Sleep Paralysis: What is it and how can you prevent it?

What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a temporary loss of muscle function where you cannot move or speak even though you are conscious. In addition to this, you may feel as though someone is pushing you down and that you are unable to open your eyes. This generally happens when you are waking up or as you are falling asleep. According to WebMD, in most cases, sleep paralysis is a ‘sign that your body is not moving smoothly through the stages of sleep.’ Furthermore, it is estimated that as many as 4 out of 10 people may experience sleep paralysis.

Although it is unknown what causes sleep paralysis, the following factors are seen as being potentially linked to the condition:

  • Insomnia
  • Disrupted sleeping patterns
  • Narcolepsy
  • Nighttime leg cramps
  • Use of certain medications (such as those for ADHD)
  • Substance abuse
  • Panic disorder
  • General anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Family history of sleep paralysis
It is to be expected that those who experience sleep paralysis may initially feel scared and frightened. While the experience in itself is not harmful, it can be emotionally distressing.

How can you prevent it? 

Healthline explains that one can minimize the symptoms or the frequency of sleep paralysis by trying to enforce the following lifestyle changes:

  • Find the stressors in your life and work to eliminate them
  • Exercise regularly but not close to bedtime (4 hours before going to bed)
  • Get sufficient rest (6-8 hours of sleep a day)
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule (try to sleep and get up at the same time every day)
  • Keep track of medications you take for any conditions
  • Know the side effects and interactions of your different medications so you can avoid potential side effects, including sleep paralysis
  • Do not sleep on your back
  • Consider seeing a therapist for trauma counseling
  • Try yoga and breathing exercises
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