Sleep Paralysis

The answer would vary depending on how frequent sleep paralysis happens. If it rarely occurs, then sleep paralysis would be like any other sleep disorders we occasionally experience and thus you should not be unnecessarily alarmed. To cite a few examples, sleeplessness, night terrors and soft whispering during sleep. These are all bound to happen once or twice in a person’s life due to slight disruptions that may occur to our sleep cycle, whether caused by external (loud noise that partially wakes one up) or internal factors (stress or unusual brain condition during a fever).

However, if sleep paralysis often happens, then one should refer his of herself to a specialist as this may be considered as a form of sleep disorder. Frequent sleep paralysis occurrences are sometimes associated with another sleep disorder called narcolepsy. A layman’s term for this disorder would be ‘daytime sleepiness’. To read more about this disorder, click on the link below.

Some may confuse sleep paralysis with awareness during sleep paralysis. While sleep paralysis is just part of a normal sleep cycle that is experienced by just about anyone who falls into a slumber, sleep paralysis is when sleep paralysis occurs while one is awake and can be considered as a form of sleep disorder if it happens frequently.

Let me give you a brief explanation of what sleep paralysis is and why it plays a vital role in our nightly sleep cycle or even in naps during the day. Sleep paralysis is an event triggered by our brain to temporarily paralyze every single part of our body while we are asleep. It happens during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of our sleep cycle. This phase of our sleep is when our mind wanders into dreams and imaginations, processing thoughts and events that we have been through during the day. In order to hinder any form of movement by ourselves while the mind works behind the scene, almost every single muscle in our body is disabled. Therefore, we are somewhat ‘paralyzed’. A more accurate term to describe this stage of our sleep cycle would be REM atonia, or REM sleep paralysis.

Notice that it would only be normal if REM sleep paralysis occurs while we are deeply asleep. Unfortunately, disruptions to our natural sleep cycle may occur occasionally. Some people may still be in the REM sleep paralysis stage when they wake up – they awaken without the ability to move. This is then categorized as sleep paralysis . Those who are not aware of the scientific explanation behind this occurrence may then subscribe to superstitious views about this sleep disorder. Now that you have read up to this part, I presume that you are less anxious about the whole situation if you have had sleep paralysis . The diagram below is a visual aid to help you understand the explanation that follows.

The first diagram represents the sleep cycle of a healthy sleeper. The REM stage and REM sleep paralysis stage occurs simultaneously. When the person awakens, the brain automatically puts an end to REM sleep paralysis. He regains his ability to move and speak as per normal. On the other hand, the second diagram shows the sleep cycle of a person who experiences sleep paralysis . While the brain appropriately triggers REM sleep paralysis when the mind enters the REM stage, it somehow forgets to undo the sleep paralysis mechanism when the person awakens. Therefore, the person wakes up to find that he is paralyzed.

Sleep Paralysis-Introduction

by The Sleeps Well Team on

in Sleep Paralysis

Coming to your senses after a sleep and realizing that you cannot mobilize a single part of your body can be quite a dreadful experience.  It is as if you are paralyzed from the tip of your toes up to the crown of your head. To make the whole ordeal more painful, your fear for the worst – whether  is it an evil witch sitting on you or your nightmare of waking up dead finally turning into reality– brings you into the wildest of hallucinations that may seem absolutely real to you at that point in time.

Been in the above situation? Relax. Horrifying as it may seem it is just an episode of a slight disruption of your usual sleep cycle and is perhaps experienced by many around the world. Scientifically, this phenomenon is known as awareness during sleep paralysis (ASP), but before we delve any deeper into this topic, here is a simple analogy that links ASP to our usual sleep cycle:

You fall asleep and start dreaming. To stop yourself from making bodily movements or sounds according to your dreams, your brain is triggered to tie and gag you up (a normal process that occurs in all sleep cycles; it is called sleep paralysis). However, in some instances, your brain forgets to free your body when you awaken; temporarily disabling your muscles even when you have gained full awareness, thus the term ‘awareness during sleep paralysis ’. You continue to struggle to no avail for about ten seconds until your brain decides to undo the locking mechanism.

The above scenario describes an occurrence of ASP. Read on to get a better grasp of this sleep disorder.