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Is Sleep Paralysis Dangerous? A Comprehensive Guide

by BetterSleep
Oct 16 2023 • 4 min read

Sleep paralysis is a common phenomenon that occurs at night and is characterized by general body paralysis and wakefulness. During sleep paralysis, individuals might experience hallucinations where they perceive the presence of figures around them. In other cases, those experiencing sleep paralysis may have vestibular motor hallucinations in which they feel as if they’re flying. All these experiences related to sleep paralysis have led to many misconceptions about it.

Are you looking to know more about sleep paralysis? Fortunately, this article provides a clear and comprehensive understanding of sleep paralysis and addresses its safety concerns. This article seeks to deepen the understanding of sleep paralysis and debunk associated myths.

What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a transition stage between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and wakefulness. It is characterized by an individual’s inability to move or speak, as if they’re trapped between sleep and wakefulness.

There is a state of deep sleep known as REM sleep and another state known as wakefulness. When you enter the REM state, your body undergoes muscle paralysis, known as atonia, to prevent you from acting out your dreams. But when you are about to leave that stage of sleep, your muscles slowly regain their ability to move so you can transition into the wakefulness state.

While sleep paralysis is a natural and brief occurrence, lasting just a few seconds for most people, it can be an intense and distressing experience.

The Prevalence of Sleep Paralysis

According to the National Library of Medicine, about 7.6% of the world’s population has experienced sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. Sleep paralysis is not influenced by age, gender, or background. So, it can affect individuals of all ages, from children to older people.

causes of sleep paralysis

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

  1. Irregular Sleep Patterns: Irregular sleep patterns can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This disruption increases the chances of sleep paralysis because your body struggles to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Maintaining a consistent bedtime and avoiding erratic sleep patterns can reduce the risk of isolated sleep paralysis.

  2. Sleep Deprivation: Another common trigger for sleep paralysis is consistent sleep deprivation. When you do not get enough sleep, your body may struggle to transition smoothly through sleep cycles, which can increase your likelihood of experiencing sleep paralysis. To address this, it’s advisable to eliminate light sources, like phones, and reduce caffeine intake.

  3. Stress and Anxiety: Stress and anxiety are common triggers of sleep paralysis. Significant stress or chronic anxiety disorders may disrupt the quality of your sleep. One method of managing stress and anxiety is by practicing relaxation and mindfulness exercises.

Is Sleep Paralysis Dangerous?

Is Sleep Paralysis Dangerous?

  1. Not Physically Dangerous

Sleep paralysis may not be physically dangerous, but the sensation of being unable to speak or move during sleep paralysis occurs due to a natural protective mechanism that your body employs during REM. In sleep paralysis, this mechanism may continue upon waking up and may temporarily inhibit movement.

  1. Not Life-Threatening

Many individuals who experience sleep paralysis report intense fear during episodes, often accompanied by a feeling of impending death. These fears are often based on hallucinations and a distorted perception of reality during episodes of sleep paralysis, which is not life-threatening.

Coping Strategies and Management

Coping strategies for sleep paralysis include techniques that range from helping regulate your body’s internal clock to creating a healthier sleeping environment. Here are some practical tips to consider:

  1. Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation help to reduce anxiety and calm the mind before bedtime. Practicing these techniques before sleeping can reduce the chances of experiencing sleep paralysis.

  1. Mindfulness Practices

Mindfulness-basedstress reduction can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This makes it easier to manage anxiety and helps prevent sleep paralysis.

  1. Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Establishing a regular sleep routine is essential. A regular sleep routine balances the internal clock and reduces the likelihood of sleep paralysis episodes. Consistently go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Don’t forget the weekends, either!

  1. Improve Sleep Environment

Create a comfortablesleep environment before bedtime. You can do this by using the BetterSleep app before going to sleep. Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, such as using electronic devices (like phones or laptops), to promote better sleep.

When Should You Seek Professional Help?

If you experience sleep paralysis more than four times a year, you should consult with a healthcare provider or sleep specialist. A healthcare provider can evaluate and diagnose any underlying sleep disorders and provide you with the proper management strategy.

If you rarely experience sleep paralysis or just want to improve your sleep quality in general, try theBetterSleep app to create a better sleep environment for you.

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