Isolated sleep paralysis

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Definition

Isolated sleep paralysis is a type of paralysis that occurs with a sleep disorder. Sleep paralysis is the inability to perform voluntary muscle movements during sleep.

Alternative Names

Sleep paralysis - isolated; Parasomnia - Isolated sleep paralysis

Causes

Symptoms

Episodes of isolated sleep paralysis last from a few seconds to 1 or 2 minutes in which the person is unable to move or speak. 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

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, medication and behavioral therapy (talk therapy) to help treat the mental condition may also resolve sleep paralysis.

Support groups

Outlook (prognosis)

Possible complications

When to contact a medical professional

Prevention

References

ChokrovertyS. Sleep and its disorders. In: Bradley WG, Daroff RB, Fenichel GM, Jankovic J, eds. Neurology in Clinical Practice. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Butterworth-Heinemann Elsevier; 2008:chap 72.

Mahowald MW. Disorders of sleep. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 429.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 4/14/2013
  • David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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This page was last updated: April 14, 2014

         
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