Sleep Paralysis – Overview & Facts
Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis is a parasomnia. A parasomnia involves undesired events that come along with sleep. Sleep paralysis causes you to be unable to move your body at either of the two following times:
- When falling asleep (hypnagogic or predormital form)
- When waking up from sleep (hypnopompic or postdormital form)
Normally your brain causes your muscles to relax and be still as you sleep. This is called “atonia.” Sleep paralysis seems to be when this atonia occurs while you are awake. Sleep paralysis is “isolated” when it appears without any other signs of narcolepsy.
An episode of paralysis may cause you to be unable to speak. It can also make you unable to move your arms and legs, body, and head. You are still able to breathe normally. You are also fully aware of what is happening. An episode can last for seconds or minutes. The episode usually ends on its own. It may also end when someone touches you or speaks to you. Making an intense effort to move can also end an episode. Sleep paralysis may occur only once in your life. It may also happen many times in a year.
It can be very scary when you are unable to move. You may feel anxious and afraid. Some people also hallucinate during an episode. They may see, hear or feel things that are not there. They may even think that another person is in the room with them. These hallucinations may also appear without the sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis tends to first appear in the teen years. It then occurs most often when you are in your 20s and 30s. It may continue into your later years. It is not a serious medical risk.
Sleep paralysis can be one sign of narcolepsy. Other signs include disturbed sleep at night and falling asleep suddenly during the day. Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis does not disturb your sleep.