What It Really Means When You Experience Sleep Paralysis

Being fully awake without being able to move may sound like the beginning of a horror film, but unfortunately, this horrifying sensation happens in reality. Medically referred to as sleep paralysis, according to The Economic Times, there are two different types of this sleep disorder. If you are awake but unable to move as you're falling asleep—it's called 'hypnagogic' sleep paralysis. For others, this same sensation occurs but while in the process of waking up, which is known as 'hypnopompic' sleep paralysis.

WebMD states that in addition to feeling paralyzed, some people have also reported a feeling of pressure or choking. This disorder is more widespread than people would believe, and most often reveals itself during teenage years. The cause of sleep paralysis may be genetic, but it can also be a side effect of a mental health disorder, substance abuse disorder, or an inconsistent sleep schedule. In addition, "Sleep paralysis is usually brought on by stress, sleep deprivation, and sometimes even alcohol," says chief sleep physiologist Joseph Gannon of the Sleep Disorders Clinic to Bustle.

Sleep paralysis can happen to anyone

Oftentimes, sleep paralysis shows up in those who experience other sleeping disorders such as narcolepsy, but it is important to note that it can happen to anyone. Sleep paralysis can occur frequently, or as an isolated incident. In fact, The Economic Times shares how several studies have shown that many people have at least one episode in their life without ever being aware of it.

So what do you do immediately after you've experienced an episode? Bustle recommends getting out of bed immediately after waking up, turning on a light, and splashing your face with cold water. If you stay in bed and fall back asleep right after you've woken up, you have a higher risk of experiencing sleep paralysis yet again.

As horrifying as the feeling of being temporarily paralyzed is, and knowing that we are all susceptible to it, there is good news. Sleep paralysis doesn't cause any physical harm to the body and is not known to cause death. Should you have any questions or concerns, consider consulting with a physician or sleep specialist to help get you back to peaceful slumbers.