During REM sleep, a person is experiencing a variety of sensory experiences, and his limbs muscles are temporarily paralysed (atonia). In sleep paralysis, the person is suddenly conscious during the REM sleep phase, but he is unable to move or speak as his muscles have yet to ‘awaken’. Some may even feel a sense of pressure and choking. This phenomenon may end on its own or by a touch or sound. Although it is generally brief, lasting only a few seconds to a few minutes, it can be a dreadfully frightening experience. Some Chinese call it ‘ghost oppression phenomenon’.

The causes of sleep paralysis may be due to:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Medical conditions like bipolar disorder or anxiety disorder
  • Certain medications
  • Migraines
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs
  • Hereditary

Sleep paralysis can also occur in isolation.

Sleep paralysis is rare and does not affect your sleep or overall health in most cases. You should see a sleep specialist if recurrences keep you up at night and result in daytime sleepiness. A sleep study may be done to find out if there are other underlying problems. We offer hospital-based and home-based sleep study for your convenience. Consult our senior specialist Dr YT Pang at CENTAS for an accurate diagnosis of your sleep problem.