Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
Sleep paralysis (sleepy stupor) – a condition characterized by temporary paralysis with preserved consciousness; usually occurs when falling asleep or upon awakening. This pathology is often accompanied by complex hallucinations and intense fear. Sleep paralysis occurs in 5–40% of people aged 12–30 years, most common among people with narcolepsy…
Sleepy stupor is considered to be physically harmless, however, not understanding the essence with its regular experience is a significant psychological trauma.
History of Sleep Paralysis
The mention of sleep paralysis can be found in different cultures. Among the Slavic peoples, it is associated with Mara (kikimora), a moth (demon) that jumps on her chest in the middle of the night to warn of good or bad.
In Mexico they say “the corpse climbed on me”, in Newfoundland (Canada) they call this condition “the old witch”, in the Muslim tradition, sleep paralysis is attributed to the tricks of the genies.
This pathology served as the basis for a series of works by the Swiss-English artist Henry Fuseli “Nightmare”. In four paintings, the artist depicted a sleeping woman with an incubus on her chest (in medieval legends – a dissolute demon) – the embodiment of unconscious fears.
Sleep paralysis signs and symptoms:
- Inability to move for a few seconds to several minutes;
- Preservation of consciousness;
- Inability to speak;
- Hallucinations and frightening sensations;
- Feeling of pressure on the chest, movement of the bed, opening doors;
- The inability to separate reality from fiction;
- Feeling of impending death;
- Intense sweating;
- Headache and muscle pain;
Sleep paralysis usually occurs when a person sleeps on their back. The predisposing factors of pathology are excessive stress, overexcitation, biorhythm disturbance after a long flight, changes in sleep patterns and concomitant panic disorders.
This pathology can be a symptom of other diseases: depression, migraine, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, arterial hypertension and anxiety disorders.
Since sleep paralysis often occurs against the background of uncontrolled chronic stress and sleep disturbances, the correction of this condition is primarily associated with the elimination of these factors.
Hypnotic episodes characteristic of sleep paralysis are of 3 types:
- Sensations of the presence of an “intruder”: opening doors, shuffling of feet, a person in the shadows
- a Humanoid, a foreigner, etc
- Incubus: feeling of pressure on the chest, difficulty breathing, suffocation, sexual assault;
vestibulo-motor hallucinations: a feeling of falling, swimming, flying, hovering over one’s body.
Sleep paralysis is based on the processes of desynchronization of the brain and muscle activity during REM sleep.
During this period, the parts of the brain responsible for identifying situations which threaten a person are in a state of heightened sensitivity, perceiving ordinary sounds and other stimuli, usually ignored by the brain, as a potential danger.
Advice for Avoiding Sleep Paralysis
- Even on weekends and holidays, adhere to the same “sleep – wakefulness” regime;
- Create favorable conditions for sleeping: a comfortable mattress, bedding and underwear, as well as a clean, dark, cool bedroom;
- Reduce the brightness of lighting in the evening hours, as well as provide dim night lighting;
- Intense daylight;
- Avoid daytime nap after 15.00, limit its duration to ≤90 minutes;
- Do not eat 2 hours before bedtime, refrain from drinking alcohol and caffeine in the evening;
- Daily exercise, but no later than 2 hours before bedtime;
- Create a ritual with soothing activities before bed, such as listening to calm music, reading, etc.
- Avoid viewing media and networks at least 1 hour before bedtime.
Genetic and Sleep Paralysis
Scientists conducted studies with single-celled twins and determined the incidence of sleep paralysis.
It turned out that a particular gene that is responsible for sleep cycles is associated with this unpleasant phenomenon. Research on this is not over, there is still a long work to be done in this area.
Even if genetics does play a role, you shouldn’t be upset. A person who monitors his health and keeps himself in good shape has nothing to be afraid of.
Prevention can also help shorten the episodes. Sleep with the window open to allow fresh air to enter the room. Eliminate bad habits that adversely affect your body and eat right.
How to act when You get a Sleep Paralysis?
- You need to mentally calm and relax yourself;
do not resist the constraining force. Active attempts to free themselves only lead to even more terrible feelings of stiffness and helplessness;
- “Start” those parts of the body that are responding. For example, move your eyes, tongue, ears, fingers. It can help in regaining control of the body;
- Give food to the working brain, doing any intellectual work like retelling fairy tales, multiplying in the mind or trying to remember the capitals of neighboring states.
Sleep Paralysis Risks
Nocturnal pathology is safe for health, after an attack, the heartbeat and breathing is restored. But frequent cases can cause consequences in the form of mental disorders and ailments.
The main thing is not to dwell on the problem. There is no need to associate a natural phenomenon with something mystical. Paralysis goes away on its own, or it can occur once in a lifetime, for example, due to the fact that you slept on your back all night (a position in which sleep paralysis most often occurs)..
Only a neurologist or somnologist can give a comprehensive recommendation. If necessary, they will conduct polysomnography, psychological tests, CT / MRI of the brain, etc.
The composition of further measures will depend on the condition of the person seeking help. Supplements and vitamins can be prescribed, physiotherapy procedures, etc. can also be taken. You can also take the following vitamins & supplements for improving your Sleep:
This is the best form for assimilation in the form of citrate, reliable firm
Vitamin D3 action:
– Ensures normal growth and development of the bones, prevents the development of rickets and osteoporosis, by regulating mineral metabolism;
– Promotes muscle tone, increases immunity, is necessary for the functioning of the thyroid gland and normal blood clotting;
– Helps the body to restore the protective sheaths surrounding the nerves;
– Participates in the regulation of blood pressure and heart rate;
– Inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
– Improves your sleep quality
Some of the main symptoms of low iron levels are fatigue and sleep disturbance. Low iron levels are believed to be a major risk factor for restless legs syndrome, which can also cause insomnia. Low iron levels can also contribute to the feeling of anxiety, which can significantly impair your sleep.
Foods high in iron – lean beef, oysters, chicken, turkey, beans and lentils, tofu, baked potatoes, cashews, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and whole grain breads.
The level of research of iron in the body can be measured in a laboratory way. If it’s low, it makes sense to consider nutrient intake.
Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body that causes drowsiness. If you are having trouble falling asleep, a 2-week melatonin supplement can help normalize your circadian rhythm.
After this period, experts recommend that you stop taking this supplement and gauge how your body responds to the changes.
You can help the production of melatonin before bed by a few simple methods – for example, avoiding bright lights.
Theanine is an amazing amino acid that is involved in the synthesis of important neurotransmitters (dopamine, GABA, and serotonin) which regulate sleep and nervous arousal.
Experts believe that having enough theanine in the body can help improve sleep quality, induce drowsiness and speed up the time it takes to fall asleep. Amino acid is found in tea leaves, especially green tea, and some types of mushrooms.