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Isolated sleep paralysis

  • Definition
    • Isolated sleep paralysis is a type of paralysis that occurs when a person just goes to sleep or upon waking from sleep. It is not associated with another sleep disorder.

  • Alternative Names
    • Sleep paralysis - isolated; Parasomnia - isolated sleep paralysis

  • Symptoms
    • Episodes of isolated sleep paralysis last from a few seconds to 1 or 2 minutes. During these episodes the person is unable to move or speak. Breathing is not affected. These spells end on their own or when the person is touched or moved. In rare cases, the person may have dream-like sensations or hallucinations, which may be scary to them.

  • Exams and Tests
    • Sleep paralysis can be a symptom of narcolepsy. But if you do not have other symptoms of narcolepsy, there is usually no need to have sleep studies done.

  • Treatment
    • In most cases, isolated sleep paralysis occurs so rarely that treatment is not needed. If the cause is known, for example due to lack of sleep, correcting the cause, such as getting enough sleep, often resolves the condition.

      In persons with mental health conditions, medicine and behavioral therapy (talk therapy) to help treat the mental condition may resolve sleep paralysis.

  • References
    • Schenck CH, Mahowald MW. REM sleep parasomnias in adults. In: Barkoukis TJ, Matheson JK, Ferber R, Doghramji K, eds. Therapy in Sleep Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 43.