What is sleep paralysis, symptoms and how to avoid it

Sleep paralysis is a disorder that occurs after waking up or when trying to sleep and prevents the body from moving, even when the mind is awake. Thus, the person wakes up but cannot move, causing anguish, fear and terror. 

What is sleep paralysis, symptoms and how to avoid it
What is sleep paralysis, symptoms and how to avoid it
This happens because during sleep, the brain relaxes all the muscles of the body and keeps us immobile so that energy can be conserved and sudden movements during dreams can be avoided.

However, when a communication problem between the brain and the body occurs during sleep, it may take time for the brain to return movement to the body, causing an episode of sleep paralysis.

During each episode, hallucinations such as seeing someone at the bedside or hearing strange noises are possible, but that happens due to excessive anxiety and fear caused by the lack of control of the body itself. Furthermore, the sounds heard can also be justified by the movement of the muscles of the ear, which continue to move even when the other muscles of the body are paralyzed during sleep.

Although sleep paralysis can happen at any age, it is more frequent in adolescents and young adults between the ages of 20 and 30, being related to inconsistent sleep habits and excess stress.

Symptoms of sleep paralysis 

Symptoms of sleep paralysis that can help identify this problem are:
  • Not being able to move the body despite being supposedly awake;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Feeling of anguish and fear;
  • Feeling of falling or floating on the body;
  • Auditory hallucinations such as hearing voices and sounds not characteristic of the place;
  • Drowning sensation.

Although troubling symptoms such as shortness of breath or a feeling of floating may arise, sleep paralysis is not dangerous or life threatening. During episodes, the breathing muscles and all vital organs continue to function normally.

What to do to get out of sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a little known problem that goes away only after a few seconds or minutes. 

However, it is possible to get out of this state of paralysis faster when someone touches the person who is having the episode or when the person manages to think logically at the moment and focuses all their energy on trying to move the muscles. 

How to avoid sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is more frequent in people with bad sleep habits and, therefore, to prevent episodes from occurring, it is recommended to improve the quality of sleep, through strategies such as:
  • Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night;
  • Always go to bed at the same time;
  • Wake up every day at the same time;
  • Avoid energy drinks before bed, such as coffee or soft drinks.

In most cases, sleep paralysis occurs only once or twice in a lifetime. But when it occurs more than once a month, for example, it is advisable to consult a neurologist or a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders, who can prescribe the use of antidepressant medications such as Clomipramine.

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