Sleep Paralysis as a Sleep Apnea Symptom

Did you know that there are over 80 different sleep disorders recognized by doctors and sleep specialists? Sleep disorders are quite common, and many people have heard of insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep paralysis, or narcolepsy, just to name a few. Insomnia is the most prevalent true sleep disorder, but sleep apnea is the most prevalent sleep-disordered breathing condition.

Sleep apnea impacts roughly 6% of the adult population in the United States. However, some specialists believe that this number could be as high as 26% when factoring in undiagnosed mild obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) cases.

What’s unique about sleep apnea is that it can sometimes trigger additional sleep disorders as a symptom. One such disorder that many don’t realize can be linked to sleep apnea is the occurrence of sleep paralysis episodes.

What is sleep paralysis, and how can I recognize the symptoms?

Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which a person regains consciousness while their body is still asleep. It’s specifically a type of REM parasomnia.

Parasomnia is a category of sleep disorder that is characterized by unusual or abnormal behavior that occurs during any stage of sleep. Sleepwalking is an example of a well-known type of parasomnia sleep disorder. In the case of sleep paralysis, the behavior occurs outside of the REM sleep cycle, like when waking up or falling asleep.

When a sleep paralysis episode occurs, it can be quite an alarming experience. Because your body is still in a deep sleep, you can’t move or speak, even though you feel aware of what’s happening around you. The effect is only temporary, but it can induce feelings of panic, anxiety, and fear or trigger a sense of suffocation. It isn’t unusual for people to also see or hear visual and audible hallucinations.

Thankfully, only about 7% of people will experience sleep paralysis in their entire life. Recurrent sleep paralysis is quite rare and can often be a sign that there is some sort of other sleep disorder at play, such as undiagnosed sleep apnea.

What causes sleep paralysis, and how is sleep apnea a factor?

A range of different issues can cause sleep paralysis, but studies support the idea that poor quality sleep is the most significant factor. If you’re not sleeping well, especially for an extended period of time, your risk of experiencing sleep paralysis is much higher than a person who is getting adequate sleep on a nightly basis.

The connection between sleep paralysis and sleep apnea comes down to sleep quality. When sleep apnea is left untreated, it can be impossible to get a good night’s rest with a full sleep cycle because of the abnormal breathing pattern. Even if you’re in bed for eight hours every night, you may not actually get a full eight hours of quality sleep. Over time, this causes a state of sleep deprivation, which can result in chronic daytime fatigue, elevated risks of systemic disease, and the occurrence of sleep paralysis and other sleep disorders.

Moreover, 38% of people with untreated OSA experience sleep paralysis as a symptom of their condition. OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea, characterized by chronic snoring, daytime sleepiness, mental fog, morning headaches, and waking up throughout the night for unknown reasons.

In the case of OSA, the soft tissues in the throat fall backward and obstruct your normal airflow when inhaling. This can cause snoring, or you might even briefly wake up due to a lack of air. Sleep paralysis typically occurs at this point as your body may still be asleep, but your mind is consciously awake from the obstructed breathing.

Can sleep paralysis be stopped, and what does treatment involve?

The majority of sleep paralysis cases can be stopped through a combination of better sleep management at home and an evaluation by an experienced sleep specialist. Only a sleep specialist can diagnose sleep paralysis and determine if OSA or another disorder is contributing to or causing the paralytic episodes.

Once your sleep doctor diagnoses your sleep apnea, Ada Smile Place can then assist with treatment. We provide several treatment solutions for managing OSA symptoms, including mandibular mouthguards worn at night and orofacial myofunctional therapy to improve nasal breathing.

Don’t ignore sleep paralysis or other sleep apnea symptoms.

If sleep paralysis is something you’ve experienced or you have other common sleep apnea symptoms, we urge you to seek help right away. Snoring or feeling tired some days may not seem significant, but uncontrolled sleep apnea can have dire health consequences.

If you need assistance finding a local sleep specialist for a diagnosis, your primary care provider can give you a referral. If you’ve already received a diagnosis for OSA and you’re interested in myofunctional therapy or a mandibular advancement device, get in touch with the best dentists near Ada, OK.