We’ve talked broadly about what sleeping paralysis is, and what the symptoms are. In today’s post, we’re going to dig into the definition of sleep paralysis a bit deeper. By understanding the sleep paralysis definition in medical and psychological terms, we will also understand the correct ways to prevent it from occurring.
Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon where someone awakens from deep sleep, only to find they are unable to move their muscles, speak, and even fully open their eyes. It typically lasts for only a few seconds to a few minutes, but it can be really terrifying, especially because it is often accompanied with severe hallucinations.
Why does this phenomenon happen? In the sleep paralysis psychology definition, the sleep paralysis phenomenon is divided into two different types depending on when it occurs. They are:
Hypnagogic Sleep paralysis definition
Hypnagogic sleep paralysis definition is when the phenomenon happens as we are falling asleep. When we are just about to fall asleep, we will lose both consciousness and control of the muscles as they go into a relaxed state. Normally, we won’t realize the relaxation of our muscles because we are also losing consciousness.
However, sleep paralysis can occur when this transition is not achieved smoothly, so you retain awareness while your body has lost control over the muscles.
Hypnopompic Sleep paralysis definition
On the other hand, the hypnopompic sleep paralysis occurs when we are waking up from a deep sleep. During deep slumber, we alternate between NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) states roughly every 90 minutes. NREM occurs for 75% of each cycle where our body relaxes, then we shift into REM state. During REM state our eyes will move quickly, and this is where dreams happen.
Sleep paralysis occurs when the transition between REM state and wakefulness does not happen smoothly.Therefore, our mind awakens from the REM state before the body paralysis has subsided.
Cause of Sleep Paralysis
Image Credit: The Odyssey
After we have learned about the sleep paralysis definition, let us learn about some of the common causes of the phenomenon. Up to 40%, with some studies, suggested 60% of the human population have experienced sleep paralysis once or twice. Over the years, studies concluded that the common causes are:
- Severe tiredness or stress
- Sudden change in sleep schedule
- Sleeping on the back than disrupt smooth transition of the REM/NREM cycle
- Usage of certain medications and substance abuse
- Can be caused by mental conditions such as bipolar disorder or neurodegenerative disease, although very rare
Preventing Sleep Paralysis
Sleeping paralysis, although it can be very terrifying, is not a dangerous phenomenon in and of itself. Therefore, there is no direct cure for sleeping paralysis. However, it doesn’t mean we cannot prevent it from happening. We can treat the underlying causes so that sleep paralysis won’t manifest. Here are some ways we can prevent sleep paralysis:
- Fix your sleeping pattern and sleep regularly. For those with problem sleeping, you might want to consider natural sleeping remedies.
- Improve your sleeping environment. You can renovate your bedroom, get a new mattress, or make a small switch by upgrading to memory foam pillows.
- Avoid sleeping on your back.
- Avoid the blue light of TV, smartphone, and computer screen two hours before sleep. If it is not possible, consider getting a pair of blue-light filter glasses.
- If you suspect yourself of having underlying mental health issues, book a psychiatrist and get help.
- Reduce stress and anxiety with meditation, yoga, natural remedies, or any form of entertainment you might enjoy.
After we have learned about the sleep paralysis definition, its cause, and how to prevent it, sleep paralysis shouldn’t be as fearsome. Although the associated hallucination can be scary, sleep paralysis is not dangerous by itself, and can easily be treated by sleeping regularly and reduce your stress level.