What are the causes of sleep paralysis and how to prevent them

Sleep paralysis happens when you temporarily can not speak and your body is unable to move or react with anything while dozing to sleep or waking up, even while being conscious all this time. It is a medical condition and considered as a sleep disorder under the category of parasomnia, or having unusual behavior while sleeping. This condition is called hypnagogic or predormital if it happens before you fall asleep, and hypnopompic or post-dormital if you experience it waking up.

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

When we fall asleep, our body relaxes and go through the 4 stages of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) until we fall asleep completely. When we dream in the rapid eye movement (REM)phase, our brain automatically release a chemical called glycine and GABA that would paralyze our muscles so we won’t act our dreams out.

Sleep paralysis happens while we are falling asleep when we started dreaming before completely dozing off. It creates a void between being awake and asleep, and we skip the other phases of NREM and immediately proceed to REM.

If it happens when you wake up, it means you wake up before the REM stage is finish. Again, there is a void between sleeping and being completely awake. This may happen when the nerves that wake you up are underactive, hence your brain delays releasing your muscles.

Risk Factors of Sleep Paralysis

  • Sleep Disorders

People suffering from other sleep disorders like leg cramps while sleeping, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, are the ones usually experience sleep paralysis.

  • Genetics

If any of your parents have had sleep paralysis before, then there is a high possibility that you may experience it too because you, as their child, inherited their genes.

  • Sleep Position

Researches suggest that sleep paralysis occurs on people usually sleeps on their backs. One research from the University of Waterloo even suggest that 60% of sleep paralysis cases indeed happens with people who sleeps with their back lying flat on the bad or floor.

  • Trauma

If you were traumatized before, or if you’re currently having PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, then there is a high possibility of you experiencing sleep paralysis.

  • Disrupted Sleep Cycle

Every person has his own body clock. Meaning, there is a time when he will feel sleepy, and a time when he will wake up. It’s like our body is used to this waking up and sleeping cycle. However, if in any circumstances, our sleep cycle keeps on being disrupted, then it will also affect our circadian rhythm. When this happens, it is more likely that you would experience sleep paralysis.

  • Mental Illness

Different mental illnesses may trigger sleep paralysis. So if you had anxiety or panic disorder before, the tendency is you might hallucinate if you experienced sleep paralysis. This sleep disorder is also a cause of anxiety, and is closely linked to depression.

How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is not really dangerous, hence no medications are necessary. However, you can always visit a doctor if the sleep disorder is stressing you out or making you feel anxious. This time, you may be prescribed with with medications that would make you sleep better. Aside from that, however, there are many other things that you can do to avoid having sleep paralysis. Here are some of them:

  • As much as you can, do not sleep on your back.
  • Do not disrupt your sleep cycle by staying up too late and waking up too early. Stick to your own body clock.
  • Make sure you are not using any gadget 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.

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