Sleep Paralysis Affects Nearly Eight Percent of Americans


For many, the world of slumber is marvelous and rejuvenating. Dreams of finding ourselves in candylands and soaring above the clouds dance through our minds while we sleep. But for others, sleep can involve petrifying experiences like sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is just as frightening as it sounds. People who experience sleep paralysis are unable to move or speak right after waking up. Although the sensation only lasts for one to two minutes, the scare can be quite intense.

Sleep paralysis is not caused by demons, as some have thought for years. While we sleep, our muscles shut down during a stage called rapid eye movement (REM). Our muscles do this to prevent our bodies from acting out the detailed dreams that occur during REM. When someone wakes up before a REM cycle is completed, sleep paralysis takes place. One's muscles are not yet functioning, though the person is conscious. Sleep paralysis may also simulate a choking sensation or an inability to breathe properly.

Triggers of sleep paralysis include sleep deprivation, some medications, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea. Mental health issues like anxiety and depression may also cause sleep paralysis. A study conducted by Pennsylvania State University in 2011 concluded that 7.6 percent of the general American population suffers from sleep paralysis. The study further indicated that 31.9 percent of people with mental health issues have experienced sleep paralysis.

Unfortunately, there is no care for sleep paralysis. But there are ways to prevent this horrifying experience. Regulating one's sleep schedule and avoiding alcohol and drugs at least three hours before going to sleep are good starts, for example. Limiting caffeine intake and use of electronics before bedtime can also help prevent episodes.

Sleep paralysis can be very frightening, and those experiencing it may have the instinct to panic. However, it is best to keep calm and remember that the condition is only temporary.

[Source: Live Science]

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