Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Sleep paralysis is a common parasomnia. Although benign, this sleep disorder can be horrific, especially if it is accompanied by hallucinations. Below is an explanation of the causes and treatments of sleep paralysis.

Usually, the body is paralyzed during paradoxical sleep (stage of sleep in which we dream) in which a neurotransmitter (glycine) prevents the muscles move during dreams. The abnormal sleep paralysis appears when motor functions of the body are blocked when you wake up or when the mechanism starts early.

The feeling of fear and possible hallucinations are caused by the intermediary state of consciousness of the brain seeking an explanation for the paralysis.

Sleep paralysis can be due to stress, anxiety, fatigue, modifying lifestyle (duel, moving, new job) sudden or irregular sleep schedules. It is also part of the symptoms of narcolepsy.


During an experience of sleep paralysis, the subject wakes up unable to move or speak. The only active muscles are the eye muscles and respiratory muscles. The sensation is similar to the of a dream awake. Crises are, most of the time, short and do not exceed several minutes. They may occur at the time of drowsiness (hypnotic state) or arousal (hypnopompic state).

This paralysis is usually associated with hallucinations, which can be of variable nature depending on the case. The most common hallucinations manifested by the impression of feeling a hostile presence in the room or pressure on the body (most of the time on the chest). You can also be auditory hallucinations (squeaking noises of footsteps), Visual (perception of objects or light) or kinesthetic (feeling of falling, floating or vibrations).

These hallucinations can be a source of anxiety, even of insomnia. For example- the person has fear to suffer a new experience.

Treatment and prevention

Consult a doctor is indispensable and, above all, it is advisable in case of frequent crises to limit the psychological consequences.

They do not usually use medicated treatments but Antidepressants can be used in more severe cases.

To prevent sleep paralysis experiences, it is sufficient to not think about it before sleep. Avoid stressful situations and maintain a healthy sleep (sleep at regular hours) allows you to limit the crisis. The use of relaxation techniques can also help control these episodes.