Locked in Limbo: What Causes Sleep Paralysis

by Jul 7, 2023Relaxium Sleep, Sleep Tips, Wellness

Jul 7, 2023

Discover the mysterious phenomenon of sleep paralysis and unravel its enigmatic causes. We are going to delve into the realms of the mind as we explore this intriguing condition, shedding light on the underlying factors that trigger these unsettling experiences. 

Have you ever experienced the sensation of being awake but unable to move, as if trapped between consciousness and sleep? If so, you’ve likely encountered the perplexing phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. 

Join us as we embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries behind this intriguing condition. From scientific explanations to cultural beliefs and personal anecdotes, we’ll delve into the various factors that contribute to the occurrence of sleep paralysis. Prepare to dive into the depths of the subconscious and unlock the secrets that lie within the enigmatic realm of sleep paralysis.

What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon that occurs during the transition between sleep and wakefulness. It is characterized by a temporary inability to move or speak. Often a person will feel a sense of being immobilized or trapped. 

During an episode of sleep paralysis, a person may also experience vivid hallucinations, a feeling of pressure in their chest, and an overwhelming sense of fear or dread. 

There are two distinct states of sleep paralysis:

These episodes can last from a few seconds to minutes, which can leave a person feeling distressed and disoriented.  

What can sleep paralysis feel like?

When experiencing sleep paralysis, the brain and body are in a state of temporary disconnection. This happens due to the disruption in the normal sleep cycle, particularly during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage; this is where dreaming occurs. 

During REM sleep, the body experiences muscle atonia, which is a natural paralysis that prevents us from physically acting out our dreams. With sleep paralysis, the muscle atonia persists, even when the mind becomes alert. This leads to the sensation of being unable to move. 

  • Immobility 
  • Hallucinations
  • Pressure/ weight on the chest 
  • Fear and dread
  • Sensory distortions
  • Sensations of floating or out-of-body experiences

These are just a couple of the feelings that a person who is experiencing sleep paralysis can undergo. 

muscle atonia

What causes sleep paralysis?

There is a combination of biological, neurological, and environmental factors that can cause sleep paralysis. These include:

  • Disruption of sleep cycles
  • REM sleep intrusion
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Medications and substance use

Disruption of sleep cycles

As we stated, sleep paralysis will most often occur during the transition between sleep stages; specifically rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is where dreaming occurs. Disruption of the normal sleep schedule can increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep paralysis.

Sleep deprivation and an irregular sleep schedule are two large factors that can impact the likelihood of sleep paralysis.

REM sleep intrusion

When we experience REM sleep, the brain will send signals to inhibit muscle movement. This is the muscle atonia we were referencing before. In sleep paralysis, the muscle atonia will persist even when the mind is partially or fully awake. 

This can lead to the persisting sensation of being immobilized. 

Sleep disorders

Some sleep disorders can have a strong association with sleep disorders. One in particular, Narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a neurological condition that is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden episodes of falling asleep. Sleep paralysis can occur alongside narcolepsy. 

Stress and anxiety

In general, high levels of stress and anxiety are damaging to the body. As far as sleep paralysis is concerned, high levels of stress, anxiety, and emotional disturbances can contribute to the occurrence of sleep paralysis. 

These factors can disrupt sleep patterns and increase the likelihood of experiencing episodes. 

stress and anxiety

Medications and substance use

Certain medications used to treat sleep disorders or psychiatric conditions can influence sleep patterns, which at times can increase the risk of sleep paralysis. 

Substance use, including alcohol and drugs, can also disrupt sleep and contribute to sleep paralysis episodes. Avoid consuming these in large amounts as they are damaging to the sleep schedule in general. 

Ways to decrease the chances of sleep paralysis

Though it can be difficult, there are changes that can be made to decrease the chances of sleep paralysis. These lifestyle changes include:

  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule: Establishing a sleep schedule helps to regulate the body’s internal clock which helps to promote healthier sleep patterns. If you struggle to do this, consider Relaxium Sleep. Relaxium Sleep is a sleep supplement designed to help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed and alert. 
  • Prioritizing sufficient sleep: Sufficient sleep is different from getting sleep. When we say sufficient sleep we say to get a minimum of 6 hours or a recommended 8 hours of sleep. This can help to reduce sleep disturbances and minimize the risk of sleep paralysis. 
  • Create a sleep-friendly environment: A sleep-friendly environment can help to improve sleep by making changes to make yourself and your body feel comfortable as you are trying to sleep. This can be anything from new furniture to ear plugs, to room temperature. 
  • Managing stress and anxiety: Engaging in stress-reducing activities can help to alleviate anxiety and promote better relaxation before bed. 
  • Practicing good sleep hygiene: Adopt habits that promote better sleep such as taking a warm bath, reading a book, or limiting technology before bed. 
  • Talk to a healthcare professional: In the case that sleep paralysis is significantly impacting your quality of life, speaking to a healthcare professional can make quite a difference. They can help to provide guidance and evaluate your sleep health to find potential treatment options. 

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Get ahead of sleep paralysis; do not let it control you

Sleep paralysis can be a very scary experience. It can entirely affect your perspective on sleep. Get ahead of sleep paralysis by understanding it and taking measures to reduce the chances of it happening to you again. 

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To restful and healthy days ahead. 

The Relaxium Team 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.