Is there an association between anxiety and sleep paralysis?

elfallah, Narmeen (2019)

sleep paralysis is a characterized sleep parasomnia which is known by inability to move or speak that has been usually seen during the patients transitions between sleeping and wakefulness(1). Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by terrifying hallucination that is not harmful but very frightening and it only lasts a few minutes so it is fully reversible(1). Most people have sleep paralysis once or twice in their life, while others experience it a few times a month or more regularly(1). It is believed to be more common among students and those with psychiatric problems(1). The symptoms of sleep paralysis include difficulty in breathing as if someone or something is crushing the chest(1). Also, inability to move the eyes and seeing or sensing an evil presence in the room(1). The treatment for this disorder remains unknown. However, after many studies, researchers have found out that an improved sleeping environment and healthier sleeping habits can help lessen the symptoms of this disorder(3). Sleep paralysis is mostly closely linked to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with vivid dreaming(3). Throughout periods of REM sleep there is total muscle atonia (save the eyes and respiratory system) to save us from acting out these dreams(2). This is a result of the suppression of skeletal muscle tone by the pons and the ventromedial medulla, affected by the neurotransmitters Y-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine, which inhibit the motor neurons in the spinal cord(2).


In this report, two articles are discussed focusing on sleep paralysis and its symptoms. In the first article, a case report highlighted a case of isolated sleep paralysis, a transient, generalized inability to move or speak that usually seen during the patient’s transitions between sleeping and wakefulness. Whereas, in the second article, among Egyptian college students in Cairo (n = 100), the study examined the relationship between sleep paralysis (SP) and anxiety symptoms, viz., posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trait anxiety, and pathological worry. Both articles concluded that it is important for psychiatrists to be aware of the presentation of a patient with isolated sleep paralysis and simultaneously understand the cultural undertones in such cases.

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