This Is Exactly What Happens To Your Body When You have Sleep Paralysis
Have you ever woken up from a night of sleep but felt frozen for a few seconds, like you were still dreaming? You're not alone, and what you experienced could be sleep paralysis—a state of feeling completely awake but being unable to move or speak yet. It's estimated that between eight and fifty per cent of people could experience a sleep paralysis episode over the course of their life, and learning about why it happens can help to ease your mind a bit. So, read on as we attempt to demystify the pesky sleep condition.
In every sleep cycle, there are two parts: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. During the first stages of sleep (non-REM) when you're beginning to drift off, you gradually move through three stages of sleep that keep your breathing rhythm steady and allow you to stay asleep more easily even if there are loud interruptions. After you've drifted through those stages, it's on to REM sleep where dreaming occurs. At this point in your sleep, your body's neurotransmitter called glycine helps to keep your limbs and body still while allowing involuntary muscles like your diaphragm (breathing) to move freely. This temporary state of paralysis is how your body protects itself from you acting our your dreams and potentially falling out of bed!
So, why does sleep paralysis happen? If you wake up suddenly while your body is still in the glycine-induced slumber, you might feel like you're awake while your body is waiting to catch up. That explains the feeling of a disconnect between your brain and body that many people feel as a result. If you're struggling to breathe when you suddenly waking up, remember that your body is still in a state where only involuntary muscles like your diaphragm are working which explains the shallow, rhythmic breaths that vary from your normal breathing.
Sleep paralysis isn't a pleasant experience for anyone and interrupts our sleeping pattern which is vital to our overall wellbeing. For the reason why it happens, it can be put down to a few things, from someone who has had a poor sleep routine trying to return to a regular schedule to chronic pain jolting you awake in the middle of the night. The best way to prevent it from happening is to address the underlying issue and review how your own sleeping pattern is working. Try to stick to a bed time each night and remove any distractions like your phone from the room during your rest. Waking up at around the same time every day is also great for keeping your internal body clock in check. Of course, if sleep paralysis persists, you should speak to your GP who will be able to devise a plan going forward.
Sleep is vital to your health, and this is what happens to your body when you don't get enough.