If you have never experienced sleep paralysis, you might want to count your lucky stars. Thankfully the complete loss of movement and control in the body is temporary. Nonetheless, it can be an altogether terrifying experience that leaves a person feeling rattled for the rest of the day. In a similar way that a bad dream does.
There are people who frequently report sleep paralysis and those that can only remember having it once or twice in their lives. What is this strange phenomenon and how can sleeping on the right bed and mattress help prevent it?
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What is sleep paralysis?
We all know the feeling of falling asleep: our brain output has entered a different frequency, and the body is completely relaxed. We have also had that experience when our body twitches and jolts us awake, shocking us and anyone nearby.
While a person is falling asleep or waking up, the brain sends signals to the muscles throughout the body to relax. This is called muscle atonia, and it helps you remain still during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
When you begin to stir and the body is in the process of waking up, the brain and body begin to feel conscious awareness again. When a person experiences sleep paralysis, the awareness in the body is present. However, there is a disconnect to the body’s muscles and they can’t move.
So, the mind is awake but the body is not responding to the signals that are saying “move your arms… ok, try your legs.” Since the mind is just coming back from sleep-land, the result can be extremely disorienting, confusing, and actually pretty scary.
Other symptoms of sleep paralysis include:
- Inability to speak
- Feeling suffocated
- Panic and fear
- Daytime sleepiness, which may be a sign of narcolepsy.
Thankfully sleep paralysis is temporary and, while mysterious, it is not a sign of a major or serious medical issue.
Should I be worried that I will suffer from sleep paralysis?
While it’s not exactly known why sleep paralysis affects some people and not others, there are some commonalities between people who report these strange episodes. Sleep paralysis seems to be more common when a person is experiencing changes or disruptions to their regular sleep habits. For example, if they are being woken up in the middle of the night, or if they are resetting into a new schedule due to shift work.
Sleep paralysis night also occur more frequently if a person is experiencing anxiety, or if they are suffering from other sleep disorders. Those living with narcolepsy may have higher instances of sleep paralysis because the sleep-wake boundaries are unstable.
What can be done about sleep paralysis?
Since sleep paralysis is still quite mysterious and difficult to study, and it is also very unpredictable, it’s usually not something to get too worried about. However, there are things you can do to lower your risk of the condition and to help you sleep better.
The best thing you can do to both reduce the chances of sleep paralysis and to improve the quality of your sleep is to invest both time and effort into improving your sleep health. You can do this by:
- Sleeping on a high-quality mattress that is the correct size and firmness for your needs. Investing in a mattress can be life changing and can really improve your overall quality of life.
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it. This means no (or as few as possible) exceptions for your bed time and the time you wake up – making sure you get 7-8 hours of deep, quality sleep each night.
- Creating a comfortable sleep environment that is dark, quiet and reserved for sleep (ie. removing the television from the bedroom).
- Putting electronics like phones, computers, tablets, even e-readers away in advance of bedtime – and be strict about it! Screens can keep us awake for longer than we want to be and it’s a tricky habit to break.
- Find what feels right to create a bedtime ritual that will signal to your body that you are getting ready to relax before falling asleep.
If you are looking for ways to improve your sleep – to fall asleep faster and to achieve a deep rest every night, and are in Parksville looking for a mattress, we’d love to help! We carry a huge range of top quality mattresses so that you can find the sleep you are looking for.