What happens when I wake up in the middle of the night and feel like I can't move, or feel anxious and almost paralysed? Or sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and just feel weird...can't quite explain it but it's almost like I'm still dreaming or I'm having a ghostly experience.

Sometimes, it might even feel as if someone is holding you down. You might start to panic and experience problems breathing.

This is probably SLEEP PARALYSIS.

Sleep paralysis is a fairly common sleep disorder. Doctors are not sure exactly what causes it, but it occurs in all kinds of people (even the ones that don't believe in ghosts!). An episode of sleep paralysis might go on for a few, anxious minutes or they even longer.

The symptoms of sleep paralysis are not exact, but they are usually one or more of the following sleep sensations:

  • You just wake up in the middle of the night and cannot move.
  • Perhaps something (or it feels like someone) is sitting on you, crushing you so you cannot move
  • Or perhaps your limbs cannot move, and yet your body seems to be floating away from the bed
  • You wake up suddenly in a weird, dream-like or surreal state. You can't be sure if you're still asleep, awake or in some middle world between dreams and awakefulness.
  • You see weird hallucinations or voices in your head.
  • You feel the presence of a ghost or spirit
  • You get into a panic and start feeling anxious. You might start breathing quickly and in short bursts or find you have trouble breathing
  • You feel an odd tingling sensation throughout your body, like a weird electrical current
  • You might hear strange noises - often a buzzing noise, or a hiss or a hum as if something is whizzing past you

Many people who have reported seeing ghosts or having been visited by aliens have, in fact, suffered a bout of sleep paralysis.

Sleep experts aren't sure, but they think the possible causes for sleep paralysis might include:

  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue. When you're so tired, you can barely sleep...if that makes sense
  • Sleep deprivation such as persistent insomnia e.g. in double shift workers or tired moms
  • An irregular sleeping schedule
  • Changes in environment, lifestyle
  • Stress and anxiety disorder
  • A migraine headache
  • Sleeping face upwards
  • Too much alcohol mixed with a lack of sleep
  • A lucid dream just before the attack. A lucid dream is a dream you can remember - one of those dreams in which you know you're dreaming but somehow the story continues
  • Narcolepsy which is a chronic sleep disorder. Often you suddenly fall asleep at odd times of the day
  • A strong emotional state. Not necessarily a 'negative' emotional state. For example, you might be passionately in love
  • Hypnagogic hallucination: this is a hallucination that occurs when you are between waking and sleeping states

For most people, they might suffer from sleep paralysis a few times in their life, but they do not seek treatment and it's mostly forgotten in a few days. For others, it's important to get into a good sleep routine, reduce stress and cut down on the alcohol intake and it will get better.

So the next time you're waking in the middle of the night and feel weird or like you can't move, consider sleep paralysis and read this possible cures again.