Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by aaliyah. aaliyah Wonders, “explain sleep paralysis hallcinations” Thanks for WONDERing with us, aaliyah!

Imagine you’re in a deep sleep. You’re dreaming—or having a nightmare—when you suddenly startle awake. Or, at least, you THINK you’re awake. Your eyes are open, and you’re aware of your surroundings, but no matter how hard you try . . . you can’t move a muscle.

Does that sound like a scary experience? It can be! What we’ve just described is called sleep paralysis. It affects around eight percent of the population. The condition causes the loss of muscle control while falling asleep or waking up.

This loss of muscle control is also called atonia. It’s actually a normal part of the sleep cycle during REM sleep. It stops your muscles from responding to dreams and keeps you safe in bed until you wake.

A person with sleep paralysis experiences atonia outside of the REM cycle. Most people with the condition also have hallucinations. This can include out-of-body experiences, like the feeling of flying. People may also feel pressure in their chest. Perhaps the scariest form of these hallucinations involves the perception of a dangerous person or presence

What causes sleep paralysis? Poor sleep habits can contribute. People with certain other disorders are also more at-risk for the condition. These include sleep apnea, PTSD, and insomnia. People with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder are also more likely to have sleep paralysis.

People of any age can have sleep paralysis. However, it usually starts between the ages of 14 and 17. Some people have isolated sleep paralysis, meaning it is not connected to an underlying issue. For others, the condition is recurrent.

How is sleep paralysis treated? The first step is to talk with an expert. Doctors often start by asking patients about their sleep habits. They may even ask them to keep a sleep journal to learn more about their routine. Many patients also take part in a sleep study. That way, an expert can observe them while they sleep.

After learning more about the patient, the doctor can develop a treatment plan. This sometimes involves medication, but it almost always includes changes to the patient’s sleep habits. Doctors will often recommend avoiding blue light before bed and sleeping in a cooled room. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine can also help.

Do you know anyone who has sleep paralysis? If so, you may know it can be a disturbing experience. With the right treatment, though, the condition can be managed. If you think you may have sleep paralysis, talk with a trusted adult. They can help you take the right steps to stay healthy.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.3, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.10

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