What You Should Know About Sleep Paralysis

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Ever heard of sleep paralysis? It’s a sleep issue that affects around 3 million people each year, and it sounds seriously unpleasant. Basically, during sleep paralysis, your mind is awake but your body is not. You can breathe and see, but you cannot move or speak. This lasts from anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

Here’s how the whole thing works. When you enter a phase of sleep called REM sleep, your brain signals to your body that your voluntary muscles should “relax,” and go into a paralysis-like state called atonia. This stops your body from “acting out” things that happen in your REM dreams like running, kicking, and so on.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

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When sleep paralysis occurs, something goes haywire and your muscles remain in atonia, while your mind is awake and your eyes are open. According to WebMD, some people may feel a “choking” sensation or heavy pressure on their chest.

“It can be very scary when you are unable to move,” the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s sleep education website explains. “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.”

Related: How Your Sleep Cycle Works

While sleep paralysis can be scary, it has no long-term effects and is generally not a sign of any serious illness. Some people may experience it only once or twice, while others may experience is more regularly. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep paralysis episodes can be common in people who have narcolepsy, and WebMD says that other factors like stress, lack of sleep, and substance abuse may be relevant.

WebMD says that most people won’t require treatment for sleep paralysis. But if it’s happening to you regularly, and really disturbing your sleep or causing a lot of anxiety, chat with your doctor about any concerns.

[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]

Featured image: Fotos593/Shutterstock

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Joe Auer

Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.

He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.

Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.