sleep paralysis

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Definition - What does sleep paralysis mean?

Sleep paralysis is a condition that causes a person to be unable to speak or move as they transition between sleep and wakefulness and can be very unsettling. In some cases of sleep paralysis, the individual may experience a sense of fear or dread. Visual, auditory and other sensory hallucinations may also accompany an episode of sleep paralysis. Because events of sleep paralysis occur during light-stage sleep, it is classified as a type of REM parasomnia.

When sleep paralysis occurs as a person is falling asleep, it is called hypnagogic or predormital paralysis. Sleep paralysis that occurs at waking is called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.

SureHire explains sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis may occur only once or twice in a person's life or be recurring. During sleep paralysis, the individual is aware of their immediate environment but unable to interact with it. The person may feel pressure on their chest, making it difficult to breathe, but the condition does not prevent the person from breathing. The causes of sleep paralysis have not been clearly identified. Most researchers believe that the condition is related to the transitioning process that occurs between phases waking and sleeping. However, sleep paralysis is sometimes associated with other sleep disorders including narcolepsy.

There is some evidence that sleep paralysis is more likely to occur when an individual's normal sleep schedule is disrupted or they are experiencing a sleep deficit. Individuals with bipolar disorder may experience sleep paralysis. Substance abuse, the use of some prescription medications and sleep on one's back have also been linked to episodes of sleep paralysis. One of the first lines of treatment for chronic sleep paralysis is for the sufferer to adjust his or her sleep habits to ensure restful and complete sleep. In some instances, a sleep study may be used to evaluate a person believed to be experiencing sleep paralysis.

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