The Causes of Sleep Paralysis
Sleep is a well-known, natural, recurring state of body and mind, characterized by decreased awareness, a marked reduction in sensory activity, decreased muscle activity during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and decreased interactions with surrounding environments. People tend to sleep for different amounts of time, for different lengths of time, during different stages of their lives. Teenagers and children require relatively longer periods of sleep per night than adults. Sleep is an important function of the nervous system, with the brain using sleep as a means to reorganize, store and make sense of experience and stimuli, while the body uses sleep as a means to repair itself after the daily activity it has been involved in. Our bodies only really go to sleep when we are tired, stressed or depressed, but it is our sleep at this time that is crucial for our health and that which helps us recover after traumatic or confusing events.
Sleep and the body’s circadian rhythms play an important role in our health through the complex process of the Circadian Rhythm. This is the process by which the body “wakes up” and enters into a sleep-wake cycle, which is the cycle the brain goes through each day to determine the next day’s activities. This is an incredibly complicated process, which is why most people have sleep cycles that run on within a few hours each day. It is the duration between sleep cycles, that is important. Each individual’s cycle can last anywhere from several seconds to a whole week.
Sleep occurs for different amounts of time and at different stages of the sleeping cycle. Stage I sleep (which is the slowest stage of sleep) lasts for about 90 seconds and consists of slower eye movements, deeper sleep and lower levels of emotional outbursts. Stage IIIa of sleep is the second shortest stage of sleep and is usually followed by Stage IV sleep, which is the second longest stage and includes faster eye movements, deeper sleep and higher levels of emotional outbursts. The longer the stage duration and the deeper the stage, the more likely the person will have an episode during the day. If the episode happens while the person is awake, it is called a waking episode.
REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is the deepest stage of sleep. It is frequently mistaken for non-REM sleep. REM sleep accounts for about a quarter of a person’s total sleep time. Because of its increased importance, people generally prefer REM sleep over non REM sleep.
Rapid eye movements (REMs) are a subset of REM sleep. REMs are believed to help preserve and regenerate neurons that are damaged or killed during the dreaming process. Some researchers think that REMs may even help explain a link between dream memories and behavioral traits. For instance, a REM activity that a person has while asleep such as falling asleep or staying asleep can help him remember things that he has forgotten or that he wants to remember.
Some common symptoms associated with a variety of sleep disorders include: hyperventilation, irritability, depression, decreased concentration, impaired memory, impaired judgment, nightmares, restless leg syndrome, and sleep paralysis. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it would be in your best interest to see a doctor and seek professional help. A doctor can run tests that can rule out medical causes of your sleep problems and can recommend treatment options that are most effective for your specific needs.