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Sleep Paralysis: How To Deal With It!

May 26, 2008
There is a sleep disorder that happens before falling asleep and/or waking up. It is important that you understand why this happens, how and what causes it to occur.

It is believed that sleep is a natural occurrence that can help the body to rest and recharge. However, its purposes are only partly clear. In the natural cycle of sleep, there are two types, which are the REM or rapid eye movements and the non-rapid eye movement or NREM.

The rapid eye movement type of sleep has a low voltage electroencephalogram. This has a relatively absent muscle tone. This is the type of sleep where in you tend to remember your dreams as they occur. In the non-rapid eye movement type of sleep, this accounts for about 75 up to 80 % of total sleeping time to a normal adult. There is a less chance that you can remember your dreams.

As compared to REM, it has four stages: stages 1 and 2 are considered light sleep, while stages 3 and 4 are known as deep sleep or slow wave sleep, as seen in the electroencephalogram. Oftentimes, during NREM, there are movements in the extremities. This causes "Parasomnias" like sleep walking.

Now, with regards to the things that control the sleeping pattern of humans, the circadian clock found in our brain mainly controls it. This is along with a human's willingness to sleep. The timing for a correct and optimal sleep also depends on the correct timing when the two circadian markers occur right after the middle period of sleep and before awakening. Thus, this results to the maximal secretion of melatonin and the minimum core body temperature.

At the National Sleep Foundation in the United States, they claimed that eight to nine hours of sleep for adults is optimal and may even offer benefits like good memory, alertness and problem solving solutions. Furthermore, overall health can also be guaranteed. A study from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine also showed that cognitive and school performance decreases for those who have fewer than eight hours sleep.

The average amount of sleep an individual needs per day depends on the age of that person. If you are and adult, mainly seven hours up to eight hours or more of sleep will do. If you are an adolescent, between 13 up to 17 years old, nine up to ten hours is required.

This makes sleep important; not only for the rest it can provide us but for the learning capacity we can endure given that we meet the necessary time needed for sleep. With regards to sleep paralysis, why and how it happens and how can we really manage it? This is a condition characterized by the non-permanent paralysis of the body. This happens shortly after we wake up or shortly before we fall asleep. It occurs when the brain is in the REM state and then you suddenly wake up even though as somewhat body paralysis persists.

It is important to remember that in REM there is a so called REM atonia or absent muscle tone. This can make a person conscious to everything that is happening but cannot move his or her body. There is also a hallucinatory element of this state, on which you see fanciful objects similar to dream-like objects that may appear in the room along with one's normal vision. Some scientist proposed that this condition calls for a theory on alien abductions and ghostly encounters.

The symptoms that an individual can experience are paralysis (as mentioned) and hallucinations, which can either be experienced in combination or not. These symptoms may be observed for a fraction of a second or up to several minutes. The possible causes that some scientist suggested were:

1)Some motor neurons or cells in the brain, which are responsible for a person's motor skills, are affected by an impediment of their release and thus, stops functioning;

2)Low levels of melatonin, which is a substance in the brain responsible for sleeping. This can prevent the stimulation of the muscles of the dreamer.

It is said that most people who suffer from sleep paralysis, also suffers narcolepsy later on in life. There are also reports on certain factors that can increase the occurrence of this disorder. One factor is sleeping in an upward position, having an irregular sleeping schedule, increased stress, sudden environmental or lifestyle changes and a dream, which precedes the episode.

Treatment involves drugs like Clonazepam and Ritalin. The one mostly recommended is Clonazepam because of its high effective results. Ritalin is successful as a daytime drug, which promotes structured sleeping patterns and can prevent sleep paralysis in some patients. Monitoring of blood pressure is a must while using this drug.

Certain steps can also help you lessen the episodes of this disorder. You should learn how to recognize sleep paralysis. It is best to know the symptoms. Ask friends if they have the same experiences, this way, you can somehow overcome your fright. You should also determine the inducing factors that are present in your current lifestyle. The best preventive way possible is for you to try to lessen or completely avoid the triggers present in your life.

Regular sleep is highly recommended to significantly reduce the likelihood of sleep paralysis. If you have a partner or someone who shares the bed with you, you need to tell him about it and ask him that he should wake you out of your paralysis. You can do this by opening your eyes and doing a groaning sound in order to call his attention. When you get older this event is less likely because it only happens mostly at a young age. When you are a teenager it may be so frequent but once you get to your thirty's, it may lessen or even before this happens all the symptoms may disappear completely. Lastly, you need to write down when you had your last episode. This way, you can track down if it's happening in an increasing fashion.

Thus, knowing these symptoms can provide you not just an understanding of the situation but the right way on how you can deal with this dilemma. The tips given should be kept in mind. Being afraid can do more harm than good, so just relax and maintain a healthy way of living and sleeping.
About the Author
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