What is Sleep Paralysis?

November 11, 2008

in Sleep Paralysis, Sleeping Disorders

Episodes of sleep paralysis are indeed terrifying and the person who suffers from this ailment is unable to move around or call for help. It is vital to seek proper medical care, once the symptoms are recognized to prevent more serious problems.

Imagine if you can’t move when sleeping! How terrifying it can be.Sleep paralysis is quite a disturbing phenomenon and a person suffering from it, is unable to move while sleeping, as he or she experiences partial paralysis even when fully conscious. There is no particular reason as to why this affects some people and not others. However, for those who have experienced it, it can be quite unpleasant. Some of them may even hesitate in seeking help as they are unsure of how to describe this peculiar condition.

People with this disorder experience sleep apnea when they are just about to fall asleep or have just woken up from a sleep. Their whole body seems to be possessed by some external force. This quite naturally arouses fear when one notices the inability to move the body for no apparent reason whatsoever. For people facing such issues when sleeping, it can appear to be even supernatural at first instance.

In sleep apnea, a whooshing reverberation in the ears, an increase in heart rate, panic and a feeling of being trapped in the room are some common symptoms experienced. Struggle for breath, sound of whispers in the ears and a feeling of floating in the air are some common things that happen when sleeping as experienced by people suffering from this sleep disorder. It is advisable to seek timely help in case any of the said symptoms are noticed. A number of effective drugs are available that help in regulating sleep patterns and promote steady sleep cycles.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Simplyme November 12, 2008 at 12:38 am

Sleep paralysis is a terrifying thing to experience. My eldest brother (35) suffers from this condition and has been hesitant to seek help for it for fear someone thinks he is crazy. I had not heard much about it so I appreciate you taking the time to write such an informative article.


Robin Green November 12, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I had heard of this before. It was told to me that you felt awake yet still asleep. Are they different?


jimmys devoted November 13, 2008 at 2:27 am

My husband had a single episode of sleep paralysis. It was scary enough for him to be cautious. I know so many doctors say its something that is made up, but according to the MERCK diagnostic handbook they explain it as the body releaseing too much brain chemical for normal sleep paralysis.
They have had some luck with two new drugs, but they are only available at sleep clinics who treat this seriously.


lilymom24 November 16, 2008 at 10:32 am

I have never heard of sleep paralysis before but I can imagine it would be a terrifying experience. I can also see why some would feel reluctant to bring it up to their physician. Maybe it would help to print out some information to take in to the dr. appointment with them. I would think a sleep clinic would be aware of this type of disorder if one could get a referral to one.


jhellie_baby November 28, 2008 at 4:53 am

I know of someone who died when he was sleeping. No one ever knew what caused his death. Some said it was due to sleep paralysis. I’m just a bit confused. Can sleep paralysis really cause death? Can it go to an extent that your respiratory organs are also paralyzed during the episode?


julia December 4, 2008 at 3:27 pm

There are four chemicals that are released by the brain during sleep. One acts like anesthesia and paralysis your body just enough to prevent problems. One complication is when this chemical is released as is the other three sleep apnea can become a normal event. If a person is not monitored for reduced respiration during sleep, during the paralysis phase it can be affected and he fails to wake up.
Hence a person can die not form paralysis itself but from secondary complications of the sleep process.
There is a however another explanation more religious in nature about sleep paralysis. I suggest that you google the idea of sleep possession. There is a an entire set of cases, documented that cannot be explained in any other way other than sleep possession.



Orrymain December 7, 2008 at 9:05 am

Wow — you know, I think I’ve had this. There are times in my life when I feel almost awake. I want to move, but I can’t. Sometimes, I think I’m still dreaming and about to be hurt or something. It’s a very panicky feeling, and I remember it well. I’m always relieved when I actually do wake up. It doesn’t happen a lot, and it hasn’t happened in a very long time, but I sure know what it feels like.


ZammaJannan December 16, 2008 at 5:44 am

I never knew this was serious!!! I’ve had this happen many times. I just thought it was a strange thing. I had no idea I could die from it. Thanks for the article. I’m going to talk to my doctor.


Wildwoman December 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

I heard about this while studying for an exam. It is quite scary. Is there any medicines commonly used for this disorder? I would love to read more about this.


