Sleep disorders are both a physical and psychological condition that affect sleep cycles and an individual’s ability to get enough sleep. These disorders can damage a person’s physical health, cause mood swings, irritability, weight gain, accidents, impaired work or school performance, memory problems, and interrelation problems.
There are different types of disorders that affect a subject differently. Insomnia is one of the most frequent sleep disorders in the population worldwide. One of the least frequent sleep disorders in the world population is sleep paralysis, which we will delve into in this article.
What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a type of parasomnia. Parasomnia is a sleep disorder that results in the individual participating in a series of undesirable and frightening events that can appear in different phases of sleep or between the sleep-wake transition.
Sleep paralysis renders the subject unable to exercise mobility in their body, either when falling asleep (hypnagogic or pre-dormant form) or upon awakening from sleep (hypnopompic or post-dormant form).
Causes of sleep paralysis
While we sleep, the brain “disconnects” us from our body and causes our muscles to relax (muscular atony). Sometimes, when we wake up suddenly, the brain may not recognize this act and therefore does not send responses that warn the body that he himself is awake; This is one of the causes of sleep paralysis.
An episode of paralysis occurs when between the sleep-wake transition the subject is conscious but because the muscles are relaxed -because the REM sleep stage has not yet finished-, he cannot speak, nor move his limbs, body or head.
According to livescience »There are several things that can cause episodes of sleep paralysis. For example: sleep deprivation, some medications, and some sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are some triggers. Additionally, sleep paralysis is commonly seen in narcolepsy patients , said Dr. Shelby Harris, director of Sleep Behavioral Medicine at Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York. “
Rarely is sleep paralysis related to deep underlying psychiatric problems. According to studies, about 45% of people suffer from it, some more frequently and others less.
Symptoms of sleep paralysis
Sleep paralysis episodes can generally last for seconds or minutes and can end when someone touches or speaks to you. They can also end up of their own free will, making an intense effort to move their limbs or some part of their body.
When suffering from this type of paralysis, the subject may feel anxious and fearful because they do not have enough strength to control their body and on some occasions they may also have hallucinations.
The symptoms most commonly experienced by those who suffer from this paralysis are:
- inability to move the body when falling asleep or waking up
- being consciously awake in episodes but not being able to speak
- difficulty breathing
- feelings of death
- headaches , muscle aches, and paranoia
- feeling of suffocation or being strangled
- feeling of a strange, evil presence and voices in the room
- sensation of being grabbed by the feet or hands
- increased heart rate and a feeling of pressure in the chest
- feeling of fear
Sleep paralysis and its relationship with narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. This sleep disorder causes excessive and uncontrollable daytime sleepiness and sudden bouts of falling asleep during the day. It is caused by a dysfunction of the brain mechanism that controls the sleep-wake cycle.
Some scientists believe that narcolepsy may be due to a deficiency in the production of a chemical called hypocretin in the brain . If you have narcolepsy, you can have “sleep attacks” in the middle of a conversation, at work, or even while driving.
One of the frequent symptoms of narcolepsy is a sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to feelings of weakness and a loss of voluntary muscle control, this loss of muscle control is called sleep paralysis.
A direct relationship has been found between narcolepsy and sleep paralysis , the latter being considered a symptom of the former. When an individual with narcolepsy experiences episodes of sleep paralysis, they experience temporary difficulties moving or speaking while sleeping or waking up. At the end of the episodes, people quickly regain their ability to move and speak.
When should I see a specialist?
A specialist should be consulted if symptoms leave you very tired during the day and persist overnight for several days. It is also advisable to consult a specialist if the symptoms in addition to persisting generate alterations in the rhythm of life or in the management of daily life, mood changes, irritability, constant fear that the same episode will happen again or begin to suffer from others sleep disorders – such as insomnia -.
Treatment of sleep paralysis
For most people there is no specific treatment for sleep paralysis. The key is prevention and treatment of the underlying causes.
Some of the recommendations to help reduce episodes of sleep paralysis are:
- Reduce stress and improve sleep habits (get enough sleep).
- The use of antidepressant medication, if prescribed, can help regulate sleep cycles .
- Conduct daytime or nighttime sleep studies with a specialist to make sure you don’t have another sleep disorder.
- Do not drink alcohol or consume caffeine at night.
- Relax with a soaking bath or exercise during the day.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.