What Is Sleep Paralysis?


Quick Answer

According to WebMD, sleep paralysis is a condition where a person feels conscious but is unable to move during sleep. It happens when a person passes from the wakeful stage of sleep to the actual stage of sleeping and is aware of the transition.

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Full Answer

According to WebMD, there are two types of sleep paralysis, depending on when they occur. If sleep paralysis occurs while a person is falling asleep, it is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. This type usually occurs when a person who is falling asleep still remains aware when he otherwise loses awareness during sleep. This awareness can cause the person to feel as though he cannot move or speak.

The second type of sleep paralysis is called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis, explains WebMD, and occurs when a person is awakening. During a normal sleep cycle, a person enters several stages, including NREM, or non-rapid eye movement, and REM or rapid eye movement. When transitioning from NREM sleep to REM sleep, a person may become aware; however, during the REM cycle of sleep, most muscles are "turned off" preventing the patient from moving. Sleep researchers have concluded that sleep paralysis, in most cases, poses no health risks, and most people do not require treatment.

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