20 Facts About Sleep Paralysis
20 Facts About Sleep Paralysis
Although sleep paralysis is somewhat common, it can be a scary event to experience. It involves being temporally paralyzed when falling asleep or waking up. This inability to move is also commonly accompanied by scary hallucinations, feelings of suffocation, and sometimes out-of-body experiences. Yikes!
Sleep paralysis is considered a parasomnia. A parasomnia is any abnormal behavior you may experience while sleeping. It is related to the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle stage so it is technically a REM parasomnia. During the REM stage of sleep, our bodies go through atonia, which is a type of temporary paralysis that stops us from acting out dreams physically. Usually, it only happens while sleeping, so you never feel like you can't move, but it's different when it comes to sleep paralysis.
If you've never had any sort of sleep paralysis episode, you may be wondering what it is, how it affects people, and how to avoid it. Well, we've combed through the research and have all the answers you're looking for in our 20 facts about sleep paralysis
Sleep Paralysis Affects 7% Of The World
Researchers studying sleep paralysis say that it affects an estimated 7% of the general population around the world. That makes sleep paralysis fairly common. Almost one in every ten people will experience it at one point or another during their lifetime.
Sleep Paralysis Can Affect Anyone
Sleep paralysis doesn't discriminate when it comes to who it will affect. Men and women both are about equal when it comes to being at risk. It can also affect you at any age, so even if you've never experienced sleep paralysis for yourself, there's still a chance you might at some point in your future.
Average Age it Occurs
Although sleep paralysis doesn't discriminate, you're more likely to experience it for the first time at a younger age. According to sleep experts at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the average age for experiencing sleep paralysis is between 14 and 17 years old.
Sleep Paralysis Causes Tachycardia
Research on sleep paralysis in Poland was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Their results concluded that 94% of the participants in their study reported tachycardia as a symptom of sleep paralysis. Tachycardia is a fast and irregular heartbeat. It was the number one symptom reported.
Being Scared is Normal
In the same scientific study as above, the number two symptom that was reported by respondents to be a symptom of sleep paralysis was fear. 93% of all the participants reported feeling some level of fear as part of their symptoms making sleep paralysis a very scary experience. Especially because 46% of those who experienced fear said that their fear was of death.
May Cause Hallucinations
You would think that'd be scary enough, but it can get scarier if your sleep paralysis causes you to experience hallucinations. That's right, 66% of the same study participants reported hallucinating, with 37% having visual hallucinations. Hallucinations related to sleep paralysis can be audible, tactile, visual, or a combination of all three.
There are 3 Kinds of Hallucinations from Sleep Paralysis
Experiencing some form of hallucinations is such a common symptom of sleep paralysis that they have to be categorized into three different categories.
- Intruder Hallucinations - These may be some of the scariest types of hallucinations you can have. This is when hallucinations feel as though there is a person, creature, or being in your room that wants to cause you harm.
- Chest Pressure Hallucinations - These may also be referred to as incubus hallucinations. They often are accompanied by intruder hallucinations and involve feelings of pressure on the chest that cause a feeling and fear of suffocation.
- Vestibular-motor (V-M) Hallucinations. - These aren't as scary as the first two. V-M hallucinations are often described as out-of-body experiences where people feel like they are floating, flying, or experiencing some other type of movement despite being paralyzed.
Students Are At Higher Risk
Research shows that among student populations around the world, sleep paralysis is very prevalent, affecting 28% of students worldwide. This makes sense with the average age of first occurrences being during the teen years.
Back Sleepers Beware
Studies say sleep paralysis is most likely to occur while you're sleeping in the supine position. That's just a fun and fancy way of saying sleeping on your back. If you're a consistent back sleeper, there's a chance your odds of experiencing sleep paralysis are more common than others. This means you may lower your chances of experiencing if you sleep on your side or your stomach.
Psychiatric Disorders May Cause Sleep Paralysis
It's not known if having certain psychiatric disorders directly influences whether or not you will experience sleep paralysis in your lifetime. However, there is strong scientific evidence that shows an association with psychiatric conditions. Sleep paralysis affects about 30% of people with panic disorders, 20% of people with anxiety disorders, 22% of people with social phobias, and 15% of people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.
Sleep Paralysis is Linked to Depression
Research about the association between depression and sleep paralysis shows some strange connections. People who experience sleep paralysis are often likely to show signs of depression. Depression symptoms can sometimes be used as a factor in prediction models to predict the occurrence of sleep paralysis. At the same time, people who do experience sleep paralysis are known to have more symptoms of depression when compared to people who have never experienced it all.
Odd Explanations From Around The World
Sleep paralysis affects people all over the world. Because of this, different cultures have used different terms to describe this odd sleep phenomenon. Many cultures associate the experience with supernatural or otherworldly causes. Here is a list of what countries the world has thought about being paralyzed during sleep.
- United States - People in the U.S. have often attributed the effects of sleep paralysis to be possible alien abductions.
- China - China has a term for sleep paralysis that roughly translates to Ghost Oppression.
- Japan - Japanese culture refers to episodes of sleep paralysis being caused by a Buddhist deity called Fudoh-Myohoh.
- Egypt - Egyptians have referred to it as being an attack by a jinn, which is an evil genie often mentioned in folklore.
- Newfoundland - The term for it in Newfoundland describes the experience being caused by an old which, and is sometimes referred to as the old hag phenomenon.
There are Two Types of Sleep Paralysis
Medical experts usually classify sleep paralysis into one of two categories. The first is isolated sleep paralysis, and the other is recurrent sleep paralysis. They kind of explain themselves, but isolated sleep paralysis is when episodes of the event are not linked to any other sleep conditions or neurological disorders that prevent the brain from sleeping properly. They often occur once or twice and may come and go throughout a person's lifetime. Recurrent Sleep paralysis is when people experience multiple episodes over time. They are usually regularly occurring.
Substance Abuse Increases Your Chances
Systematic reviews have found an increase in risk for sleep paralysis with substance abuse. People who are taking illegal drugs or drinking too much alcohol are more likely than those who aren't to experience an episode.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
People who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been found to experience sleep paralysis at higher rates. We already know that PTSD can have negative effects on our sleep cycles. This suggests traumatic events that cause physical and/or emotional trauma may play a role in causing episodes of sleep paralysis.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
At this point, we know that other sleep conditions can potentially cause episodes of sleep paralysis, and sleep apnea is one of those conditions. One study, published in the Journal of Quality Life Research, found that people with obstructive sleep apnea are 38% more likely to experience sleep paralysis.
Daydreaming Increases Your Risk
A study in the Journal of Sleep Research found a correlation between experiencing sleep paralysis and having a vivid imagination. This includes disassociating from life through activities like daydreaming.
It May Be Hereditary
Although there is very little known about how sleep paralysis may be passed down through families, you are more likely to have episodes if your parents also had episodes. More research on genetics and sleep paralysis needs to be conducted to identify the exact genetic markers that may contribute to this sleep disorder.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Can Help
One of the most common treatments for sleep disorders, including sleep paralysis, is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Sleep experts, including doctors and researchers, have developed a type of cognitive behavior therapy specifically for sleep paralysis, but more clinical trials will need to be completed to measure how effective it is compared to traditional methods.
Avoid Sleep Paralysis With Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep paralysis can be a scary and serious condition, especially if it reoccurring regularly. In addition to cognitive-behavioral therapy methods and certain medications, creating healthy sleep habits can reduce your chances of episodes. There are several ways you can improve your sleep habits. Some of the easiest include having the right mattress, pillows, and blankets to create a comfortable sleep environment.