sleep paralysis

Sleep Paralysis

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is when one is aware but lacks the ability to move or speak either before or after sleep. It usually occurs when awakening and may be preceded by night terrors. This may happen only once or on a recurring basis. 

Conventional Explanation of Sleep Paralysis

Most modern researchers see sleep paralysis as a neurological disorder, usually concerning REM sleep. Some point to an imbalance of melatonin during the sleep cycle. Researchers have also pointed at a potential for genetic influence. Of course, the likelihood of sleep paralysis may also be affected by stress and poor mental health. 

Conventional treatment to reduce the chances of sleep paralysis focus on reducing stress and erratic sleep pattern. This may be especially true for those who also suffer from sleep apnea. In more extreme cases, a physician may prescribe medication.

Additional Explanations For Sleep Paralysis

In the case of sleep paralysis, modern Western medicine seems to address it mainly as a lifestyle problem. Medication is reserved for those who have more severe episodes and related mental health issues. This is really good to see from a wellbeing perspective!

For some people this could be as simple as a comfortable sleeping mask, a melatonin supplement, or a nice herbal (no caffeine) tea before bed. There are also alternatives for those who want to look beyond sleep paralysis and add further to their wellbeing.

If you are interested in additional approaches to sleep paralysis, there are two in particular. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine offer their own analyses and treatments that look at the problem differently.

Traditional Chinese Medicine For Sleep Paralysis
TCM sleep paralysis
Acupuncture patient with needles along arm

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the practitioner looks for patterns of disharmony. In the case of sleep disorders like sleep paralysis, the disharmony is with the spirit/mind, or shen. Shen (spirit/mind) is considered one of Three Treasures in TCM. To correct this, a TCM practitioner may use one or more tools for the shen disharmony. Tools include acupuncture, herbs, diet, exercise (like Tai Chi), massage and more. ​

Ayurveda And Sleep Paralysis
Shirodhara sleep paralysis
Traditional treatment known as Shirodhara at Ayurvedic spa

An Ayurvedic Medicine practitioner might include Shirodhara as a mechanism to relieve stress. Shirodhara involves pouring water gently over the forehead. This can help with harmony and promote sleep. Additionally there is guidance from ancient Ayurvedic texts to help promote sleep.

The Caraka Samhita is a fundamental text for Ayurveda, or traditional Indian medicine. Ayurveda itself has been traced back to 5,000 years. The oldest copy of Caraka Samhita is about 2,000 years old. The advice in this text to induce sleep is very similar to what modern medicine might recommend:

Therapies to Induce Sleep:

Massage, anointing, bath, meat-soup of domestic, marshy and aquatic animals, rice with curd, milk, fat, wine, mental ease, pleasant smell and sound, gentle rubbing, saturating drops and paste on eyes, head and face, well-covered bed, comfortable room and proper time [including establishing the same time each night]– these bring shortly the sleep which is disturbed by some factor.


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