Sleep paralysis is the temporary paralysis that occurs when a person is waking up from a deep sleep. The mind wakes up, but the body is not out of slumber quite yet. The resulting experience is a scary one. The person not only experiences paralysis, but hallucinations are also there. The hallucinations are usually paranoid and amplify the experience of fear even further.
According to Dr. Attiq ur Rehman, who is a neurologist in Lahore, hallucinations during sleep paralysis are different for everyone.
“Three types of hallucinations are common during sleep paralysis. The person might feel that something heavy is pressing on their chest. The person might feel that they are flying or floating. The most common hallucination is the perception of the presence of an intruder in the room. The hallucinations can seem scary, but they are just the indicator of a normal biological event. It is just brain chemistry adjusting itself.“
Sleep paralysis has no solid cause, but it has been linked with restless sleep. A report by Gallup Pakistan shows that 30% of people in Pakistan experience restless sleep. A total of 5% have complaints about insomnia.
A study conducted in 2017 has come up with some risk factors associated with sleep paralysis. According to this study, substance abuse, intelligence, stress, and trauma increase the risk of sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is not a dangerous condition, but it is an uncomfortable one. In extreme cases, people may even experience disturbed sleep cycles. Sometimes patients are not even able to sleep because of the fear of sleep paralysis. It is thus important to manage this condition.
If you or loved ones are facing a similar issue, the following suggestions may help. However, they do not substitute professional treatment or advice.
1. Breathing exercises
Some breathing exercises can help one come out of sleep paralysis. Whenever you find yourself experiencing an episode, take deep breaths. This breathing exercise can be combined with a comforting thought. Think of someone or a place which makes you feel safe along with deep breaths.
The breathing will bring you out of sleep paralysis. Comforting thoughts will help to lessen the impact of the hallucinations.
Once met with a fearful hallucination along with paralysis, the instinctive reaction may be to struggle. The struggle, however, is only going to make matters worse. It will amplify the fear and can even trigger a panic attack. The panic attack is likely to make the lucid hallucinations worse. The right thing to do is to wait with a calm and relaxed posture. This will calm down your nerves while your body comes out of slumber.
Another way to calm down during an episode of sleep paralysis is self-reassurance. Remind yourself that it is just a biological event. There is nothing paranormal about it, and the hallucinations are all momentary.
4. Sleeping posture
Sleeping straight on the back has been linked with sleep paralysis. It is important to sleep on the side at night as it is better for breathing too.
Movement is important to come out of a sleep paralysis episode. The paralysis will not let you move your arms, so you should wiggle your toes instead. Toe wiggling is a way to remind the body that it is time to wake up. Apart from movement coughing can also be helpful.
Sleep paralyzes are harmless, and the tips stated above should make them go away. Prolonged sleep paralysis regardless of all the precautions is an indication of a sleep disorder. Therefore, if the problem persists for a longer period, we strongly advise you to consult a neurologist and seek professional advice. Else, this could ruin the peace of mind, overall physical/mental health, and your relationships.