Normally your brain causes your muscles to relax and be still as you sleep. This is called “atonia.” Sleep paralysis seems to be when this atonia occurs while you are awake. Sleep paralysis is “isolated” when it appears without any other signs of narcolepsy.
Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming drowsiness and sudden “sleep attacks” throughout the day. However, many people who don’t have narcolepsy can still experience sleep paralysis.
People who experience it
What does history say about sleep paralysis?
References to sleep paralysis are scattered throughout history, though not usually under the name “sleep paralysis.” Folklore and myths from around the world describe the terrifying experience of being unable to move upon waking and sometimes seeing beings, being choked, or being held down. Nightmares are known as the “Old Hag” in Newfoundland, Kokma in St. Lucia, and tsog in East Asia may have all be borne of the same spooky experience, according to an article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. In 1664, a Dutch physician described a patient’s experience of sleep paralysis as the “Incubus or the Night-Mare,” providing the first known clinical description of the affliction.
1. an inability to move the body when falling asleep or on waking, lasting for seconds or several minutes
2. being consciously awake
3. being unable to speak during the episode
4. having hallucinations and sensations that cause fear
5. feeling pressure on the chest
6. having difficulty breathing
7. feeling as if death is approaching
9. having headaches, muscle pains, and paranoia
A lack of sleep can make you more likely to have sleep paralysis. It is also more likely if you have a sleep schedule that often changes. Mental stress may also be a factor. It seems to occur more often when you sleep on your back. It may also be related to any of the following factors:
· Bipolar disorder
· The use of certain medications
· Sleep-related leg cramps