Are You Suffering from Sleep Paralysis?

Nightmares can be unnerving, but few sleep disorders are as confronting as sleep paralysis. Sleep scientists believe that upwards of 50% of adults will experience sleep paralysis at least once, but less than 10% suffer from it on a frequent basis.

This condition is often described as a temporary feeling of paralysis that occurs during the transition between being asleep and awake. The sensation leaves a person unable to speak or move, but they may be able to look around the room. However, sleep paralysis symptoms do vary from this description—in fact, you could be experiencing episodes of this condition without immediately realizing it.

Sleep paralysis can present itself in several ways.

Aside from the stereotypical sensation of temporary body paralysis, here are 4 other symptoms of a sleep paralysis episode.

  1. Waking up feeling extremely frightened or even panicked but not remembering having a nightmare.
  2. Visual sleep hallucinations, often a person or figure in the room, that disappear once you’re fully awake.
  3. Auditory sleep hallucinations: static, buzzing, beeping, music, or people talking.
  4. Tactile sleep hallucinations of being touched, falling, or feeling as though someone is sitting on your chest.

Why you might be experiencing this condition.

Sleep paralysis is a strange phenomenon, but it can be explained.

There are two types of this condition: hypnagogic and hypnopompic. Hypnagogic sleep paralysis happens when you fall asleep, while hypnopompic sleep paralysis occurs while waking up. In both situations, your brain is essentially awake even though your body is physically asleep. In the case of hypnagogic paralysis, your body falls asleep before your brain recognizes it. Hypnopompic paralysis usually happens when your body is still in its REM cycle, but the brain becomes active.

This condition is most often caused by sleep deprivation, but sleep apnea can also contribute. Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing while asleep, which can lead to an episode of this condition. Untreated sleep apnea also negatively affects the quality of sleep, which means you might believe you’re “sleeping” for eight hours when you actually aren’t achieving a full night’s rest.

What to do during a sleep paralysis episode.

If you’ve been experiencing this condition, remember that this sleep disorder isn’t that uncommon, and if you’re only experiencing hallucinations while asleep, it’s not a sign of a psychiatric condition.

When you find yourself in a paralysis episode during sleep, here’s what to do.

  • Breathe slowly, remain calm, and begin by trying to only move a finger or toe rather than attempting to sit up.
  • Close your eyes rather than look around the room, especially if you’re seeing or hearing hallucinations.
  • Ride the wave, and remind yourself that this uncomfortable feeling will pass. You might mentally repeat a mantra or positive affirmation until you fall asleep.

Remember that this condition isn’t dangerous, and the things you might see, feel, or hear aren’t actually there; your brain is just confused because your body is asleep.

How to manage this condition and find a solution.

Sleep paralysis can be managed, especially if you’re able to determine and treat the underlying cause.

You can start reducing your episodes right now by:

  • Ensuring you get seven to nine hours of sleep every night, even on weekends.
  • Creating a bedroom environment that minimizes sleep disturbances.
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible.
  • Sleeping on your side, especially if you seem to have trouble breathing on your back.
  • Avoiding caffeine in the afternoons and evenings or four to six hours before bedtime.

It’s crucial to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing frequent sleep paralysis, especially if the tips here haven’t helped. Approximately 38% of people with sleep paralysis have obstructive sleep apnea, and if not treated, it simply won’t be possible to get permanent relief from these episodes.

Sleep apnea treatment by experienced dentists in Ada, OK.

Did you know that your Ada Smile Place dentist can help you manage obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and get relief from related sleep paralysis episodes?

CPAP machines, oral appliances (mandibular advancement devices), and orofacial myofunctional therapy are just a few treatment options we provide for sleep OSA. Keep in mind that you will need a professional diagnosis from a doctor or sleep specialist first.

If you suspect OSA is causing your sleep paralysis or you already have a diagnosis, take a moment right now to schedule a consultation.