FIND OUT WHAT IS PRESSING YOU IN YOUR SLEEP
You are asleep. Suddenly, you wake up and realize that you cannot move your body or limbs. It feels like someone is sitting on you, making you immobile. Worse, you have this strange feeling that you are not alone as shadows dance before your eyes. You try to speak but you cannot move your lips.
What is going on in your mind? Fear, anxiety but all that quickly give way to relief as you recover function in your limbs and you resign the experience to just a bad dream.
Until it happens again…
Sleep paralysis, as described above, is quite common. About 5 in 10 people will experience at least on episode of sleep paralysis in their life time but only a small amount of people (about 4%) will have more than 5 episodes.
Sleep paralysis can happen immediately you are going to sleep or just about waking up.
Why does it occur?
During sleep, your body alternates between two episodes, the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). REM is where dreams occur while NREM is where your body relaxes and restores itself.
NREM sleep occurs first and takes up to 75% of your overall sleep time, relaxing your body. At the end of REM, your eyes move quickly and dreams occur but the rest of your body and muscles remain very relaxed from the NREM stage. Your muscles are ‘turned off’ during REM sleep so that you do not demonstrate what you are actually doing in the dream. If you awake before the REM cycle has finished, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.
Causes of sleep paralysis include:
• Lack of sleep
• Mental conditions such as bipolar disorder
• Sleeping on your back
• Substance abuse e.g cocaine, coffee, alcohol
In case you find yourself unable to move when falling asleep or after waking up, do not panic. There is no evidence that anyone has died from sleep paralysis and it is not dangerous to the body. The paralysis wears off after a few seconds to minutes.