This is What Sleep Paralysis Does To Your Body (And Why It Happens)


One of the most frightening and strangest phenomena that you can experience is sleeping paralysis. Even though it doesn’t hurt you physically, it leaves the body paralyzed for a few seconds to a few minutes.

This sleeping disorder typically occurs during adolescent years and becomes more frequent during the 20s and 30s. It can occur during two sleeping stages: ‘hypnagogic’ – happens before falling asleep, and ‘hypnopompic’ – happens when a person wakes from REM sleep.

Falling asleep makes our mind less aware and the body relaxes. Typically, during hypnagogic sleep paralysis, the mind doesn’t become less aware while the body becomes relaxed, causing panic.

In the case of hypnopompic sleep paralysis, the brain wakes sooner and the person is aware but cannot control their muscles voluntarily.

This phenomenon occurs rarely and only 8% of the population has frequent problems with sleep paralysis. The most prone people to sleep paralysis are ones with mental disorders like depression or anxiety.

Risk Factors

The risk factors which can induce sleep paralysis are:

  • Sleeping on the back
  • Not sleeping regularly or lack of sleep
  • Mental conditions (Anxiety, depression, stress, bipolar disorder)
  • Changes in the sleeping schedule (frequent ones)
  • Substance abuse
  • Medications used for certain disorders like ADHD
  • Problems during sleep like nighttime leg cramps or narcolepsy

Common Signs and Symptoms

When experiencing sleep paralysis, you’ll usually experience most of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pressure in the chest area
  • Inability to move your body either while falling asleep or waking up as well as not being able to speak
  • Hallucinations and sensations which can lead to panic
  • Sweating
  • Headaches or muscle pain
  • Paranoia (feeling like a demon or death is approaching you)

Because sleep paralysis occurs naturally, there is no prescribed treatment for it. However, the doctor can give you tips or some other prescription that can help during frequent episodes. A great way to stop it is by implementing a sleeping schedule, using sleeping aids, and reducing stress. Other prescriptions that the doctor can give you are treatments for underlying sleeping disorders or anti-depressants. He can also refer you to a sleep specialist or mental health professional. If you have frequent episodes of sleep paralysis, it’s recommended to stay away from caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and nicotine.

Sleeping Disorders

Just like the name suggests, sleeping disorders are problems people experience while sleeping or changes in the way that you sleep. Aside from not getting enough sleep, these disorders can impact your health, safety, and quality of life. If your work requires you to drive, you’ll have lots of problems, especially if you’re sleep-deprived.

The main symptoms of sleep disorders are excessive daytime sleepiness, increased movement during sleep, or irregular breathing before falling asleep. You can also experience an irregular wake or sleep cycle and difficulty falling asleep.

There are many different types of sleeping disorders and they are grouped depending on how they affect you and why they happen. The most common sleeping disorders are:

  • Insomnia – difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) – also called Willis-Ekbom disease, it causes an uncomfortable sensation and urges to move the legs while you’re falling asleep.
  • Narcolepsy – extreme sleepiness or falling asleep during the day (does not mean naps).
  • Sleep apnea – abnormal patterns of breathing while asleep.


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