The answer to “How long does sleep paralysis last?” is complex and research on it is ongoing. Here is all you need to know about it.
Sleep paralysis is the inability to move during either sleeping or awakening when you are aware of it but can’t do anything about it. Before getting to the real question of “how long does sleep paralysis last,” there are a few other things which should be known.
What is sleep paralysis?
The feeling when the person is conscious, between stages of sleeping and awakening, but unable to speak or move is called sleep paralysis. When the person experiencing sleep paralysis is either going to sleep or just waking up, he or she may experience this feeling for a few seconds to a few minutes. Some of the people experiencing sleep paralysis also experience a choking feeling or pressure.
Myths about Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis is older than we think it is. You can hear many myths and stories relating to it; most common are:
- Evil Spirits like Succubus or Incubus
- Alien visit
Fortunately, these have proven to be myths and have nothing to do with reality.
Feeling during Sleep Paralysis
You might feel all or some of these symptoms during your sleep paralysis:
- People mostly see or feel the presence of an entity during sleep paralysis.
- Fear is mostly associated with sleep paralysis.
- It can be episodic or recurrent.
Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis
Apart from awareness and inability to move there are a few other symptoms one experiences during sleep paralysis which are as follows:
- Different types of sounds or whispers can be heard
- Feeling of numbness or tingles in the body
Sleep paralysis is known to many nowadays. According to an estimate, at least one in 5 people experience sleep paralysis in their lifetime (Tidy, 2015).
How long does the sleep paralysis last?
There is no consensus on the duration of paralysis as people experience it for a different period of time. It has been reported that sleep paralysis can last from a few seconds to several minutes. People have reported to experience sleep paralysis from 5 minutes to 45 minutes.
When Does Sleep Paralysis Usually Occur?
Sleep paralysis generally occurs two times during your sleep. It occurs either when you are about to sleep, or you are about to wake up. The sleep paralysis occurring when you are falling asleep is called Pre-Dormital sleep paralysis. The other sleep paralysis which occurs when you are about to wake up is called Post-Dormital sleep paralysis.
It can be a once in a lifetime experience or can be a regular experience. Some people experience sleep paralysis once in a blue moon while others might experience it several times a month and even more. According to a study conducted in the UK around 8% of the 862 participants, reported the more recurrent experience of sleep paralysis (iflscience.com).
There is a vast variety of reasons for sleep paralysis. These reasons for sleep paralysis are only to name a few:
- Sleep deprivation
- Sleep cycle disturbance
- Clinically diagnosed sleep disorders like Narcolepsy
- Mental conditions such as PTSD or bipolar disorder
- Lying on your back while sleeping
- Night-time leg cramps (restless leg syndrome)
- Use of certain medications (e.g., ADHD medications)
- GABA blocking medication
- Substance abuse
Things you can do to improve sleep paralysis
Most of the time it is not necessary to go to the doctor for sleep paralysis. It is considered normal to experience sleep paralysis as it does not have any clinical significance. You can use following methods to cure sleep paralysis:
- Maintain a regular sleep cycle
- Get 6-8 hours of sleep daily
- Optimal room temperature
- Prescribed antidepressant
- Try lying on your side
- Treat mental health problem if any
When should you see a doctor?
Sleep paralysis is mostly considered to be normal without any serious concern. However, if you experience following symptoms during your sleep paralysis, try to consult your GP and get it checked.
- You experience it regularly
- If you have symptoms of other sleeping disorders
- If it makes you more anxious than before
- If it is followed by a panic attack
- If the duration is longer than an hour
- If you have a history of any other mental health issue
- If there are symptoms of narcolepsy
- If it has started after a trauma
- If it is disturbing your sleep pattern
- If you are not getting enough sleep because of sleep paralysis
- If it is affecting your social, occupational and personal life or even academics
- If the sleep paralysis ultimately affecting your health
You should visit your doctor in case of clinically diagnosed disease associated with sleep paralysis. Even in the absence of any clinically diagnosed disorder, there are a few therapies which will help you control the sleep paralysis.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- Relaxation Training
- Breathing Techniques
The answer to question “how long does the sleep paralysis last?” is not simple. It is not scientifically proven because different people experience it differently. However, a general episode is between a few seconds and a few minutes.