Sleep paralysis is a condition that causes a person to wake up during the REM stage of sleep, when the skeletal muscles are naturally paralyzed. This is a scary experience for people who have never experienced a sleep paralysis episode, but it can also disrupt a person’s sleep patterns and cause daytime fatigue. Seizure is a broad term that refers to abnormal brain activity that causes a person to convulse or collapse. Seizures often occur as a result of fainting or abnormal electrical discharges in the brain. They may cause uncontrollable muscle spasms, odd sensations, and loss of consciousness. Nocturnal seizures are seizures that occur only when someone is asleep. This is known as a parasomnia, or a sleep disorder that involves abnormal behaviors or movements. Someone who experiences sleep paralysis and nocturnal seizures should take several steps to alleviate the problem and prevent sleep disruptions.
#1: Document each episode.
Documenting your symptoms can give your doctor clues about what is causing your sleep paralysis shaking and other signs of sleep paralysis. Keep a notebook on your bedside table to make it easy to document the symptoms every time you experience them. Record information about your sleep environment, your physical health at the time of the episode, and any stressful situations that occurred prior to the episode. Your doctor will use this information to determine if any lifestyle factors are triggering your sleep paralysis and seizures.
#2: Make good sleep hygiene a priority.
Sleep hygiene refers to your sleep habits. Having good sleep hygiene means keeping a consistent sleep schedule, sleeping in a comfortable environment, and avoiding alcohol use at least several hours before going to sleep. If you have been experiencing frequent sleep paralysis seizures, try changing your sleep habits. Make sure you go to bed at the same time each night, as this can help train your body to fall asleep at a consistent time. Avoid sleeping late on weekends, as this can make it difficult for your body to adjust to a regular sleep schedule. Make changes to your bedroom to make it more comfortable. A lighter blanket can prevent sleep disruptions related to temperature, while adding blackout shades to the windows can block out light that makes it difficult to sleep.
#3: Reduce or eliminate stress.
Researchers know that stress and post-traumatic stress disorder can make sleep paralysis worse. If you are experiencing frequent episodes of sleep paralysis and nocturnal seizures, try reducing stress with aromatherapy, massage, or meditation. If a specific personal or professional situation is causing stress in your life, take steps to resolve the issue. Asking for help with work deadlines or attending a family counseling session can help relieve stress and make it easier to sleep through the night.
#4: Seek treatment for related disorders.
Other medical and psychological disorders may be responsible for sleep paralysis and nocturnal seizures. If you are not aware of any disorder in your medical history, talk to your doctor about the possible causes of this condition. Your doctor may recommend a sleep study or EEG to determine what is happening in your brain during the seizures. If the seizures only occur at night, you probably do not have epilepsy, but it is still a good idea to get checked out by a medical professional. If you have a psychological disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder, follow the treatment plan recommended by your physician. This treatment plan may include therapy or prescription medications to control symptoms.
#5: Avoid visual stimulation before bed.
Some people relax by playing video games or watching TV. What they do not realize is that these hobbies may contribute to certain sleep disorders. Scientists now know that playing video games before bed may make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. Watching television or working on the computer right before bed may also have the same effects. If you are struggling with nocturnal seizures or episodes of sleep paralysis, avoid these activities at least one hour before bed. Spend this time relaxing or listening to quiet music. This can help improve your sleep quality and may prevent sleep paralysis episodes from occurring.
#6: Make sure you get enough sleep each night.
How much sleep you need depends on your body, but most adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you regularly work long shifts or stay up late to study and finish school assignments, you may be making your night seizures and sleep paralysis worse. If your current schedule does not permit you to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, determine if there are any activities you can give up or move to other days of the week. Getting more sleep may be enough to prevent sleep paralysis and seizures.
#7: If possible, change your work schedule.
In some people, working night shift is enough to trigger parasomnias and other sleep disorders. People who work all night long may have a hard time falling asleep during the day because their environments are not conducive to quality sleep. If you are experiencing more frequent nocturnal seizures or more sleep paralysis episodes than usual, try changing your work schedule. This change may be enough to help you avoid these bothersome problems.
Most people who experience sleep paralysis or nocturnal seizures do not suffer any ill effects, but these problems can disrupt your sleep cycle and make it difficult to get up in the morning. If these lifestyle changes do not reduce the frequency of these events, talk with your doctor about medications or other treatments that can help.