What causes sleep paralysis!? [5 TIPS]

Many communities do not understand why sleep paralysis happens. In fact, some communities attribute this occurrence to demonic forces, and there are different folk tales to explain this phenomenon. Some communities have linked this occurrence with underlying psychiatric issues. However, the real cause is different. Plenty of scientific research has been conducted to establish the causes of sleep paralysis and how to treat it. This article will explain what sleep paralysis is, its causes, and treatment. This information will help you understand that sleep paralysis is not a demonic thing, and it can happen to anyone.

What is Sleep Paralysis?

What exactly is sleep paralysis [1]? If you have ever been conscious, but your body refuses to move, you experienced sleep paralysis. Sleep experts have reported that this occurrence happens when the body moves between being awake and asleep. As this transition occurs, you become unable to move or speak. Usually, an episode lasts between a few seconds and a couple of minutes. During an episode of sleep paralysis, some people may feel a sense of choking or pressure. Sometimes, sleep paralysis accompanies other sleep disorders. One of these is narcolepsy, characterized by a powerful urge to sleep because the brain cannot regulate sleep.

Sleep paralysis typically occurs [2] twice. For some people, it happens just as they are about to fall asleep, and this is known as predormital or hypnagogic sleep paralysis. Others experience this condition right before waking up, and this is known as postdormital or hypnopompic sleep paralysis.

Predormital/ Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis

This form of sleep paralysis happens right before you fall asleep. Ordinarily, the body relaxes slowly, making you less aware of the environment right before you sleep. However, people who experience predormital or hypnagogic sleep paralysis remain aware while falling asleep but cannot speak or move.

Postdormital/ Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis

As human beings sleep, the body shifts between REM and NREM sleep. REM refers to Rapid Eye Movement, while NREM refers to non-rapid eye movement sleep. Usually, each cycle of REM or nonREM lasts about 90 minutes. NREM occurs first, and it takes about 75% of sleep. During NREM, the human body is relaxed and restores itself. During REM, eyes move quickly, and dreams occur, but the body is still relaxed. Usually, muscles are too relaxed to work during REM sleep. People with postdormital or hypnopompic sleep paralysis become aware before the end of a REM cycle.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

Studies have shown that up to four out of ten persons experience sleep paralysis. Most of them start experiencing it in their teenage years, but it can develop at any age. Different factors are known to cause sleep paralysis. Some of the common causes are listed below.

  • Lack of sufficient sleep
  • Having a sleep schedule that changes frequently
  • Sleeping on the back
  • Mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and stress
  • Sleep disorders such as narcolepsy
  • Some medications, e.g. ADHD medications
  • Alcohol and substance abuse

How is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?

Isolated cases of sleep paralysis are very common, and most people will experience them at least once in their lifetime. Isolated cases do not necessarily require medical attention. However, if you find yourself alert but unable to talk or move right before falling asleep or just before waking up severally, you should consult a doctor. If the recurrent sleep paralysis makes you anxious or makes you feel exhausted during the day, you should book a medical appointment. You should look for professional help if the symptoms of sleep paralysis keep you awake at night.

Treatments for Sleep Paralysis

As mentioned earlier, many people experience isolated cases of sleep paralysis. These do not require the attention of a medic. However, repeated episodes require medical attention [3] because they may be a sign of an underlying problem. If this is the case, your doctor will treat the underlying condition. However, there are some remedies you can use to manage sleep paralysis, and they are listed below.

  • Improve your sleep habits by ensuring you get at least six to eight hours of sleep every night. You can improve your sleep by getting the correct bedding, such as the best comforter if you are a hot sleeper.
  • See the relevant expert to treat any mental health issue that may be causing sleep paralysis.
  • If prescribed by a qualified expert, make sure you take antidepressants as recommended because they regulate sleep cycles.

It is crucial to note that you may be asked questions about your sleep habits during the doctor’s visit. Some of the simple activities the medical expert may require you to do are:

  • Keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks
  • Discussing your medical history, including a family history of any sleep disorders or past sleep disorders.
  • The doctor may ask to conduct an overnight sleep study or daytime nap study to ascertain you do not have another sleep disorder.
  • You may also get a referral to a sleep specialist.


If you experience sleep paralysis, you do not have to worry that demons or evil spirits have invaded your body. Sleep paralysis affects many people, and you can resolve it by making a few lifestyle changes. These include dealing with stress, ensuring you get adequate sleep, and changing your sleeping position. If the episodes of sleep paralysis are recurrent, you should seek medical attention because they may be a sign of a serious underlying illness.


  1. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-paralysis
  2. http://sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/sleep-paralysis/overview-facts
  3. https://share.upmc.com/2015/04/what-causes-sleep-paralysis/
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