Sleep paralysis: is it dangerous for pregnant women?

A night’s sleep gives you the opportunity to relax, start a new day fresh and vigorous. Sleep paralysis, however, can make your morning start off in an uncomfortable way. What danger does this state conceal in itself? Is it common in pregnant women and can it harm the fetus?

What is sleep paralysis

The state of sleep is fundamentally different from that of wakefulness. It is a vital physiological requirement, as well as the intake of food, water, inhalation of air containing oxygen. During sleep in the brain, there is an alternation of certain phases: REM and NREM sleep, in which the activity of the central nervous system is completely different. But the muscles are in a relaxed state, a kind of numbness. Normally, it occurs from the moment of falling asleep and decreases towards awakening. However, during REM sleep, involuntary movement of certain muscle groups, eyeballs, twitching, some people even say something is possible.  

Sleep paralysis is a peculiar condition that can be partly attributed to pathological, in which the muscles lose their tone even before falling asleep, or after waking up in a half-sleep they still remain in a state of muscle weakness for a short time. At first glance, the definition sounds very clever, although in reality everything is simple.  

How to suspect sleep paralysis

This condition is by no means rare: 7.5% of people around the world have experienced it at least once, which is a lot. True, not everyone paid attention to it, and even more so they complained to the doctor, so it is extremely difficult to assess the true prevalence.

However, many will now be able to understand what is at stake. Very often, this condition is accompanied by a nightmare, the essence of which is that a person, due to muscle paralysis, lack of ability to move, speak or even breathe, cannot resist the threat. For example, he is attacked by a criminal, but he cannot move. The source of danger can be electric current, an approaching train, a creeping snake. This dream continues even when the person is half asleep. He tries with all his might to move his arms or legs, to scream, but nothing comes of it. Panic, horror, fear – all this makes him wake up sooner or later and with relief to notice that he can still move. Many will think that it was just a nightmare, but in reality it was sleep paralysis.

It should not be confused simply with horror, because the subject of sleep can be any. And in this case, the very nightmare of the situation is connected precisely with the inability to move.

Who is most likely to develop sleep paralysis?

As mentioned above, this phenomenon is very common. However, there are certain categories of persons in whom it develops a little more often. These include:

  • Students, especially during the session. The prevalence reaches 28% of all students.
  • Psychiatric patients. In particular, those suffering from narcolepsy, panic attacks. About 45% of these people have experienced sleep paralysis at least once.
  • Female representatives. Despite the fact that statistics claim that the gender distribution is approximately the same, ladies remember this episode for a long time, it brings them great suffering.
  • Pregnant women. Special studies have not shown what percentage of women expecting a baby experience this condition, but they themselves often complain of sleep paralysis.

If we sum up all the main risk groups, then the conclusion suggests itself. Sleep paralysis most often develops in people with disturbed sleep, forced insomnia, chronic stress, excessive anxiety, and emotional lability. Anxiety experienced during the day is reflected in the theme of night sleep and is complemented by this extremely unpleasant phenomenon. The provocateur of this condition in people from risk groups is alcohol, drugs, and the intake of certain medications, mainly acting on the nervous system.

Scientists have found that sleep paralysis most often develops when a person sleeps on their back. He is never in a prone position. In the lateral position, it also develops much less frequently. The reasons for this phenomenon are not yet clear.

Types of sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis is of two main types: when you fall asleep and when you wake up. Its duration is different – from 2 seconds to 2 minutes, but the person himself may subjectively feel that it lasted a very long time, because every moment of it is saturated with chilling horror.

If sleep paralysis develops when falling asleep, then a person may feel that he can hardly move the body with the power of thought. That is, he gives commands to individual muscle groups, but the movement is delayed . Sometimes he hears at the same time a specific squeak, similar to a mosquito, buzzing of a fly, but their intensity is much louder than in ordinary life.

Sleep paralysis most often occurs on awakening. At the same time, there are nightmares of a specific topic, the main feature of which is the threat acting on an immobile person. He struggles to move his hands, free himself, scream, but he cannot. It often seems to him that he is being buried alive. Pregnant women and young mothers preoccupied with the life and health of their baby have specific nightmares. The child is taken away from them, they are trying to kill, but they cannot do anything. Sometimes they dream that a child is lying on the sidewalk in front of a car moving towards him or a dog is rushing towards him. Pregnant women, waiting for childbirth, are terrified that the process has begun, and their muscles do not obey. They are being driven down the hospital corridor, and they cannot scream.

Awakening often occurs due to a slight groan, twitching of the limb. After that, the person experiences fantastic relief, sometimes even crying with happiness that all this is over. However, the essence of the dream quickly disappears from memory, and even after a minute, almost no one can clearly remember what the nightmare scenario was.

Is sleep paralysis dangerous for people, including pregnant women?

Despite the fact that this condition is, to put it mildly, unpleasant and can indeed be very frightening, in fact it does not pose a danger. Even pregnant women should not be afraid of it, because muscle relaxation cannot lead to a threat of miscarriage. The baby can only react to the rapid heartbeat of the mother, it may move more often, but it may also subside. There is nothing dangerous for him in this.  

However, in order to reduce the risk of this condition, the main factors should be eliminated: normalize sleep patterns, avoid nighttime activities, read books, sit at the computer for a long time, and including watching the news on a smartphone, which for some lasts for hours. 1-2 hours before bedtime, it is better to do quiet activities, yoga or other relaxation methods, such as listening to calm music, aromatherapy, and a relaxing bath , help .  

No special drug therapy is required, you can use herbal sedatives. Various herbal teas work well .

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