Anyone who has experienced sleep paralysis knows that it’s not a fun experience. It can feel like a waking nightmare—you open your eyes in the middle of the night and realize that you can’t move or speak. Sometimes you struggle to breathe like something is sitting on your chest, and it often causes hallucinations of an intruder or threatening presence in your room. While the experience can be scary and uncomfortable, it’s actually quite common.
There’s no comprehensive study on sleep paralysis yet, but some researchers believe as many as 65% of people may experience sleep paralysis at some point. For most people, it will only happen once in a lifetime, but for some, it’s a recurring nightmare. Sleep paralysis isn’t dangerous and it’s not necessarily a sign of any outside health problems, but most people find it extremely unpleasant.
Luckily, there are ways to cut down on your risk of sleep paralysis, from your lifestyle to the mattress you sleep on.
What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis typically happens while we’re in REM sleep. Typically, we have our most active dreams during this period of deep rest. Our brain also shuts down our major muscle groups during this stage of sleep, locking us into place so that we don’t move around too much while we’re dreaming. Normally, we’re so deeply asleep that we don’t even notice this temporary paralysis as it happens, but when the transition between REM and other stages of sleep doesn’t go smoothly, problems can arise.
Sleep paralysis is what happens when we come out of that deep sleep before our brain has had time to unlock our muscles. Doctors aren’t sure exactly what causes this misstep, but everything from sleep deprivation to medications to disorders like anxiety and sleep apnea have been pointed to as contributing factors to sleep paralysis.
How to Prevent It
Some research has shown that sleeping on your back and repeatedly waking up in the night might increase the likelihood of sleep paralysis. An irregular sleeping schedule can also put you at risk for waking up during REM. One of the best ways to ensure a good night’s rest and comfortable side-sleeping is a good mattress. Beautyrest mattresses are a great option to stave off sleep paralysis and other sleep problems.
Many modern mattress conveniences were actually invented by Beautyrest, like king and queen-sized beds, as well as the hybrid mattress, which mixes traditional springs with cushy layers of memory foam. The foam conforms to the body making side-sleeping more comfortable and can lessen the effects of sleep apnea, which has been linked to sleep paralysis. Firm but cushy memory foam can also decrease the likelihood of being woken up by a sleeping partner.
Scientists and doctors are still trying to learn more about why sleep paralysis happens and how to prevent it, but for now, getting a good night’s sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress is the best way to move smoothly through the stages of sleep and keep paralysis at bay.
Gerry, Your Sleep Expert