Sleep Paralysis


Gwen Doherty

Most students have an irregular sleep schedule, but did you know it could lead to Sleep Paralysis? Sleep Paralysis is a phenomena that happens when one is falling asleep or waking up. The person having episodes can’t move their body except their eyes and often see shadows move in the corner of their vision or figures. They feel like something is sitting on their chest making it difficult to breathe, following this they’ll find it impossible to talk. In the past, it was believed that a demon was sitting on your chest that caused the difficulty of breathing or talking. This often induces fear and anxiety in the person suffering from an episode.

Luckily, these things can easily explained however. REM (rapid eye movement) is the state the mind is in during a deep sleep, often causing vivid dreams. Atony, or Atonia, is when all the muscles relax in the body to prevent the body from acting out dreams. In a way, the mind is playing a trick on it’s self. You’re aware that it’s happening and that you feel fear, but your brain is still in the REM state. This makes you hallucinate things are happening, and Atony is still keeping you still.

Sleep Paralysis is often caused by sleep deprivation, certain types of medication, and a sleep disorder known as Narcolepsy.  The people that are mostly effected by episodes are between the ages of 10-25 and even more likely to happen in people with PSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and panic disorder.

There is no known treatment that permanently removes Sleep Paralysis, but there are ways to at least make them less common. It’s recommended by doctors to try to regulate your sleep schedule, avoid alcohol, nicotine and drugs the entire night. It’s also recommended that having little to no caffeine after 2 p.m. and keep electronics out of your bedroom. If episodes continue to happen, its recommended to see a sleep specialist to check for any medical disorders that might be causing them. It’s important that during these episodes you remain calm and remember that it’ll pass after a few seconds or minutes, even if it does terrify you. About 8% of the general population is affected by these episodes.