LAGRANGE, Ga. — Imagine not being able to move and you’re not quite fully awake. You’re in between the stages of wakefulness and sleep and you cannot speak or move for a few seconds or a few minutes. There’s a name for it. Sleep Paralysis. It can be pretty scary.
Centuries ago, there were stories of people being awakened by shadowy figures or demons sitting on their chest and not being able to move. But some researchers chalk the hallucinations up to sleep paralysis. It’s pretty common.
“And so someone will be coming out of a dream and they’ll be waking up, but that connection that paralyzed all that skeletal muscle, doesn’t get turned off,” said Dr. Sandy Simmons of WellStar Medical Group in LaGrange.
Dr. Simmons says 40 to 50 percent of people have experienced sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. Not everyone who has a sleep paralysis event suffers from hallucinations, the sense that there is an evil presence in the room, or chest pressure.
There’s usually no need for treatment unless the patient has frequent episodes which could be attributed to narcolepsy, a condition which can be treated.
In sleep studies, some patients have described smells of rotting flesh and the feeling of being moved, drifting or floating, as well as out of body experiences.
WebMD lists the following causes of sleep paralysis:
- Lack of sleep
- Sleep schedule that changes
- Mental conditions such as stress or bipolar disorder
- Sleeping on the back
- Other sleep problems such as narcolepsy or nighttime leg cramps
- Use of certain medications, such as those for ADHD
- Substance abuse