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Understanding sleep paralysis: Seven interesting facts you should know

Sleep paralysis is a malevolent experience. Something that can leave you in terror for days to come. Therefore, knowing the phenomenon well is essential.

Zee Media Bureau/Udita Madan

New Delhi: Like someone said that, sleep is the closest thing to death. The phenomenon of sleep paralysis is as close to the saying as it can get.

The term may sound strange, but it is not unheard of. It occurs sometime either during falling asleep or during the waking up phase.

Sleep paralysis is not a very pleasant experience. In the process, a person wakes up but finds themselves unable to move or speak. It is commonly accompanied by feelings that something or someone is in the room with them or actually seeing or hearing something as well as a feeling of pressure on the chest and other physical sensations.

Till date, there is no scientific explanation about sleep paralysis that can be considered credible enough for acceptance.

According to Wikipedia, however, one hypothesis is that it results from disrupted REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which normally induces complete muscle atonia to prevent sleepers from acting out their dreams.

Sleep paralysis has been linked to disorders such as narcolepsy, migraines, anxiety disorders, and obstructive sleep apnoea, however, it can also occur in isolation.

To familiarize you with the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, we list out some facts that you should be aware of and understand why the process induces fear.

1. Not night terrors:

Sleep paralysis is not to be confused with “night terrors” where an individual will awaken and sit bolt upright in fear, often screaming and thrashing their arms and legs wildly, completely unaware of their surroundings and not knowing where they are.

2. The two types:

There are two types of sleep paralysis. The first is isolated sleep paralysis or ISP. This is when an individual may experience sleep paralysis very infrequently, possibly only once or twice in their whole lives.

The second kind is recurrent isolated sleep paralysis or RISP. This kind is exactly what it sounds like and an individual with this kind of sleep paralysis experiences the phenomenon very often and it may occur many times throughout an individuals life.

3. Occurrence of RISP:

RISP can last up to an hour and is accompanied by a much greater chance of having an out of body experience attached to the occurrence.

4. Sleep paralysis is not common: 

According to, a European study of over 8,000 people in Italy and Germany revealed that only 6.2% of the people surveyed had experienced sleep paralysis even one time. Only 0.8% of those surveyed experienced sleep paralysis around once a week. 1.4% experienced it once a month and 4% experienced it once every few months.

5. Occurrence of sleep paralysis:

Sleep paralysis does occur more among young adults and people with mental disorders or those who have a history of mental disorders. But, those taking anxiety medications are especially likely to experience sleep paralysis.

6. Sleeping position:

It's disturbing to think that a sleeping position can make you vulnerable to such unpleasant experiences, but it's true. Sleeping on your back is considered to be the most common sleeping position that people have said to experience sleep paralysis in.

7. The overall experience:

The experience of sleep paralysis for most, is overwhelmingly negative and malevolent. One explanation, according to, is that the mind registers unexplainable events as threats as an evolutionary adaptation to keep you from acting out your dreams.

Are you aware of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis? in Health News on LockerDome