What is Sleep Paralysis?


If you’ve ever woke in the middle of the night unable to move or speak, you are one of the many people who have experienced sleep paralysis. Although often described as being a terrifying out-of-body experience, this phenomenon is quite common and is usually not a cause for concern.

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

In simple terms, sleep paralysis is the feeling of being conscious and aware of your surroundings but unable to move or react.

You are essentially in the middle of sleep and wakefulness right before REM sleep, so the muscles in your body are turned off.

This typically lasts between one and two minutes, but there have been some cases where the individual had sleep paralysis for more than an hour.

sleep paralysis

The Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis

  • The inability to move or speak when waking up
  • Hallucinations
  • Choking or feeling a weight on your chest
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Paranoia
  • A constant feeling of fear

People who experience hallucinations during sleep paralysis often don’t realize what’s happening because it can feel just like a dream.

Although rare, some people have reported feeling a dark and strange presence in the room. Many others claim that they see ghosts. These hallucinations typically last only a few minutes.

In addition, many people say they feel breathless when this occurs. The good news is that sleep paralysis does not actually affect your breathing.

Due to the occasional feeling of severe chest pressure, people often wake up gasping for air but are back to breathing normally in no time.

People will often try to wiggle their toes, fingers, or other muscles to wake themselves up, but it’s impossible.

According to Dr. Michael Brues, who has done extensive research on this topic, you unfortunately just have to wait it out.

Sleep Paralysis Causes

The exact cause of sleep paralysis is unknown but over the years, doctors have found many different risk factors that may play a role in it.

Sleep Deprivation

Whether you have insomnia, anxiety, or are just really stressed, anything that prevents you from getting the recommended eight hours of sleep puts you at a high risk.

If you have sleep issues, you are more likely to wake up before the REM cycle is complete, thus causing a sleep paralysis episode.

Sleeping Positions

Although sleep paralysis can occur in any sleeping position, people who sleep on their back tend to experience this more often. This is linked to snoring and possible sleep apnea.

Since both snoring and sleep apnea disturb sleep and can awaken you a dozen times a night, this can put you at a higher risk.

sleep paralysis causes

Family History

In some cases, sleep paralysis can run in families. There have been no clear studies proving this, but it is very common with victims all over the world.

One study done in the United Kingdom showed that people with the PER2 gene may be at a greater risk of sleep paralysis.

When to See a Doctor about Sleep Paralysis

As stated above, sleep paralysis is not generally a reason for concern, but if it begins to affect your life in a negative way, don’t be afraid to see your doctor.

Sleep paralysis can be a symptom of an underlying condition, so your doctor may be able to help.

Some of these conditions include:

  • Depression
  • Chronic migraines
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Hypertension
  • Anxiety disorders

If your sleep paralysis is related to any of these conditions, your physician may be able to prescribe medication or therapy that can improve your condition and possibly eliminate the sleep paralysis or at the very least, reduce the amount of episodes that occur.

How to Induce Sleep Paralysis

Although very uncommon, many people actually enjoy going into a sleep paralysis episode. Some say that it allows them to experience lucid dreaming.

Inducing sleep paralysis is definitely not easy, but it can be done. Some ways to do this include:

Waking Yourself Up Too Early

Since studies show that sleep deprivation can cause sleep paralysis, one way to induce it includes interrupting your sleep at night.

The best way to do this is to set your alarm for about 4 to 6 hours after you go to bed. Once you wake up, keep yourself awake for approximately 15 minutes.

Many suggest reading during this time to get your brain moving. You may also prefer to meditate or journal. Then, go back to bed and try to stay aware as you fall asleep.

Many people report falling into a lucid dream in less than 20 minutes using this technique.

Taking a Nap

As simple as it sounds, taking a nap in the middle of the day can actually induce sleep paralysis. Take a nap on a couch or bed sometime between noon and 4pm.

During this time make sure you are lying on your back, keep your body still, and focus on the back of your eyelids.

It is recommended that you keep your normal clothes on during this time, because many people have better luck when they are uncomfortable.

how to induce sleep paralysis

Following the WILD Technique

Standing for ‘wake induced lucid dreaming,’ this technique is widely used by those who wish to induce sleep paralysis.

This technique includes many steps including setting up, finding a deep relaxation, and focusing your mind on something suitable for you to keep your mind aware.

More information on this popular technique can be found here.

If you decide to pursue this, it is important to be safe. Although sleep paralysis itself is not dangerous, not giving your body enough sleep can cause many health issues.

It would benefit you to see your doctor beforehand for a general wellness checkup.

This video goes into additional details about sleep paralysis:

Keep Sleep Paralysis Away

There is no way to prevent sleep paralysis completely, but by staying healthy and keeping a normal sleeping schedule, you have a better chance at staying in the clear.

Although eight hours of sleep is the general rule, many people have trouble achieving that. Try to get at least six-seven hours of sleep no matter what.

Staying well dehydrated is also very important. If you need help improving your sleeping habits or are concerned about your sleep paralysis, see your doctor.

Have you ever suffered from sleep paralysis?


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