Manage Sleep Paralysis

Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Graeme, Eng, Anonymous and 1 other

Have you ever experienced being paralyzed in your sleep just when your consciousness is drifting from being awake to nothingness? You may feel that your eyes and ears, and some other senses are truly alive, yet the rest of your body is totally unable to move. At worst, you may even feel some pressure or heaviness on your chest. Some sleepers even reported a paranormal experience or hallucination. You would not want to go through this experience.

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Unfortunately, this is a common experience that almost every person will experience at least once in his life. If there is one thing that you can do to keep the frequency under reign, it is to learn to manage sleep paralysis.

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Sleep is a necessity. It keeps human bodies the opportunity to repair itself. It is a haven that human bodies seek to fight off oxidative stress due to free radicals. For growing children, it is the time for growth. Not having enough sleep or sleep deprivation has its unhealthy, even dangerous, consequences. Yet, when people sleep and experience dreadful paralysis, sleep becomes dreaded.

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It is not something that this generation has just discovered.

William Shakespeare cites this sleep phenomenon in Act 1, Scene 4 of Romeo and Juliet: "This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs, That presses them, and learns them first to bear, Making them women of good carriage."

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Guy de Maupassant mentions this in his novel Le Horla: I sleep – for a while – two or three hours – then a dream – no – a nightmare seizes me in its grip, I know full well that I am lying down and that I am asleep."

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There is good news – sleep paralysis can be managed and treated. This can be done using several approaches. But you need to start with knowing certain facts.

Sleep Paralysis: Up-close and Personal

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As you retire after a long day of challenges and daily rituals, you look forward to seeing your familiar bedroom and lying down in your familiar bed. These are preparatory to dozing off to the dreamland where you can fly and live out fantasies. But, in the brink of your sleep and dream, when you are still clinging to conscious thoughts, you feel your muscle paralyzed (muscle atonia), you feel panic. Who wouldn't? If you are still wondering what sleep paralysis is, this is it.

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You might have experienced this a few times in your life. Is there a need to worry? If it happens rarely, you need not give it much thought. But, if it happens with frequency, maybe it is time for you to see your doctor because it can be related to some disorders – narcolepsy, sleep apnea, migraines, and anxiety disorders. But often, it is just a sign of muscle atonia setting in while your mind is still "awake." This is normal as the sleeper passes through the phases or stages of wakefulness and sleep before sleeping or waking up.

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Be comforted by the thought that sleep paralysis is not normally linked to an underlying psychiatric disorder. The knowledge makes a sleeper calmer, which is something you need to be when planning to manage sleep paralysis.

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What You Need to Know About Sleep Paralysis

  1. 1
    Defining "sleep paralysis".
    This is a sleep phenomenon in which the sleeper feels awake or conscious, but is unable to move. It normally happens when the sleeper passes between stages of conscious wakefulness and sleep. During this time of transition, muscle atonia sets in faster than your consciousness drifting off to dreamland.
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  2. 2
    Feel the symptoms.
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    Sleepers who woke up paralyzed and with eerie feelings of unexplained presence of paranormal prowlers can be mind-blowing. Some cases are like this, accompanied by frightening creatures and presence. Hypnogogia is the term used to describe sleep paralysis with hallucination. Another symptom is the sensation of heaviness or pressure in the chest area and consequent breathlessness.
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  3. 3
    Who can experience it?
    Believe it or not, kids and teens experience this more often. Maybe it has something to do with their tired, overactive bodies desperately seeking rest and succumbing faster to sleep. With an active mind that is fighting the drowsiness, however, their mind can still be awake. Stats have it that about 6 percent of the population experiences sleep paralysis at least once in their entire lifetime.
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  4. 4
    Know the triggers.
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    If this happens more frequently and it really bothers you, make a journal of it. This can help you see what you have done before the sleep and the ensuing paralysis while sleeping. There are people who succumb to sleep paralysis with sleep deprivation and irregular sleeping patterns.
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  5. 5
    Learn the types.
    There are two major types: Isolated Sleep Paralysis (ISP) and the Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis (RISP) ISP is much less common and is largely associated with invaders and incubus hallucinations. Conversely, RISP is chronic and each episode can last for an hour or so. Sleep paralysis can occur when you are falling asleep (hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis) or when you are waking up (hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis).
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  6. 6
    Sleeping and dreaming.
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    Sleep has a number of cycles. Each is split into non REM sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It is when you are in the verge of REM when sleep paralysis is usually experienced. This is a time when the brain is active, but the muscles of the body are paralyzed (muscle atonia). Dreams occur at this particular stage of sleep. Sleep paralysis can also happen after consciously waking up, but the body is still "asleep." This is temporary, though, inasmuch as the sleep does not automatically wear off upon waking up.
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Coping and Management of Sleep Paralysis

