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Sleep paralysis

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When people are dreaming, their muscles do not move, even if they in their dream they are moving. This is a natural process which prevents that people actually perform the movements they do in their sleep. In general, people are not aware of this inabilty to move, as it usually stops as soon as they wake up. People suffering form Sleep paralysis wake up and find that they are unable to move - that is that this paralysis hasn't stopped. Usually it lasts for only a few minutes, and people have said they feel a "presence" or "ghost" during it.

Possible causes

Little is known about the physiology of sleep paralysis. However, some have suggested that it may be linked to post-synaptic (neurons sending signals to other neurons) inhibition (restraint) of nerves in the pons (back) region of the brain. In particular, low levels of melatonin may stop the depolarization current in the nerves, which stops stimulation of the muscles.

Studies suggest that many people get sleep paralysis at least once in their lives. People who have narcolepsy often get it much more. Many people try to induce sleep paralysis, to have an Out of Body Experience. If you suffer from sleep paralysis, you can change it into an enjoyable experience.

Some report that various factors make paralysis and hallucinations happen more.[1] These include:

  • Sleeping on your back
  • Irregular sleeping schedules; naps, sleeping in, sleep deprivation
  • Increased stress
  • Sudden changes of lifestyle or environment
  • A lucid dream just before it
  • Medium to long-term imagining of involuntary movements with your eyes closed before sleep.


  1. J. A. Cheyne. "Preventing and Coping with Sleep Paralysis".

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