What exactly is happening during sleep paralysis?



I just had it happen to me for the 1 billionth time and am once again, terrified. Why does the body do this? I wonder if we are the only species this happens to?

In: Biology

I’m sure a better answer will come along, but when you sleep there’s a chemical that paralyses your body so you don’t act out your dreams. From my understanding when you’re more awake than asleep, almost a lucid dream state (aware you’re dreaming) awake but that chemical is still active you enter sleep paralysis. You try to move but you can’t and panic usually sets in. This mixed with the lingering dream inducing chemicals causes the hallucinations. Basically your mind wakes up more than it should when it shouldn’t.

Edit. To answer the follow up question, why does your body do this, the scientific why I don’t know. Usually it’s more common when your sleep deprived or stressed, also drugs even done prescription will add to this (I know peele that take antidepressants and it increased occurrences a crazy amount). I would address that is either are a concern. Some people are more prone to it but better quality sleep should help reduce it significantly.

Your nervous system has to block some signals from your brain while you sleep so that you don’t move around. When it doesn’t turn on fast enough/not work perfectly, you get sleep-walking. When it works too well/doesn’t turn off when it’s supposed to, you get sleep paralysis.

Excellent descriptions already given, but this article goes into treatments as well…


Used to have it all the time, scared the crap out of me.

From what I’ve read, it’s natural for your body to paralyze itself when it goes to sleep, to help protect you from hurting yourself.

When you have sleep paralysis, it seems like you’re almost between sleep and awake and so you have some symptoms of both.

The long term solution is to work through emotional traumas, and work through mental health issues, since that’s almost always the cause. I worked through some stuff, and I haven’t had it happen in like 4-5 years, used to happen every night.

A trick to get yourself to be able to move is to try to move your fingers/toes and lift just your neck. Keep doing that and eventually you’ll gain some movement and can wake up. Worked for me once I learned about that.

Realize that it can’t hurt you, as terrifying as it may be, so try not to freak out.

Put very simply:
When you’re asleep, your body becomes paralyzed to prevent stuff like sleep walking, i.e. acting upon our dreams. It’s self preservation.
Sleep paralysis is when you wake up but your body hasn’t turned off its paralysis so you become aware of the fact you can’t move. This of course triggers panic. The fact that you’re half asleep and scared can trigger hallucinations.
I had it for years and rarely ever get it anymore because I stopped being scared of it.