What to Do During Sleep Paralysis

  1. 1
    Concentrate on making small movements.
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    It will be hard to make significant movements during sleep paralysis. Focus on making movements using body parts such as fingers, toes, or your tongue. This can progress to movements using bigger body parts – hands and arms, feet and legs, etc.
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  2. 2
    Try to make eye movement.
    Your eyes are not normally immobilized by sleep paralysis. You can still open your eyes and look around. You may also try moving your eyes fast to interrupt the paralysis.
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  3. 3
    Relax by breathing well.
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    You can ask yogis and those into Pilates; they can certainly assure that controlled breathing is an excellent technique to attain relaxation. If you know how to breathe properly, you stand a good chance of regaining your control over your muscles during a sleep paralysis episode.
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  4. 4
    Envision yourself moving.
    You can deliberately induce a sleep-paralysis state. This is done by some people who want to prompt what is referred to as out-of-body experiences. Visualizing your body moving easily may be a more pleasant experience compared to sleep paralysis or hypnogogia.
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Natural Ways to Improve Sleep and Fight Off Sleep Paralysis

It all starts with living a healthy lifestyle.

  1. 1
    Abandon your "couch potato lifestyle".
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    It is time to get off that couch beckoning you to linger a little longer. Stop being couch-bound because this can slow down your metabolism, make you fat and develop a lot of metabolic disorders related to obesity. Eventually, you will be having bad dreams and sleep paralysis. Always remember, the systems are all interconnected. You don't need to go religiously to the gym. Just move – take the stairs, walk around your house or office more, or get into a sport.
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  2. 2
    Choose what and how much you eat.
    Everything you put into your mouth exerts some effects on your body. If you want to sleep well, note what can disturb or delay your sleep such as caffeine, alcohol, and too much sugar. Watch out too much eating of processed or fast foods that carry tons of fats and sodium. An unhealthy body can affect the other organs, systems and processes in the body. These can also deter sleep or give you troubled sleep.
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  3. 3
    "Hit the sack" regularly.
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    It has been noted that sleep paralysis happens when the sleeper enters the REM-sleep state early. The likelihood of this ever happening is increased with sleep deprivation and lack of energy. Thus, getting enough sleep is important to diminish sleep paralysis episodes. Maintaining a regular and healthy sleep pattern is key to putting this phenomenon at bay. Insomniacs must train themselves to fall asleep more easily to avoid dreadful episodes.
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  4. 4
    On your side.
    Note that about 60 percent of sleep paralysis episodes occur when the sleeper lies on his back. You want to break this habit? It's easy. Pin a sock or sew a pocket at the back of your sleepwear. In this, insert one or two tennis balls to alert you when moving on your back while asleep. This will prompt you to get back to your side.
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  5. 5
    Fight stress.
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    Stress is a recognized trigger that interrupts normal sleep cycles that can contribute to an episode of sleep paralysis. Learn some relaxation techniques to fight stress and anxiety attacks. You can try meditation, listening to music, or even playing with a pet. Experiment on what works for you.
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  6. 6
    Consult a doctor.
    If you are bothered by frequent episodes - once a week for about six months - it's best to consult with a professional care provider. You need to find out if you have related health issues that need to be medically attended to.
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Extra Defensive Strategies

  1. 1
    Get it out of your system.
    Talk about it with people who care, like family and friends. Venting it out or talking about it can elicit sharing of similar experiences, and then you'll know you're not alone. This is a common experience; others must have gone through something similar.
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  2. 2
    Write in a journal.
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    It is logical to track the details of your experience - the time, your sleep pattern position, sleep pattern, what you were thinking or feeling before sleeping, and when it happened before dozing off to the dreamland or before rousing from sleep. These are same questions your doctor will ask to know your history.
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  3. 3
    Know the triggers.
    This sleep phenomenon can be prompted by a variety of triggers. It can be due to stress, a medication you are taking, or simply sleeping on your back. If you are aware what triggers sleep paralysis, you can try shifting sleeping position or asking your doctor for a different kind of medication for your medical condition.
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Tips, Tricks and Warnings

  • Get off the coffee habit. Caffeine taken five hours before sleep can disturb your normal sleep patterns, which is crucial in triggering sleep problems.
  • Don't over-think. Thinking about night terrors, another term for hypnogogia, can be nerve-wracking. Fight stress, relax, and soon your muscles will "wake up" along with your consciousness.
  • Ask for a sleep analysis. You can talk to your doctor about it. Maybe sleep apnea is causing you to suffer from an episode of sleep paralysis.
  • "Psychological injury". This is a consequence of excessive or frequent sleep paralysis. This is a kind of panic that results from dreadful hypnogogia.
  • Break the episode. When you sense an episode is about to come, try sitting up and making your body and mind sync. You can take a deep breath, lift your arms and legs, and stare at a bright light briefly. Try to relax your mind and body. There is no need to move a lot; this can even make your paralysis and chest pressure increase.

The worst thing is dreaming while suffering from paralysis. This can be most confusing. This is when you see your bedroom and an intruder in your dream. These sorts of dreams are exceptionally frightening. Just remember, relax and manage your sleep paralysis.

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Categories : Health & Wellness

Recent edits by: Anonymous, Eng, Graeme

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