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Sleep paralysis is a disorder that occurs shortly after waking up or while trying to fall asleep and that prevents the body from moving, even when the mind is awake. Thus, the person wakes up but cannot move, causing anguish, fear and terror.
During each episode it is possible for hallucinations to appear, such as seeing or feeling someone next to the bed or hearing strange noises, but this only happens due to excessive anxiety and fear caused by the lack of control over one's own body. In addition, the sounds heard can also be justified by the movement of the muscles in the ear, which continues to happen even when all other muscles in the body are paralyzed during sleep.
Although sleep paralysis can occur at any age, it is more common in teenagers and young adults aged between 20 and 30 years, being related to poor sleep habits and excessive stress. These episodes can happen one to several times a month or year and are not dangerous.
Sleep paralysis symptoms
Symptoms of sleep paralysis that can help identify this problem are:
- Unable to move body despite supposedly being awake;
- Feeling short of breath;
- Feeling of anguish and fear;
- Feeling of falling or floating on the body;
- Auditory hallucinations such as hearing voices and sounds uncharacteristic of the place;
- Sense of drowning.
Although troubling symptoms such as shortness of breath or a floating sensation may arise, sleep paralysis is not dangerous or life-threatening. During episodes, breathing muscles and all vital organs continue to function normally.
Sleep paralysis happens because during sleep the brain relaxes all the muscles in the body and keeps them still so that energy can be conserved and sudden movements avoided during dreams. However, when there is a communication problem between the brain and the body during sleep, the brain can take time to return movement to the body, causing an episode of sleep paralysis.
Some factors that can increase the chances of a person having an episode of sleep paralysis are:
- Irregular sleeping hours, such as night work;
- Sleep Deprivation;
- Sleep on your stomach.
In addition, there are reports that these episodes can be caused by sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and some psychiatric illnesses.
What to do to get out of sleep paralysis
Sleep paralysis is a little-known problem that goes away on its own after a few seconds or minutes. However, it is possible to get out of this paralyzed state more quickly, however, when someone touches the person having the episode or when the person is able to think logically in the moment and focuses all their energy on trying to move the muscles.
How to avoid
Sleep paralysis has been more frequent in people with poor sleep habits and, therefore, to prevent episodes from happening, it is recommended to improve sleep quality, through strategies such as:
- Sleep 6 to 8 hours a night;
- Go to bed at the same time every time;
- Wake up at the same time every day;
- Avoid energy drinks before bed, such as coffee or soda.
In most cases, sleep paralysis appears only once or twice in a lifetime. But when it happens more than once a month, for example, it is advisable to consult a neurologist or a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders, which may include the use of antidepressant medication, such as Clomipramine.