Struggling with Sleep Paralysis? Learn How to Treat It

Sleep paralysis can be a completely terrifying experience for anyone who experiences it. An article in The New York Times even suggests that people who experience alien abductions are actually probably describing a sleep paralysis episode. That shows just how scary and “alien” it feels. If you deal with sleep paralysis, no doubt you can relate. The good news is, treatment of sleep paralysis is possible. Part of it depends on the reason you are experiencing sleep paralysis in the first place. Read on to learn more about how to stop sleep paralysis .

What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to speak or move, and it usually happens right before you fall asleep or just as you are waking up. Some people also experience terrifying hallucinations or have a feeling that an evil presence is there. It’s bad enough that you can’t move and you don’t know why, but the vivid hallucinations make the inability to move even more scary.

It sounds like a scene from a bad movie, but actually, many people experience sleep paralysis. In fact, it’s estimated that from 20 to 60 percent of the population has had at least one episode of sleep paralysis. So it’s fairly normal even if it isn’t pleasant.

What causes Sleep Paralysis?

Most of the time, sleep paralysis is caused by a sleep regulation or disruption problem. During REM sleep, the body relaxes (sort of like paralysis) so that we don’t start acting out our dreams. Some people wake up during a REM cycle, causing temporary paralysis. While no one knows for sure why this happens, some of the triggers may be lack of sleep or stress.

Some people may experience sleep paralysis because of another sleep disorder, such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. It is important to treat the actual disorder, and in many cases, the sleep paralysis will also disappear. See a doctor if you suspect a sleep disorder may be the underlying cause.

Other people report that their sleep paralysis is a side effect of medication they are taking. Xanax is one medication that people have speculated may be causing their sleep paralysis. If you suspect one of your current medications is causing the paralysis, don’t stop taking it. Instead, talk with a doctor about alternatives and what you can do to prevent side effects.

How to Treat Sleep Paralysis

For many people, there is no need for a sleep paralysis treatment. Once they understand what is causing the temporary paralysis, they can feel at ease and know that it is not dangerous or harmful. It’s not necessary or even recommended to seek treatment for sleep paralysis in most cases.

However, as mentioned above, some people experience sleep paralysis because of a different sleep disorder such as narcolepsy. In this case, treating the narcolepsy or other sleep disorder can help with the sleep paralysis. Along the same lines, if one of your current medications is causing the paralysis, seeing a doctor to get your prescription changed can help with it.

There are also a few things you can do on your own to help prevent sleep paralysis. This mainly includes following good sleep hygiene habits. Avoiding stressors in your life and preventing sleep deprivation and overtiredness can go a long way toward preventing sleep paralysis.

And for those for whom sleep paralysis is completely terrifying and intolerable, you can see your doctor for help. A healthcare provider can prescribe medications that may help. You may get an SSRI, which is often prescribed for depression or anxiety, Ritalin, which is most famously prescribed for ADHD but can also help regulate sleep, and Clonazepam, often prescribed to treat epilepsy but also used for sleep regulation. Be sure to take all medication as directed, and follow up with your doctor if you don’t see a reduction in your sleep paralysis symptoms.

Sleep paralysis is not fun for most people who experience it. Especially if they do not understand what is going on during the episode. For many people, once they know what they are experiencing and why, the fear is gone and they don’t require any intervention. Still others will want to stop sleep paralysis from happening, and luckily there are medications and strategies to help with it.

About Holli Ronquillo

I'm a freelance writer, mom, wife, and sleep connoisseur (not necessarily in that order). When I'm not sleeping or chasing a toddler around, I'm usually writing or reading.