Sleep paralysis and insomnia

“Have you ever felt like you were awake but unable to move? You might have even felt afraid but could not call for help? This condition is called sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis may leave you feeling frightened, especially if you also see or hear things that aren’t really there. Sleep paralysis may happen only once, or you may have it frequently — even several times a night.

Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. Sleep paralysis may accompany other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is an overpowering need to sleep caused by a problem with the brain’s ability to regulate sleep.

Sleep paralysis usually occurs at one of two times. If it occurs while you are falling asleep, it’s called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis.  As you fall asleep, your body slowly relaxes. Usually you become less aware, so you do not notice the change. However, if you remain or become aware while falling asleep, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.   If it happens as you are waking up, it’s called hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.  During sleep, your body alternates between REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. One cycle of REM and NREM sleep lasts about 90 minutes. NREM sleep occurs first and takes up to 75% of your overall sleep time. During NREM sleep, your body relaxes and restores itself. At the end of NREM, your sleep shifts to REM. Your eyes move quickly and dreams occur, but the rest of your body remains very relaxed. Your muscles are “turned off” during REM sleep. If you become aware before the REM cycle has finished, you may notice that you cannot move or speak.

Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an “evil” presence: unseen night demons in ancient times, the old hag in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and alien abductors. Almost every culture throughout history has had stories of shadowy evil creatures that terrify helpless humans at night. People have long sought explanations for this mysterious sleep-time paralysis and the accompanying feelings of terror.

Sleep researchers conclude that, in most cases, sleep paralysis is simply a sign that your body is not moving smoothly through the stages of sleep. Rarely is sleep paralysis linked to deep underlying psychiatric problems.”

(From Virtual Sleep Diagnostics.)


This happens to me quite frequently.

I don’t see or feel a figure in my room, but as I’m usually starting to dream by that stage, whatever I’m dreaming about (which is usually someone coming after me or trying to kill me) is still in my head, so it’s a bit freaky.

To come out of it I concentrate really hard on getting my toes to move, then my fingers, and this usually pulls the rest of my body out of it.  I have to concentrate very hard on it though.

Sometimes it will happen again straight away when I start to fall back asleep.  I think that usually happens if the previous dream resumes.


I have had problems with sleep throughout my entire life.

I have had insomnia since I was about five.  I have vivid memories of going to bed at 7ish and lying awake for hours on end, seeing my parents come to check on me every hour or so (they couldn’t see that my eyes were open due to my room being dark) and eventually hearing them go to bed well past midnight.

I was told once by a doctor that I would need to have sleep therapy, as my sleep disorder obviously wasn’t caused by any particular event, such as school stress or a relationship breakup for example.  Sleeping pills wouldn’t work, as they only get you from light sleep to deep sleep and I couldn’t even get to the light sleep stage.  Sleeping pills are only a short-term solution anyway.

After more than two decades with insomnia I still haven’t gotten any sleep therapy.  I’m not sure why; whether it just seems like too big a task to deal with (and it would take awhile) or whether I am worried about financial cost.  I think it is my avoidance-is-easiest attitude that is to blame for me not getting around to it (as it is with most things that I do not get around to).

I sleep a bit better than I used to when I was younger.  Once I finally do get to sleep (after an hour or two of going to bed) I usually do sleep right through the night unless woken by noise.  Four hours a night used to be a good night for me, with two or three being the usual.  Now I probably get at least four or five.  Usually.

I have not been sleeping well lately.

x K o D


~ by Kitten of Doom on September 13, 2011.

7 Responses to “Sleep paralysis and insomnia”

  1. Wow, Sister . . . heavy stuff.
    It’s a horrid feeling not getting a good, heavy sleep. You get used to it after years, but it’s never the same.

    I used to have insomnia – battling unhealed childhood stuff was a big cause for me. Calcium magnesium supplements helped when I was going through it – relaxes the muscles apparently. And I always sleep deeper when I keep up yoga on a regular basis – the deep breathing gets you into more of an alpha state. Not that I’ve tried it, but acupuncture is supposed to be good too.

    I know you didn’t post for advice, but wanted to share what worked for me.
    I’m sure living with it as long as you have, you’ve probably tried everything.
    You’re a tough lady – I would be unbearable on 4 hours.

    Here’s to a beautiful restful night for you . . . x

  2. I vividly remember sleep paralysis happening to me when I was young – really young – like 7 or 8 years old but I didn’t bring it with me as I grew up. I’ve finally figured out what’s wrong with me, though: so as far as self-diagnoses go, at least my weird sleep is biological and not psychological.

    What about you?

  3. It takes me about an hour to get to sleep then I’m all sorted. It’s usually a long hour though. I envy those people that put their head on the pillow and it’s lights out.

  4. this sounds scary and terrible; sorry you’ve been dealing with this Brie
    i suffered with insomnia about 3 years ago but i had a lot of stressors
    i can’t imagine how frustrated you must feel, not knowing the cause of why you can’t sleep

    i think seeing someone about your sleep deprivation is probably a good idea x

  5. 7 minutes? takes me at least an hour unless i have something to distract me like a movie (or work). i cannot switch my mind off at night and i literally think until my mind is too tired and then i manage to drift off.

    i can’t imagine how tiring it is to have insomnia. and i know the dread of feeling like something will never get sorted or it will take endless tests and dig heavily into your wallet..

    have you done much research online, read forums etc? i find that reading about others experiences and how they each deal with the same issues can help a lot.


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