Sleeping Paralysis

Chances are you’ve experienced the feeling of waking up and not being able to move. Or perhaps, right before you enter a sleepy state, you’re feeling numb and cannot move at all.

Sometimes, these symptoms can be a sign of something very serious, such as a neurological problem. In most cases, though, it’s just a case of sleeping paralysis —a type of paralysis that only occurs before or after sleep. You’ll learn a lot about sleeping paralysis in this article.

What is Sleeping Paralysis

Sleeping paralysis is a condition in which a person feels numb and is unable to move. It occurs when a person awakens or is about to go into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It’s as if they have been paralyzed, even though nothing has happened to them. There are two common types of sleeping paralysis.

The first is known as hypnopompic paralysis and occurs after waking up. It is the more common of the two types. The other type of sleeping paralysis is hypnagogic paralysis and occurs before going to sleep. This type of paralysis occurs far less often than hypnopompic paralysis.

What it feels like

Believe it or not, but most people who experience sleeping paralysis don’t know it. They chalk it up to still being in a dream-like state. They think that the numbness is all a part of a dream when, in reality, it’s real and occurs when they are waking up.

When you experience sleeping paralysis, you’ll feel as if you cannot move. You won’t be able to move your arms, legs, any part of your body. You will essentially feel trapped on the bed. It’s kind of like a bad muscle cramp where you’re stuck, except you have no feeling at all.

You may also hallucinate and see things that are not really there. This is a common symptom and is nothing to really worry about (it doesn’t mean you’re going crazy). It accompanies the feeling of being awake but unable to get up. You may also have lucid dreaming, if you go back to sleep immediately following the paralysis.

Causes

There are a number of possible causes for sleeping paralysis. It really cannot be narrowed down to one single cause, but we can tell you the most common causes. Understanding these can help you to end sleeping paralysis or at least reduce it.

  • Supine Position. When you sleep in the supine position—the sleeping position in which you lay flat on your back and have your head tilted upward and staring at the ceiling—you increase the likelihood of having sleeping paralysis. This is because it prevents the muscles from being stimulated, which causes numbness.
  • Inconsistent Sleep Cycles. The body needs a certain sleeping schedule and a certain amount of sleep in order to function normally. If you get less than 8 hours a night, or sleep more than 12 hours a day, or take a lot of naps, all of this can increase how often you experience sleeping paralysis.
  • Sleeping Aids. Sleeping pills have become a very popular thing over the past 20 years, and millions of people use them to sleep at night. While they are safe for the most part, some people who take them have experienced sleeping paralysis.