Is there any way to alleviate sleep paralysis?
December 16, 2004 5:23 AM   Subscribe

Sleep Paralysis: Is there any way to alleviate it?
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When I get stressed out or I screw around with my sleep schedule I tend to get sleep paralysis. My consciousness wakes up but the rest of my body doesn't so I can't move any limbs or even blink. My breathing feels laboured because I have no control over it, it's still in full control of my central nervous system. I'll have auditory hallucinations and it'll usually feel like my heads in a vice.

I've talked to my doctor but he's never heard of it and seems unwilling to learn anything new. It happens a few times per year to me but usually for days, sometimes over a week, in a row. I'm tired of it because I end up waking up from sleep feeling worse than if I'd skipped it.

I've never been very good at sleep so I guess I violate one of the central recommendations: Maintain a regular sleep pattern. It takes me over an hour to fall asleep then I wake up after 4-5 and that's it. Sometimes I don't manage to get to the actual "fall asleep" part though and if I do it a few days in a row sleep paralysis is the inevitable result.
posted by substrate to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
You've seen this thread right? At least for proof for your doctor.

I find that when I sleep on my sides, it never happens. I've been trying to do that every night for a few months now, and it hasn't happened after it did with some frequency beforehand.
posted by loquax at 6:07 AM on December 16, 2004

Response by poster: No, thanks though, I missed that thread.
posted by substrate at 6:11 AM on December 16, 2004

Read the other thread, sleep on your side, and you can always drink yourself to sleep. Works for me.
posted by bh at 6:34 AM on December 16, 2004

And get a new doctor who will listen to you. Really.
posted by ChrisTN at 6:57 AM on December 16, 2004

This used to happen to me too. Also when I was on a chaotic sleep schedule and anxious.

I've heard it attributed to both sleep apnea and some form of nocturnal epilepsy. I would definitely get a new doctor, but also focus on getting decent, regular sleep. At least 6 hrs and around the same time of night every night. If you have a hard time getting to sleep, try working out in the daytime. That usually works for me, since it sucks up a lot of the excess, nervous energy that otherwise sets my mind racing at 2AM.
posted by felix betachat at 7:09 AM on December 16, 2004

For me, making sure that my head was at least a couple of feet from any electrical devices or outlets while I slept fixed the problem.
posted by ad hoc at 7:53 AM on December 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

Also. A doctor that won't listen to you is worse than useless...

So I second ChrisTN
posted by ad hoc at 7:54 AM on December 16, 2004 [1 favorite]

You should try getting a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and now have to wear a mask at night that provides continous air pressure. I remember during the initial consult the doctor asked me repeatedly if I had ever experienced sleep paralysis so it seems to be something that is common in the realm of sleep disorders. The fact that your doctor had never heard of it seems alarming to say the least.
posted by spicynuts at 8:03 AM on December 16, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, dear old dad does have sleep apnea so I'll definately look into that. I'll also work on changing doctors. As far as exercise goes I exercise almost 7 days a week, I forgot to mention that if I exercise too intensely I'll end up with sleep paralysis as well.
posted by substrate at 8:24 AM on December 16, 2004

Kevin Drum just had a post about his sleep apnea with tons of comments, so you might want to read through that.
posted by sixdifferentways at 8:44 AM on December 16, 2004

I have mild sleep paralysis, but generally only when I haven't been sleeping well or long enough. If it's lasting weeks at a time, it may be a side-effect of a bigger sleep disorder - like apnea. A neurologist friend said (in simple terms) it's as important to sleep well, not just how long you sleep. A sleep disorder means even if you get a full 8 hours, you may never go into the type of deep/R.E.M. sleep your body needs. That sounds like it could be your problem. The "simple" suggestions I've been given are easier said than done - but they include a regular sleep schedule (like you said) and getting regular exercise (though not too close to bedtime.) These, especially the exercise, really do help me. In more severe cases, your doctor may suggest something like Ambien. This can help you at least get into a schedule at first, though you may not want to be on it forever. I know others who have had good luck with natural Melatonin, though it's never done much for me. And remember the three golden rules of a good sleep environment: dark, cool (65-68 degrees F or so), and quiet.
posted by sixdifferentways at 8:59 AM on December 16, 2004

Another thing that came up a lot in my thread was that people tend to experience SP while sleeping supine (on your back). I have had countless PSE's in my life but I can honestly say that I've had four that occured when I wasn't on my back- three were on the side and one on my stomach. In addition to getting more good sleep, try falling asleep in one of these positions. One of the posters in my thread suggested that, if you have trouble staying off your back, sew some soft but bulky object into a pocket on the back of your sleep shirt. That way it will be uncomfortable for you to roll on your back during sleep.
posted by baphomet at 10:47 AM on December 16, 2004

Definitely find a doctor who will listen. Like others have said, you'll probably need to go for an overnight sleep study to see what turns up. Most apnea sufferers don't suspect that they have it (I sure didn't).
The paralysis is also often seen in the checklists for suspecting narcolepsy.
posted by kreinsch at 2:12 PM on December 16, 2004

I've never had this problem, since I've slept on my side or stomach since I was 6 weeks old (according to my mother).

I have recently had the 5 to 6 hours of sleep, then wide awake problem, but never the 'paralysis' you refer to.
posted by kamylyon at 8:07 PM on December 16, 2004

You need to see a neurologist. Not stat - it's not an emergency - but you ought to get this checked out. If it's what I think it is, a dab of clomipramine will fix it, but absolutely do not take my word for it - go get evaluated.

Try to find one who bills him/herself as a clinical neurophysiologst or, better, a sleep specialist.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:00 PM on December 17, 2004

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