T Minut July 17, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I have this, I hate it! It’s not a matter of being asleep and only thinking you’re awake – your mind is awake but you can’t move. I’ve spent many terrifying minutes trying to mentally “call” my kids into my room so they would shake me or something to “re-connect” my brain and body.

Usually two things work: I concentrate every bit of effort possible into moving just one finger, it takes a while but if I can, it’s like something connects again and I can start moving again. The bad part is that it’s hard to get my blood to move again, usually everything is numb by then. Plus it feels like I have to reinflate my lungs like they were stuck together balloons.
If it’s too bad and extreme effort doesn’t work, I’ve learned to try to go back to sleep so I can wake up again later without it happening. I don’t remember it ever happening again when I do that. Of course, going back to sleep when you can’t breathe or move is NOT an easy thing to do! I’ve thought, “Well, this is it, I obviously will soon be dead, and I can’t even call for help,” I think over my life and I DO fall asleep and wake up again. Usually falling back to sleep isn’t an option though. And I can’t figure out why it feels like I’ve been dead when my heart is pumping insanely. I hate it.


liz September 16, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I have experienced exactly the same effect as u discribe. Ive suffered from it since i was in my teens nd now im in my forties. i do the same as u.. when it accures, i try to move my leg, shake my leg, then i try to shake my body, eventually i have learnt that this works nd thats how i deal with it now. its still terrifying when it happens. my mother had the same experience nd so does my son now (12). I certainly dont believe in ghostly things that associated with this sleep paralysis (folklore) – all i associate with it is… i know exactly how terrifying it is nd some (like me n u) have to live with it (i guess… all our lives)


Max February 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I experienced sleep paralysis a couple of times, although it disappeared within 2 or 3 minutes. Having somebody make a loud sound, closing your eyes and falling back asleep or closing & opening your mouth usually helps your body come back to normal. One theory of sleep paralysis is that it is a malfunction of the brain in which paralysis (which happens to EVERYBODY in their sleep) is not shut off once you are awake. The body naturally puts you into a state of paralysis when you sleep so that you don’t move violently or hurt yourself while sleeping. The antonym to this (usually non-dangerous) condition is sleep walking, in which paralysis is shut off yet your body is asleep, causing you to wonder.


Sofia August 2, 2010 at 4:05 am

I used to have this a couple of years ago.. when iwas around 16 or 17 and I didn’t know what it was till i looked it up on the internet and went to see a neurologist. The thing is, it is not pleasant at all but I don’t think you need to take any drugs to fix it. I never did and I haven’t had another sleep paralisis ever since (I have had like 3 or 4 times at that age). For me, it was caused by stress I guess, so I tried to control my level of stress and clear my mind before going to sleep.
You might need to take pills if you continue having issues with it though, but i still think it’s not that necesary.


Dayv August 2, 2010 at 5:21 pm

I used to get this all the time as a teenager. Just lately I’ve started getting it as an adult; truly terrifying. I think it might be because I’ve been sleeping on my back; I’m going to try on my side again and see if that makes a difference.


Lou September 3, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I have had experiences of struggling for breath, feeling trapped, heavy sinking feeling, weird ringing/hushing sound in ears,usually in some kind of dream, shortly after i have dropped off? i wake up usually shaking my head and expressing a sound and generally feel terrified. Is this sleep paraylsis?


J Girl June 20, 2011 at 12:55 am

I had another episode last night. It is so terrifying, so hard to explain. I’ve had this happen off and on for 13 years, since a head injury. Sometimes I feel as if I’ve floated above the bed and start spinning, but can’t move or call out for help. Last night, my husband said I was jerking about every 20 seconds, then I just stopped breathing and moving. By then I was awake but couldn’t move. It felt like my brain was doing back flips so fast! I didn’t know this was a real thing. I thought I was crazy…Thank you for posting this info.


amanda durcas July 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm

i never thought that what i was experiencing was a sleep paralysis. i thought maybe it is because of the serta that i bought in Pittsburgh (http://www.leavetheresttous.com/), i thought i just love the bed that i couldn’t get up. i never knew i was having this terrible ailment.


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