It’s important to preface this answer by saying that diagnosis over the internet is impossible. It’s always necessary to consult a professional in person. They will collect information about your circumstances. That is the best way to accurately determine a proper diagnosis, should one be warranted.
Your symptoms may be consistent with sleep paralysis. It’s episodic in nature. It often occurs as you’re drifting off to sleep or when attempting to wake up. You’re attempting to move your body but your brain didn’t get the message. It is an experience of being stuck in the most vivid stage of sleep while attempt to awaken.
Episodes of sleep paralysis have been reported for many hundreds of years. It can be a frightening experience. The idea of essentially dreaming while awake is a lot like hallucinating. The inability to move can be disconcerting. As a response, sometimes people will avoid sleeping in their beds and become frightened of going to sleep.
Research indicates that sleep paralysis is common. Close to 8% of the general population has had at least one episode of sleep paralysis over the course of their lives. It is more prevalent among students, individuals with certain psychiatric conditions, and shift workers. Females are said to experience it slightly more often than males. It’s also more common among African-Americans than Caucasian individuals for reasons that are not entirely clear.
Medical conditions have also been linked to sleep paralysis. These include hypertension, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, and alcohol use, among others.
Among individuals with sleep paralysis, they commonly have trauma histories and posttraumatic stress disorders. It’s also typical for people with sleep paralysis to have a variety of different anxiety disorders. Those with personality traits such as disassociation, imaginativeness and believing in the paranormal or supernatural have also been linked to sleep paralysis, though the exact relationship between these traits requires more research.
Some individuals with diagnosed conditions of sleep paralysis have benefited from medication including certain types of antidepressants. This may or may not be warranted in your situation.
Hopefully this was an isolated incident. It is for many people. It may have been prompted by something that was happening in your life. Bad sleep habits are also known contributors.
If this issue is causing you distress, consult a sleep specialist. They may recommend a sleep study to ascertain whether a disorder is present and treatment is required. A sleep specialist may have recommendations for your sleep hygiene habits. If comorbid disorders are present, such as an anxiety disorder, you might also consult a therapist for counseling. Thank you for your question. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle