Sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a condition in which it is a normal feature of sleep for muscles to lose their tone and become physiologically paralysed. We are normally unaware of this, due to being asleep at the time.

Occasionally, the brain sequence in which we fall asleep before the onset of muscle paralysis and the reverse sequence occurs on waking can be disrupted. Any person suffering this experience is completely aware of being paralysed, which can cause fear and anxiety. Fortunately, breathing is still possible, even though the rest of the body cannot be moved at all.

Individual episodes of sleep paralysis normally settle spontaneously. It mostly occurs in adolescence and is less common as age progresses. Although it is often classified as a parasomnia, it is not known to carry any serious medical risk.

Very occasionally, sleep paralysis can be an indication of the narcolepsy/cataplexy syndrome (click here to read about narcolepsy).