That’s what sleep paralysis often feels like, and it can be downright scary, especially for people who have never experienced it before. Keep reading to learn more about what happens when the transition between dream sleep and wakefulness fragments.
What is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a temporary loss of muscle function that usually occurs when you fall asleep, right after you fall asleep, or when you wake up.
When sleep paralysis occurs, [often] the moment you wake up, you experience a brief loss of muscle control known as atonia, “says Dr. Abhinav Singh, sleep physician, facilities director of the Indiana Sleep Center and medical advisor at SleepFoundation.org. you’re still somewhat in your sleep mode, ”he says.
“You come out of a dream sleep, with all those vivid images that go with it, but you can’t move a limb or a muscle. You are a little bit aware, but now you also transfer images from your dream to your reality,” Singh describes. .
Research defines sleep paralysis as a “mixed state of consciousness, combining elements of rapid eye movement with elements of wakefulness.”
What does sleep paralysis feel like?
Sleep paralysis is generally perceived as scary, mainly due to the fact that it feels like a total loss of control, says Dr. Dave Rabin, neuroscientist and psychiatrist at Apollo Neuro, a neuroscience company. “This loss of control can make us feel helpless, which is an uncomfortable feeling,” he says.
Many people experience panic-inducing hallucinations, Singh says, which usually fall into one of three categories:
- An intruder or dangerous person or presence in the room.
- Push, as if someone is standing on your chest and you are being choked.
- Movement such as flying, or being out of the body or being projected into space.
Simply put, “None of this is positive,” says Singh.
It’s normal to experience intense anxiety during sleep paralysis, but giving in to the anxiety can make it worse. Even if you don’t have control over your body, you have control over your mind (you are conscious during sleep paralysis), so you have the power to remind yourself that what you are feeling is not true.
How is sleep paralysis different from lucid dreaming?
People sometimes confuse lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis, as both conditions involve a half-awake, half-dormant state.
Sleep paralysis is unintentional and is a feeling of being aware but not being able to move, says Wayne Ross, senior sleep researcher at InsideBedroom. During sleep paralysis, your mind is awake, but your body is not.
On the other hand, lucid dreaming is often caused deliberately by people trying to take control of their dreams. During a lucid dream, neither the brain nor the body is fully awake, but dreamers regain just enough consciousness to become aware that they are dreaming.
Generally, sleep paralysis is considered a negative and frightening experience, while lucid dreaming is often (but not always) a positive experience.
How long do sleep paralysis episodes last?
It may feel like sleep paralysis lasts eons when you are in its grip, but in reality, sleep paralysis episodes generally only last a few minutes. This is also true of other sleeping habits, including sleepwalking and night terrors.
Can Sleep Paralysis Be Treated?
If you suffer from sleep paralysis, here’s good news: You can reduce the chance of you experiencing it. Dr. Frida Rångtel, sleep educator and science advisor at Sleep Cycle, says solving sleep paralysis is primarily a matter of self-care. Here are some tips from Rångtel:
- Do not sleep on your back. Research shows that sleeping on the back may be associated with an increased risk of sleep paralysis. Place a pillow behind your back if you tend to tip over on your back while sleeping on your side.
- Keep bedtime consistent. Go to bed around the same time every night. While you’re at it, try a morning wake-up schedule as well. Keeping the same schedule for weekends and weekdays will likely reduce your risk of sleep paralysis. This way, your body gets used to it and your natural built-in biological clock will do most of the work for you.
- Eliminate distractions in the bedroom. Do not watch TV in the bedroom or surf the Internet in bed. Keep the lighting soft and try to block out loud noises.
- Reduce or stop your caffeine intake just before going to bed. Experiment to see how sensitive you are to caffeine and adjust accordingly.
In addition, knowing the most common causes of sleep paralysis can help you overcome them. According to Rabin, sleep paralysis is often caused by stress, alcohol and sleep deprivation, as well as sleep disorders such as narcolepsy and sleep apnea.
In such cases, treatment includes stress management techniques such as deep breathing and meditation, reducing alcohol consumption before bed or in general, and prioritizing your amount of sleep. “Find the cause of sleep paralysis and work on treating it,” Rabin says.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care practitioner if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.