This Is What Sleep Paralysis Does To Your Body - And Why It Happens

Oct 22, 2018 by apost team

Many people have experienced sleep paralysis. It’s a very strange feeling to be completely paralyzed, even though you’re fully awake and conscious of what’s happening around you.

What is sleep paralysis?

The experience of suddenly waking up and being unable to move any part of the body can be terrifying. You should take comfort in the fact that this occurs quite commonly and does not actually cause physical harm to your body.

There are two different types of sleep paralysis. When you suddenly wake from deep “REM” sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), it’s called “Hypnopompic” sleep paralysis. You can also get sleep paralysis before falling asleep, in which case it’s called “hypnagogic” sleep paralysis.

How does sleep paralysis happen when waking from sleep? During REM sleep, you’re dreaming, so the body needs to deactivate the motor control of your muscles so you won’t flail around and wake yourself up.

 If you happen to become conscious during REM sleep, your brain may not relinquish conscious control of your muscles right away.

You can also become paralyzed before falling completely asleep. When you’re falling asleep, your body naturally becomes more relaxed and eventually relinquishes motor control when the mind enters a dream state. Sometimes, however, the body can be very tired and relinquish control before the mind loses consciousness.

What causes it?

Most people experience sleep paralysis only once or twice in their lifetime. However, there are some people who have frequent bouts of up to a few times per week. About 8 percent of people experience this on a regular basis.

For example, people with high anxiety or panic disorders are more prone to sleep paralysis. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea can make the problem more frequent, as can certain medications that affect mood or energy level.

There are a number of factors that could make sleep paralysis more frequent:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Lack of sleep
  • Frequent changes in sleep patterns
  • Leg cramps
  • ADHD medication
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sleeping on the back


When experiencing sleep paralysis, you will either be falling asleep or waking from deep sleep and not be able to move, but you will be fully conscious. You are unable to move any part of your body or speak for a short time.

If this happens frequently, your doctor will investigate your sleep patterns and any conditions you may have that could cause it to persist or get worse. Your doctor might conclude that you should visit a sleep specialist.


Sleep paralysis, in itself, is not treated as a medical disorder, but if it happens frequently, your specialist might treat the underlying conditions. Treatments for various conditions could include the following.

  • Change sleep schedule
  • Psychological counseling
  • Anti-depressant medication
  • Treatment by a sleep specialist
  • Sleep medication

The cause of a person's sleep paralysis is often unclear, but the solution is usually to create a more effective sleep schedule to provide better sleep at more consistent times.

You should also pay attention to alcohol and nicotine, as these substances can impair sleep. Another recommendation is to limit the use of television or computer screens before sleep, as these can sometimes interfere with sleep patterns.

Keep in mind that, even though you may be sleeping well, you may still experience rare occasions of sleep paralysis. If it doesn’t occur on a frequent basis, it’s normal and you shouldn’t worry. The next time you experience sleep paralysis, you only need to remain calm and let it pass.

Do you experience sleep paralysis? Share your experiences in the comments. If you found this information helpful, send a link to your friends.

Our content is created to the best of our knowledge, yet it is of general nature and cannot in any way substitute an individual consultation with your doctor. Your health is important to us!