Understanding Sleep Paralysis

Dr. Dan JensenSleep

Understanding Sleep Paralysis

Dr. Dan Jensen

Following the completion of his undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University, Dr. Dan Jensen trekked to the University of Nebraska, where he received his dental degree in 1996. After he received his degree, he worked with his dad (Dr. Bruce Jensen) for five years until he moved to Alaska, where he practiced dentistry for six years. Utah family life soon called his name again and Dr. Jensen moved back to Utah where he opened up his own practice in Kaysville, UT.
Dr. Dan Jensen

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Sleep paralysis occurs when a person wakes up and is aware of their surroundings, yet they are unable to move or speak. These episodes do not typically last more than just a few minutes and can be either a single episode or reoccurring. In order to seek help and look into treatment options, you should always visit your physician to get a referral to a sleep specialist. A specialist will be able to look further into your sleep paralysis while exploring a variety of different treatment options in hopes to find the most suitable one for you.

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

  • Voluntary Muscles- Sleep paralysis may occur when your voluntary muscles relax and refuse to move.
  • Dreams- Your body trying to prevent itself from acting out in a dream or nightmare.
  • REM- Sleep paralysis can occur when you are transitioning from REM to full consciousness.
  • PTSD- Common symptoms of PTSD can consist of nightmares which in return, causes sleep paralysis.
  • Lack of Sleep- When your body is lacking sleep, sleep paralysis can occur when switching from consciousness to REM. It is important to take the time to nap during the day if you find that you are not getting enough sleep during the night hours.

Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis

  • The feeling of not being able to move; almost as if your body is completely paralized.
  • Being aware of your surroundings while not being able to move or speak.
  • Hallucinations the moment you wake up.
  • The feeling of extreme fear.
  • The feeling of pressure weighing down on top of your body.
  • Feeling like you are choking or unable to breath in oxygen.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for sleep paralysis are given by a sleep specialist and include medications, self-care, and nutritional changes. In order to find out what treatment options are best for you, a sleep specialist will conduct a sleep study in order to find out what time you are experiencing the symptoms and how long they are keeping you up for during the night. Although medications can be administered to help regulate your sleep cycle, it is also important to practice self-care and change your diet to practice healthier options. The medications that are commonly prescribed for sleep paralysis are anti-depressants as they seemingly are very beneficial to a person’s sleep cycle if taken at the time specified by a sleep specialist.

Benefits of Sleep Paralysis Treatment

  • Regular Sleep Cycle- By seeking treatment for your sleep paralysis you are allowing your body to get on a normal sleep cycle. By having a regular sleep cycle, your immune system will greatly increase and your body will be less tired throughout the day. This will also allow your mind to think clearly without lagging.
  • Reducing Fear and Anxiety- Sleep paralysis can cause extreme fear and anxiety which can be very stressful on your body and mind, causing you to fear falling asleep. By seeking treatment, you can eliminate this fear and anxiety through medications, self-care, and diet changes.
  • Decreasing The Stress in Your Life- Sleep paralysis causes your sleep cycle to become irregular which causes your body to become severely fatigued and worn down. Once this happens, you will constantly feel overwhelmed with stress. Once your sleep cycle is regulated, your stress will quickly start to subside.

When Should You Start Seeking Treatment?

Sleep paralysis has occurred to 25%-50% of citizens in the United States. Although in most cases the episode had only occurred once, in others they were reoccurring. If you have experienced the symptoms of sleep paralysis more than once and you feel that it is starting to affect your regular sleep schedule and everyday life, it may be time to seek help from a sleep specialist. If you avoid seeking treatment, your sleep paralysis may start to affect other areas of your life including work, school, and family relationships. Before the symptoms start to take over your everyday life, reach out to your physician for a referral to a sleep specialist so you can receive the care you need.