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Sleep Paralysis

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Who Develops Sleep Paralysis?

Up to as many as four out of every 10 people may have sleep paralysis. This common condition is often first noticed in the teen years. But men and women of any age can have it. Sleep paralysis may run in families. Other factors that may be linked to sleep paralysis include:

How Is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?

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:

  • You feel anxious about your symptoms
  • Your symptoms leave you very tired during the day
  • Your symptoms keep you up during the night

Your doctor may want to gather more information about your sleep health by doing any of the following:

  • Ask you to describe your symptoms and keep a sleep diary for a few weeks
  • Discuss your health history, including any known sleep disorders or any family history of sleep disorders
  • Refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation
  • Conduct overnight sleep studies or daytime nap studies to make sure you do not have another sleep disorder

How Is Sleep Paralysis Treated?

Most people need no treatment for sleep paralysis. Treating any underlying conditions such as narcolepsy may help if you are anxious or unable to sleep well. These treatments may include the following:

  • Improving sleep habits -- such as making sure you get six to eight hours of sleep each night
  • Using antidepressant medication if it is prescribed to help regulate sleep cycles
  • Treating any mental health problems that may contribute to sleep paralysis
  • Treating any other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy or leg cramps

What Can I Do About Sleep Paralysis?

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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 25, 2014
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