What is sleep paralysis and how to stop sleep paralysis?

What is sleep paralysis and how to stop sleep paralysis?

What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is to feel awake but unable to move the body. It occurs in the middle of the alternate process of being awake and sleeping.

You may not be able to move or speak, and it may even be accompanied by loud noises, suffocation, and soul out.

The length of time is possible from tens of seconds to several minutes. Some people will feel pressure or even suffocation. It may occur simultaneously with other sleep disorder symptoms.

What is sleep paralysis and how to stop sleep paralysis?
What is sleep paralysis and how to stop sleep paralysis?

What happened? 

For healthy people (the mechanism caused by pathology will not be discussed yet), take pre-waking sleep paralysis as an example.  

As shown in the figure below, there are levels of sleep depth during normal sleep, generally divided into 4 depths, 1 is the lightest sleep, 4 is the deepest sleep.

Deep sleep is constantly changing. Among them, part of light sleep 1 and 2 is in the rapid eye movement period (REM), and the rest is in the non-rapid eye movement period (NREM). Most dreams occur in the REM period.

What is sleep paralysis and how to stop sleep paralysis?
Sleep Stages

In the deep and shallow process, there will be an interval of about 90 minutes from each REM to the next REM. The non-rapid eye movement period occurs first and takes up 75% of sleep time.

During this period of sleep, the body is relaxed, all parts of the body repair themselves, and it will switch to the REM period in the end.

The eyeballs move quickly during the REM period, and most dreams occur during this period, and other parts of the body are still very relaxed.

The muscles are in the “off” state. If you wake up before the end of the muscle closure period, or the muscle closure period is delayed after waking up, you will find that you cannot move or speak.

The fact

It is theorized that sleep paralysis is a protective mechanism during rest. People’s actions in dreams will not reflect reality, and the danger will reduce.

Imagine an ancient sleepwalker who walked out of his cave in the middle of the night and was eaten by a wild animal.

Or a modern sleepwalker sleeps in a bedroom with a window open on a high floor and falls into sleepwalking in the middle of the night.

It can also be speculated by natural selection: those mammals lacking this protective mechanism did not survive.

How Sleep Paralysis Occurs

The picture above shows that the purple REM Atonia is the period of muscle shutdown, the green is the awake state, and the blue is the REM sleep period.

The purple color exceeds the red line, causing paralysis. If the muscle closure period stops at the red line, it means waking up normally. If you stop before the red line, sleep talking or even sleepwalking may occur.

Classification of sleep paralysis

Classified by time period is as follows: 

  • Hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. Occurs before going to bed. 
  • Sleep paralysis before waking

Happened before waking up. According to the severity, there are the following: 

  • Common Sleep Paralysis. The characteristics are: very common, just make people nervous, the duration is very short, tens of seconds. 
  • Hallucinatory sleep paralysis. Features: relatively rare, with nightmares like hallucinations, long-lasting, up to 7/8 minutes, usually before going to bed。

What causes sleep paralysis?

  • Lack of sleep, such as staying up late and jet lag. 
  • Sleep lying down. A 2002 study found that when 58% of sleep paralysis occurred, the reporter was lying down (8% lying on stomach and 17% sleeping on side). People who are more prone to sleep paralysis.
  • Lying down is easier to fall asleep, and the proportion of people who fall asleep lying down is 22%. 
  • Take medicine. Such as drinking alcohol. 
  • Sleep interruption. In the experiment, the subjects were awakened when they entered REM sleep, and after a few times, the subjects would skip other sleep stages and directly enter REM. In the 184 times interrupted, there have been eight sleep paralysis.
  • Sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, sleep apnea syndrome. If drowsiness, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations occur before going to bed during the day, then it is likely to be narcolepsy.
  • Anxiety and depression. These two are closely related to sleep paralysis.
  • Traumatic event. Patients with panic disorder and post-traumatic mental disorder (PTSD) are more likely to experience sleep paralysis.


Most people do not need treatment. But for those with other underlying sleep-related symptoms such as narcolepsy, the following treatments may use:

  • Improve your sleeping habits, ensure 6-8 hours of sleep a day, avoid coffee at night, and change your sleeping position to lying on your side. 
  • Take antidepressants as prescribed by your doctor to normalize your sleep cycle. 
  • If it causes psychological problems, you need to consult a psychologist. 
  • Treat other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy and leg cramps. 
  • Avoid compressing the heart, such as avoid putting your hands on your chest, or quilts that are too thick to press your chest. 

Note: If you feel unusual pain in a certain part of your body during sleep paralysis, you must be vigilant and it is best to go to the hospital to check the part. Because some hidden diseases will show up in the dream.

The following is the method to get rid of sleep paralysis, please try it carefully: 

  • Don’t resist, let it be. If there is pressure in the chest, follow the pressure. 
  • Twist your fingers or toes. 
  • Twist your tongue. 
  • The eyes roll quickly. 
  • Hold your breath. 
  • With the thought of waking up, my attention is breathing. 
  • Take a deep breath and inhale as much air as possible. 
  • Imagine a safe place or someone you love.
  • Ask the person next to your pillow for help and say “Help me”, but don’t shout. Coughing or changing the breathing rate can also prompt others. 
  • Twist as many facial muscles as possible. Laugh, pain, make funny faces, take turns.

If you have a friend who is often troubled by sleep paralysis (especially those who travel frequently or work overtime), please tell him to keep regular sleep as much as possible, which will help relieve symptoms. If it happens again, don’t be too anxious. The body is healthy, it just has a little problem with sleep.

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