Does this sound familiar? You are starting to fall asleep, but you’re not quite fully there-more like a daze. Suddenly, you feel your heart rate dramatically increase and then you start having problems getting your next breath. Perhaps you even feel like you can’t move-your body is paralyzed. All this is very terrifying and for lack of a better term you call it a sleep panic attack.
You are probably suffering from one of two conditions. One is called night terrors and the other sleep paralysis.
Here is the good news-if there can be anything good about waking up in horror-neither condition is a serious health threat. However, it is always good to check in with your doctor concerning your sleep issues. For example, sometimes thyroid conditions can cause symptoms similar to what we have described.
Night terrors usually develops within the first hour or so of sleep and is more common in children than adults. A person suffering from night terror will yell, scream or moan while sleeping, but will probably not become fully awake during their episode. Even if someone tries to wake them it will be difficult to do so. One very distinguishing feature of night terror is that the person suffering from it will rarely be able to remember exactly what happened to them and what they did during their sleep terror. However, they will be able to remember the fear they felt when their heart was racing and breathing was difficult.
Children suffering from night terrors will have very similar symptoms as adults, but they generally only impact children under the age of six. While not real common, approximately 1 in seven children will suffer from night terror sometime in their childhood.
Night terrors are generally related to anxiety issues, improper sleeping patterns and bad diet choices. Reducing stress, establishing plans to assure consistent and quality sleep and improving diet choices will go far in reducing night terror in both children and adults.
Sleep paralysis occurs when a person is unable to move their bodies either as they fall to sleep or as they start to wake up. It is a very frightening experience and is also accompanied by difficulty in breathing and a feeling of tightness in their chest area. They are often fearful they will die because of these breathing problems.
There isn’t a medical explanation for the cause of sleep paralysis; however, there is some indication it can be related to genetics and a family history of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis will pass after a few minutes and the person will either quickly regain the use of their limbs or will progressively improve.
People with sleep paralysis often suffer from panic attacks during their waking hours, so there is definitely a correlation. Like most panic related issues, getting proper exercise, improving eating habits and establishing sleep routines to assure more and higher quality sleep will assist in reducing sleep paralysis.
While night terrors and sleep paralysis can be extremely frightening and distressing, they usually don’t involve serious health issues. Hopefully, their symptoms can be avoided or reduced by making relatively simple changes in life-styles choices.