Ever have that creepy moment on the bed at night? Where you feel awake yet you can’t your body even inch? And there’s that strange feeling of someone watching you or floating nearby? That condition is called sleep paralysis, a physical paralysis when you start drifting off to sleep or waking up, but fully awake mentally. The condition can often be so disorienting that you may start having vivid hallucinations.
As unpleasant and terrifying as it could be, it’s not dangerous at all. The condition comes from our mechanism to stop us from moving while sleep. The muscle related brain signal got blocked off when we sleep and if you are unfortunate, you might be awake for the whole ordeal. So, how to prevent sleep paralysis?
How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis: Pinpoint the Causes and Find the Solution
Learn to Recognize the Symptoms
There are common symptoms that we experience when we are affected by the paralysis:
Upon sleep or awakening, we are unable to move most of the body
Complete or partial full-body paralysis
Hallucinations in form of sounds or sight, often sensing a presence nearby or getting touched
Difficulty in breathing or pressure in the chest area
Choking and unable to speak
The panic that comes from helplessness, fear and confusion.
The list is not exhaustive as the condition affects different people in a variety of ways.
Rule Out Medical Conditions
What exactly causes sleep paralysis is still largely unknown, especially if you are relatively healthy. So it is hard to answer the question of how to prevent sleep paralysis. Rule out the medical conditions (particularly neurological ones) that you might be suffering from, work with a specialist for sleep disorder or any deficiencies (vitamin, hormone levels etc.). Check with your GP to make sure you aren’t missing anything or to determine if it’s a medical cause.
Toxin exposure should be ruled out, too. There are plenty of potential exposure to toxins in the workplace or daily life (heavy metal, pesticide, mold etc.), which might lead to the sleep paralysis and more. Mold exposure has been known to be causing to hallucinations and sleep disorders.
Get the right treatment if it is indeed the two above reason. Getting rid of the underlying causes should significantly reduce your episodes and increase your sleep quality.
Learn some stress reduction techniques to quell the sleep paralysis. Relaxation techniques to reduce your stress, along with depression and anxieties, all of which is linked to the increase in temporary paralysis, would really help to minimize your symptoms. Stress is always known to interfere with your sleep and causing our nervous system to overreact, messing around with how around brain usually handles things.
Few methods that will considerably help with stress include meditation, guided imagery or self-hypnosis. Ten minutes before sleep daily and you should enjoy your sleep a lot more. If you aren’t keen to learn those methods, then a simple deep breathing exercise may help to decrease your anxiety and stress levels. One of the main cause of sleeping paralysis is terrible sleeping quality. Improving your sleep with reduction of stress should definitely help to minimize the symptoms.
If you are sleep deprived, chances are you are more likely to experience the condition. Get enough sleep and keep a regular schedule. In general, adults need a minimum of six hours of undisturbed nightly sleep. Stick to a schedule when going to sleep and waking up daily. The number of paralysis cases will fall along.
If you have trouble with your sleeping habits, consider trying out the following:
Create the perfect sleeping nest that is dark and quiet.
Bed should be decently comfortable.
Regular exercise, with plenty of rest time before going to sleep.
Avoid caffeine in the evening.
Avoid alcohol when close to bedtime as well.
Nicotine keeps you awake, so quit smoking if you do.
Remove any electronics in the bedroom to reduce disruption.
Sleeping on the sides might help. Sleeping on the back is likely to cause paralysis since your body is theoretically in a more relaxed position.
Sleep more. Studies have shown that if you don’t suffer from sleep apnea or narcolepsy, sleep debt is the leading cause for the condition. Sleeping below seven hours a day will only increase the debt. Your REM sleep, or the deep sleep, takes the hit if you don’t and that causes the sleep paralysis to happen more.
If you are prone to sleep paralysis, you could consider medication. Antidepressants (tricyclic antidepressant, clomipramine) might be prescribed as the treatment. While it is generally used for minimizing depression, it is often prescribed for treating severe temporary paralysis cases.
The neurochemicals in the brain are altered slightly to increase the quality and quantity of your REM sleep or deep sleep. So you sleep easier and get better sleep. In theory, this should prevent most sleep paralysis and reduce the hallucinations that follow.
Continue the medication and see if it improves the symptoms. If it fails to make a difference, you could consider trying another form of medication or alternative treatment.
Note the possible side effects of the antidepressants:
The side effects should clear up in a week or more, during which your body will get comfortable with the medication. If the side effects didn’t ease or worsened, visit your GP immediately. The GP should either reduce your prescribed amount or stop the medication altogether.
Journal Your Nightmares
Start to write down all the nightmares and cases of paralysis you had. This creates some form of psychological distance and helps to crack down on the pattern. Detail your entry with date, a title and what you experience that day. The reports should help with what leads to your symptoms (weekly, work-related stress, menstrual cycle, etc.). While you might not necessarily decrease the number of episodes immediately, learning about the symptoms might help you to brave the paralysis and fear from hallucinations.