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What is sleep paralysis?

Q: I am a 27 years male in good health working as an engineer in a multinational company. My height is 174 cm, weight 70 kgs and medium build. I work out in gym daily and follow a very healthy diet. My problem is that sometimes during my sleep (especially in early morning) when I am a bit conscious, I suddenly feel as if some external force (I dont have idea what kind of force) tries to buckle me out and during this phase I cannot speak nor move any part of my body. This lasts for almost 1 or 2 minutes. After this I an able to overcome this and become normal once again. This happens to me once a month or once in 2-3 months. This is happening to me since I was 12 years old and I have never consulted any doctor. Please advise what kind of problem is this and what should I do to avoid this problem?

A:You seem to be having episodes of sleep paralysis. In this a person going to sleep or waking up can not speak, move or cry although he or she is awake and aware. This usually starts during adolescence. It is often associated with terror, a feeling of a presence [usually evil] watching intently, pressure on chest and sometimes even hallucinations. But the good thing is that despite being terrifying it is a benign sleep disorder. It is caused by intrusion of our normal REM sleep into the waking period for some seconds or minutes. It is seen in 20 to 30% people and many of these may have it frequently and some daily. It may be precipitated by stress and lack of sleep. So take care of your sleep hours to avoid sleep debt. Avoid sleeping in supine position (on your back). You may try to terminate this episode of sleep paralysis by trying to move your eyes, fingers or toes. You may consult a sleep specialist if it does not help.

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