Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, but can’t move, speak and feel completely helpless? Well if you have, you’re not alone because people experience this all the time. It’s called sleep paralysis.

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It occurs when you wake up, are fully conscious, but feel entirely paralyzed and unable to do or say anything. Though it is harmless to the body and mind, it can be a scary experience.

Why Do People Get Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis

Regardless of your age, physical or mental condition, anyone can experience it. Of course, some people are more vulnerable than others. Sleep paralysis can be the result of lifestyle choices, sleeping behaviour as well as general health.

Multiple studies show that sleep paralysis happens when your body does not move through the stages of sleep smooth enough. Either it is just a natural cause or in rare cases, can be a health problem. People who have mental health conditions, migraines or obstructive sleep apnoea are even more susceptible to this condition.

Who is Vulnerable to Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis can occur out of the blue without any warning. It’s not something you can prepare for or control. It just happens. Sleep paralysis can happen up to as many as 4 out of 10 people and usually starts to happen during the teenage years. Sleep paralysis can also be more likely in people who have a family history of sleeping disorders. Other causes linked to sleep paralysis are:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Pre-bedtime habits
  • Sudden sleep schedule changes
  • Mental health conditions or disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Certain types of sleeping medication
  • Too much stress or restlessness
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Narcolepsy, night time or leg cramps

How To Prevent Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis

It’s important to know that sleep paralysis is not something you necessarily have to treat or medicate. It usually happens so rarely that it should not be worth the trouble of treating. However, if you have a poor experience of it or do not want to go through the experience of sleep paralysis again, there are certain measures and lifestyle changes you can adopt to reduce it or all out prevent it.

1. Try to relax more just before bed

It means, setting up your room as a peaceful environment where you don’t need to bother with comfort. You can do this by making sure you have enough pillows, that your room is warm enough and that the temperature is just right. For children, this might mean relaxing them and setting up a night light if they’re afraid of the dark.

2. Reduce food and beverage consumption before bed, specifically caffeine

By eating or drinking too much before bed, your stomach will be irritable, and you’ll be waking up in the middle of the night taking trips to the toilet. Caffeine is another thing that hinders people’s ability to sleep. Unless your tolerance is through the roof with caffeine, you shouldn’t be drinking it within at least 6 hours before bed.

3. Leave all your stresses and fears outside the bedroom

For those who like to wonder, stress, or panic a lot in the bedroom, this is actually a bad habit. If it’s triggered by using electronic devices in bed or worrying about what tomorrow has in store, these can all hinder your ability to sleep, and may even carry over into your dreams. If you have a mental health condition, you would have spoken with your doctor or expert regarding how to get a good night’s rest.

Things to Keep in Mind About Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis can be terrifying, and especially when it happens for the first time. The only way to avoid it is to make some lifestyle changes so you can get a better night’s rest. The above points will certainly help but, fundamentally, you also need to eat, rest and exercise well to maintain good health. After all, better overall health means better sleep at night, that means you have a lesser chance of getting sleep paralysis.

If you have severe night terrors, suffer from sleep paralysis or other types of mental health disorders, you need to understand that it’s okay and you’re not alone. Multiple studies based in the UAE show that more than half of all adults in the UAE cannot get a good night to rest or suffer from insomnia.

So before you start feeling sorry for yourself, it is important to know that you can always seek help. If you need medication to help you sleep or to help you with a mental condition, always make sure you’re in regular contact with your doctor.

Head over to the Okadoc app to immediately book an appointment with your health practitioner if you find sleep paralysis has bothered your daily life.