Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, unable to move and aware of some evil presence watching you? If so, you possibly experienced an episode of sleep paralysis. This condition, while mostly harmless, can be profoundly terrifying and confusing.
A nighttime disorder that traps victims in a state between wakefulness and rest, sleep paralysis renders people aware of their surroundings but immobile. Episodes typically last a few minutes, and it's believed that up to 50% of all Americans experience the condition at least once in their lives. Sufferers often feel a sense of impending doom or dread during episodes; they may also experience hypnagogic hallucinations and difficulty breathing.
While scary sleep paralysis stories are common, doctors and sleep professionals suggest several ways to prevent frequent episodes.
Consult A Medical Professional Or Sleep Expert
While there are many tips for dealing with sleep paralysis, nothing is as useful as advice from a qualified physician or sleep expert. Sleep paralysis is not necessarily a dangerous disorder, but persistent episodes can impact one's mental health.
Additionally, sleep paralysis can be a symptom of other sleeping disorders like narcolepsy. If you experience chronic bouts of sleep paralysis, it's probably best to speak with a medical professional to learn if there is a greater issue at hand.
Avoid Naps Whenever Possible
Specialist Clete Kushida, an authority on the subject of sleep paralysis, suggests avoiding naps throughout the day. Napping can affect the normal sleep cycle and hinder uninterrupted nighttime rest, thereby causing persistent sleep paralysis. Kushida believes those who nap often tend to experience sleep paralysis more than their counterparts.
If you absolutely must rest frequently throughout the day, take naps at scheduled times.
Don't Stay Up Too Late
Sleep deprivation is strongly associated with sleep paralysis. The condition might affect how quickly one falls asleep. Sleep expert Clete Kushida notes, "There seems to be some evidence that people who are sleep deprived enter REM very quickly, which means they're still awake as their body gets paralyzed."
Consequently, staying up too late can have detrimental side effects.
Stick To A Sleep Schedule
One of the keys to a healthy sleep life is consistency. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day not only decreases the likelihood of sleep paralysis, but it can also improve the quality of your sleep and overall wellbeing. Block out about six to eight hours of sleep every night, and don't hit the snooze button on your alarm.
A healthy sleep cycle may prevent future episodes of resting paralysis.
Avoid Sleeping On Your Back
People who experience sleep paralysis often feel compression on their chests, usually while sleeping in the supine position - that is, on their backs. They also have hallucinations; imaginary people may appear to strangle or constrain them, making breathing difficult.
Experts acknowledge the relationship between sleep paralysis and sleeping on the back - they recommend finding another rest position.
Try To Manage Your Stress Levels, Especially Before Bedtime
Stress commonly triggers sleep paralysis. Finding healthy ways to deal with stress, especially before bedtime, can prevent future episodes of nocturnal immobility. To proactively cope with stress, eat a balanced diet, exercise, and stick with a consistent sleep schedule.
It may also be beneficial to talk about your daily stressors with medical experts or people you trust.