Waking up but feeling paralyzed

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. For years now,when I am asleep and I wake up,I can’t open my eyes or moved.I feel totally paralized.Its terrifying! I try to will myself to move but it doesn’t work. It seems like it last for such a long time, But I don’t know how long it actually lasts.After I come out of it,its like a jolt.I wake up suddenly. I don’t understand why this is happening to me.It doesn’t happen all the time but often enough,I obsess about all day the next day..Do you have any idea why this happens to me?Did something happen to me when I was little cause it has happened since childhood.Thank you.

A. This must be a very terrifying experience. I am familiar with these sleep disruptions and it may be some form of sleep paralysis or a sleep disorder. I do not know the exact cause of these occurrences; many factors may be involved. I suggest that you talk to your doctor about this. Explain to him or her the specifics about how these sleep events occur, how often, how long they last, what happens to you when they occur, and so forth.

Your doctor will likely refer to you a sleep disorders clinic where you can undergo a sleep study. If your doctor does not refer you, be sure to tell him or her that you want to be referred to a sleep disorders clinic. At a sleep disorders clinic, you will undergo a series of tests and it is likely that you will be asked to stay overnight least once so that the doctors can monitor your sleep and check for irregularities. Starting with a sleep study is your best option. Take care.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Oct 2007

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2007). Waking up but feeling paralyzed. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/10/16/waking-up-but-feeling-paralyzed/