When you fall asleep, your brain makes the muscles relax and stay still. In someone who suffers from sleep paralysis , this sensation occurs while the person is awake. Sleep paralysis can be terrifying; you can be awake, but you cannot move or speak. An episode can last for seconds or minutes, causing fear, anxiety, and even hallucinations.

7 strategies to prevent sleep paralysis

If you’ve ever experienced sleep paralysis, you know how scary it can be. There are several preventative measures you can take to avoid another episode like that. When you find the one that’s right for you, you can avoid getting catalepsy again .

1. Rule out medical conditions

The exact cause of sleep paralysis is unknown. If you have experienced multiple episodes, it is necessary to consult with a doctor to rule out any possible medical problems. Working with a sleep specialist to check neurological conditions and control your hormone levels and vitamin levels, all together can be very beneficial in preventing another attack.

2. Minimize sleep interruptions

Research has shown that sleep disruptions are linked to sleep paralysis . In one study, researchers were able to manipulate the brains of healthy volunteers to experience sleep paralysis, but wake them up as soon as they entered REM sleep. The results suggest that frequent interruptions during the night can trigger an episode. Turn off your phone at night, block outside light, and don’t fall asleep with the TV on.

3. Establish a sleep schedule

Although the exact cause is unknown, researchers speculate that a lack of a sleep program may be one of the causes of sleep paralysis . If you constantly go to bed and wake up at different times each day, a lack of a sleep routine could be causing bouts of sleep paralysis .

Create a sleep regimen that involves going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning. This will help your body recognize how much sleep you need each night and how to transition through the phases of sleep more efficiently.

4. Adjust your resting position

In most cases of sleep paralysis, people who experience an episode are sleeping on their backs . To reduce the chances of having an episode, sleep in a position other than this, you can choose to sleep in the side or face down position. Researchers aren’t sure why most episodes occur while a person is sleeping on their back, but changing sleep position could help prevent them from happening.

5. Reduce stress

Anxiety, trauma, and depression can increase the risk of sleep paralysis. Stress and over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system may be causing these episodes of catalepsy. Exercising regularly, meditating, reading a book or taking a bath before bed can be allies to reduce stress. Lowering it will help improve your quality of sleep, as well as your overall quality of life.

6. Sleep more

People who experience sleep paralysis are often those who are deprived of a good night’s rest. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body has a hard time resetting your circadian rhythm. Instead of feeling mentally and physically rejuvenated in the morning, you will feel sick, sluggish, and constantly fatigued. It is advisable to sleep between 7 to 9 hours a day.

7. Reduce tobacco and alcohol consumption

Ingesting nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol frequently – especially before bed – can make you more prone to sleep paralysis. Abandoning them altogether, or at least abstaining several hours before bedtime is highly recommended. If you are taking medication, it may also be causing these episodes. Talk to your doctor to see if the medication may be causing your sleep paralysis and come up with a plan, together with your specialist, to find an alternative solution.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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