Psychologist (518) 372-0166

Q&A- Sleep Paralysis

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.question and answer with Dr. Susan S. Woods

Q: During the last year I’ve been experiencing sleep paralysis. This occurs at the moment I go to bed and try getting asleep. During the last month this has occured 3-4 nights a week and its very tedious because I get very frightened (I even some times hallucinate things, like steps, people around me) I’m only 19. What would my treatment options be?

A: The symptoms you describe sound like classic sleep paralysis and about 40% of people experience these symptoms some of the time. Essentially, normal sleep is composed of REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non rapid eye movement) sleep with about 75% of sleeptime composed of NREM. NREM is the deep non-dreaming restorative sleep. the other 25% is REM sleep or dream sleep, believed to help us work out some of the conflicts and issues of our non-sleeping, awake life. As you relax into REM sleep your muscles have become so relaxed that usually we are not aware of not being able to move. If you become aware it can be frightening and confusing. Sleep Paralysis is something to be taken seriously but generally it is not a symptom of a severe, underlying psychiatric condition. It may be due to poor sleep habits, not enough sleep, sleeping in the wrong position or stress.If you are experiencing these symptoms, it would be a good idea to discuss them with your MD who might prescribe medications or refer you to a sleep clinic for further evaluation.

Susan S. Woods, Ph.D.

700 McClellan St ♦ Schenectady, NY 12304 ♦ (518) 372-0166

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