Sleep paralysis: what is it and what are the causes

The sleep paralysis It is within the international classification of sleep disorders, it is within the group of parasomnias.

It is a condition in which the person cannot move or speak when barely falling asleep or waking up, that is to say is the temporary inability to perform any type of voluntary movement. It appears in the transitions between the state of sleep and wakefulness.

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The unusual thing about this disorder is that you are fully aware of what is happening. The person's brain is awake but the body is not. The person who is under this paralysis is cognitively awake but his physical side is not, experiencing this sensation of paralysis in almost all the muscles, except the eyes and the respiratory diaphragm.

That is why these episodes can be lived with great anguish since people do not usually understand well what is happening and they do not understand why there is no possible voluntary movement. While it is puzzling and causes a lot of anxiety, sleep paralysis is not serious nor is it a paranormal phenomenon.

How long are the episodes?

Its duration is variable. They are generally of a short duration, between twenty seconds to two minutes. The important thing is that the patient knows that he is not in danger and that after this period of time, the paralysis will subside spontaneously and without consequences.

2) The first time you suffer from this disorder, it may happen that the person believes that he is dead or that he has suffered a transient ischemic accident. This is normal since you cannot move any part of your body. But as we have said before, although it causes a lot of anxiety and anguish, it is not serious.

Why it happens?

To understand what this paralysis is, we must understand how the sleep mechanism works. The sleep cycle consists of two stages. REM (rapid eye movement stage) and NON-REM (no rapid eye movement). A person does between 4 and 6 cycles per night. In the first part of the night the REM stadium predominates and in the second part of the night the NON-REM stage. This is normal sleep.

During the REM period you have very high brain activity, similar to what you have when you are awake. Since there is a lot of mental activity, which The body performs is to tone the muscles in a certain way and thus prevent us from moving while we sleep. In other words, having isolated muscles is useful for not moving according to what we are dreaming about.

Sleep paralysis occurs when there is a delay in the appearance of muscle tone. Thus, the person wakes up and can only move the eyes. There is no illness or injury, it is simply a functional alteration in the return of muscle tone as an exit from REM.

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the causes

While the exact cause of sleep paralysis is not known, research shows that these may be some of its possible causes:

1) Not getting enough sleep or sleep deprivation

2) Having irregular sleep-wake schedules (for example, those who do night hours or rotating shifts)

3) sleeping on your back

4) Go through a moment of stress

5) Jet lag

How to prevent these episodes?

The key is not to panic. We can prevent paralysis from appearing by getting enough sleep, having regular sleep schedules, practicing some type of meditation or mindfulness to reduce stress, not sleeping on our back, doing relaxation techniques before going to bed, but above all don't think about this when we're about to sleep.

and you, have you ever experienced this paralysis?