Sleep paralysis describes a temporary state of immobility in which you may feel awake but cannot move. It is estimated that 75% of sleep paralysis episodes involve hallucinations and, sometimes, it can feel like someone is in your bedroom or that there is a great pressure on your chest.
While it can be a frightening experience and there is no set range for how long sleep paralysis lasts, it is only a few minutes on average and is ultimately harmless, but let’s delve into the details.
Research suggests that sleep paralysis features a mixed state of consciousness, making an individual experience elements of sleep and wakefulness at the same time.
Sleep paralysis occurs when your body begins the relaxation and sleep process, but your mind does not at the same pace. Although during normal sleep you would be unable to move, this is something you’re never aware of because your mind is also unconscious. During sleep paralysis, however, your mind is still active enough to be aware of this inability to move.
Connected to the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, sleep paralysis involves a short loss of muscle control. This is known as atonia. Usually, atonia occurs in REM sleep along with vivid dreaming. After which, you wake up before you’re aware of the loss of movement.
For more information on the full sleep cycle, check out our blog: How Does the Sleep Cycle Work?
When experiencing sleep paralysis, the best way to wake up is simply to wait. Counting to 100 can make this easier by keeping the mind active and consciously passing the time. You could also attempt to open your mouth or wiggle a finger or toe in order to regain control of your body.
While it’s unclear what causes sleep paralysis, it has been linked to sleep disorders (such as insomnia and narcolepsy), PTSD, anxiety or panic disorders, and disrupted sleeping patterns. It is also known that a family history of sleep paralysis can increase the likelihood of you experiencing, too.
Other night-time ailments have also been associated with higher rates of sleep paralysis, such as obstructive sleep apnoea, night-time leg cramps, jet lag, or working shifts.
There are only two types of sleep paralysis: that which occurs as an isolated incident, or recurringly. It can occur at any age, but those who have repeat episodes may experience more in their 20s and 30s.
A healthy night of sleep is the best way to prevent or treat sleep paralysis. Our best tips for how to avoid sleep paralysis include:
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption in the evening
- Putting away electronic devices before bed
- Keeping to a routine and schedule
- Going to bed at the same time every night
- Having black-out curtains and soundproofing your bedroom to have minimal light and sound intrusion
The main things that the NHS recommend for preventing sleep paralysis are getting 6 to 8 hours of sleep a day, going to bed and waking up at the same time each night and morning, and getting regular exercise (more than four hours before bed).
One way in which you can treat sleep paralysis is with a mattress and pillow combination that suits you best. From our comfortable open coil mattresses to memory foam and hybrids, at Mattressman, we have a mattress that’s right for everyone.