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Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes.
Sleep paralysis usually occurs at one of two times.
As you fall asleep, your body slowly relaxes. Usually you become less aware, so you do not notice the change. However, if you remain or become aware while falling asleep, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.
During sleep, your body alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. One cycle of REM and NREM sleep lasts about 90 minutes. NREM sleep occurs first and takes up to 75% of your overall sleep time. During NREM sleep, your body relaxes and restores itself. Your muscles are "turned off" during REM sleep. If you become aware before the REM cycle has finished, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.
Sleep paralysis may run in families. Other factors that may be linked to sleep paralysis include:
If you find yourself unable to move or speak for a few seconds or minutes when falling asleep or waking up, then it is likely you have isolated recurrent sleep paralysis. Often there is no need to treat this condition.
Check with your doctor if you have any of these concerns:
Most people need no treatment for sleep paralysis. These treatments may include the following:
There's no need to fear nighttime demons or alien abductors. If you have occasional sleep paralysis, you can take steps at home to control this disorder. Start by making sure you get enough sleep . Do what you can to relieve stress in your life -- especially just before bedtime . Try new sleeping positions if you sleep on your back. And be sure to see your doctor if sleep paralysis routinely prevents you from getting a good night's sleep.
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