, leading to breathing difficulties and sleep apnea. Meanwhile, sleeping on your stomach can cause neck and back pain, leading to poor sleep quality and increasing the risk of sleep paralysis. Therefore, sleeping on your side with a pillow or blanket between your knees is probably the best position for avoiding sleep paralysis.
Working with a Healthcare Provider and Sleep Expert
If sleep paralysis persists or worsens, it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider. They can help identify underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to sleep paralysis and develop a personalized treatment plan. Collaborating with a sleep expert can also be beneficial in addressing underlying issues contributing to sleep paralysis. A sleep expert can help identify lifestyle changes, such as sleep hygiene and relaxation techniques, that can improve sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep paralysis.
From Sleep Paralysis to Slumbering Peacefully
Sleep paralysis can be a really frightening experience, but it can be managed with the right approach and support. We’ve provided practical tips and options for avoiding sleep paralysis. By taking these steps, you can improve your sleep quality and reduce the risk of sleep paralysis. Remember, sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. So, take the time to prioritize your sleep and seek help if you need it. Doing so allows you to enjoy restful and rejuvenating sleep, free from the fear and discomfort of sleep paralysis.