What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis

Wondering what is sleep paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset or upon awakening. In other words, if the sleeping person comes into consciousness before the brain sends signals to activate muscle contraction, the individual will not be able to move their body, thus, they become "paralysed".

More often than not, Sleep Paralysis occurs during the period classified REM sleep. All humans, during REM sleep, are actually under complete paralysis.

Some research shows that Sleep Paralysis is more likely to occur during REM sleep – the dream phase of sleep) – because it inhibits our ability to physically act out our dreams.

Symptoms for Sleep Paralysis

Some of the symptoms for Sleep Paralysis are:

  • Immobility/full body paralysis
  • Feeling choked or suffocated
  • Hearing noises (e.g. voices and footsteps)
  • Seeing things (e.g. dark shadows)
  • Feeling things (e.g. someone in the room)

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

There are theories about Sleep Paralysis that are founded on associations with narcolepsy (a condition whereby individuals take uncontrollable naps during supposed waking hours). However, there is no known understanding for the complete aetiology of Sleep Paralysis.

For example, many sufferers show no signs of narcolepsy and in some cases the condition seems hereditary.

Often the individual is said to hallucinate and sense someone is in the room and in some instances that someone or something is sitting on their chest. The suffocation that goes with this sense is said to induce panic as the sleeper feels impending doom. This is known as the “Hag Phenomena” and was very much associated with spirits and ghosts - of the evil kind - for centuries.

Related Pages

* Dream Disorders Overview

* What are Night Terrors?

* Rapid Eye Movement Behaviour Disorder

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