Sleep Paralysis

Last updated: December 2021
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What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is a parasomnia when the body is unable to move (or speak) for a very short period of time – often a few seconds – but there is a feeling of consciousness.

It occurs in REM sleep (when dreams occur) and it’s not harmful but can be very frightening.

Many people have sleep paralysis once or twice in their life, others a few times a year but some will experience it more frequently.

It affects people of all ages and is most common in teenagers and young adults.

What causes it?

Common triggers include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Narcolepsy
  • A family history


Improving sleep and lifestyle habits as well as paying attention to your sleep environment may help. Things to consider include:

  • Keeping regular hours – going to bed and getting up at the same time all the time
  • Create the ideal sleeping environment – it should be cool, quiet, dark, comfortable and clutter free
  • Take regular exercise – but not too close to bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and eating later at night
  • Manage stress and anxiety with relaxation techniques

If you’re worried or concerned, you must visit your GP.