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Is Sleep Paralysis Linked To Sleep Apnoea?

by Kath

What a great site!! I've just been reading about Sleep Paralysis and it mentions Narcolepsy. I'll have a look at that, but it's actually Sleep Apnoea (UK spelling) that I have got.

I used to suffer a real lot with Sleep Paralysis as I was falling asleep, and would wake up paralyzed, as you described, and felt unable to breathe - like something heavy was weighed down on my chest, yet unable to start breathing, or in fact, move a muscle.

I was very frightened by this and would try to scream. Eventually a little sound would come from me and I'd wake my husband up petrified.

The thing that's confusing me is that you mention it can be caused by going straight into REM, but I didn't think that was possible with sleep apnoea (AHI of 30). I'm on CPAP, but still have an AHI of between 3 and 10.

I feel much better than I used to, but am working at getting even better (going to an ENT Surgeon soon, as my latest sleep test showed there's still snoring going on which they think is from the upper airways). Can you tell me if the Sleep Paralysis is also linked to Central Apnoea, as my sleep clinic was wondering if I may have this as well as OSA?

Here in the UK, we are years behind you in the US in our knowledge, but our medics are doing their best!

Off to explore more of your site now..........

Kevin's Thoughts

Hey Kath,

Sorry for the bit of a delayed response to your writing--I've actually been traveling your homeland (the UK) for the last month, and that, in combination with a pouring in of questions to the site, has made me fall behind in responding.

That aside, it is a very astute observation you make of the link between sleep paralysis and sleep apnea--a link I see from your other posts that personal experience has given you invaluable firsthand perspective on.

Because of its disruptive nature, sleep apnea is known to
trigger a number of parasomnias, including sleepwalking and sleep terrors. The fact that sleep apnea wakes its victim up dozens, if not hundreds of times in severe cases, per night makes it an extremely pesky culprit in contributing to and sparking the occurrence of other conditions.

Because of all the disruptions of sleep it causes, the link between sleep apnea and sleep paralysis seems rather intuitive when we look at when sleep paralysis occurs--during arousals in REM sleep. One can imagine that frequent arousals due to sleep apnea could increase the amount of arousals during REM sleep and thus the amount of opportunities for the body to experience a sleep paralysis episode. At the same time though, we also must note the fact that frequent NREM arousals due to sleep apnea can make it harder for the sleeper to proceed to REM sleep in the first place, but I think it makes sense that the relationship should still hold despite this other factor.

I don't know of any specific studies off hand that have documented hard evidence for this link, but intuitively it sure does make sense. If I come across any studies or publications in the future I'll be sure to update this page with them.

However, you also mention experiencing sleep paralysis when falling to sleep, rather than being awoken from it. This link does not make itself nearly as intuitive, as when falling asleep the disruptive symptoms of sleep apnea haven't occurred yet, and as a result it would be hard to attribute a sleep paralysis episode to them. It's really interesting though that your CPAP treatment, as you mentioned in your other comment, seemed to ameliorate the sleep-onset paralysis. I'm glad it did, but don't know myself exactly why that would be. Again, I'll update this page if I find out anything else to this end.

Thanks for your great insight Kath, and I'm really glad you are enjoying the site. Congratulations on your successful battle with sleep apnea and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!


Comments for Is Sleep Paralysis Linked To Sleep Apnoea?

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Dec 01, 2010

Aug 18, 2011
Sleep paralysis stopped
by: Chris

My sleep paralysis, which I thought were recurring nightmares, horrified myself and my wife. Sleep Study showed extreme apnea, Cpap was prescibed. I have not experienced sleep paralysis when using the Cpap. Occassional naps without using the Cpap have resulted in sleep paralysis, I cannot move or call out for help, terrifying! I'm convinced there is a direct connection with my conditions.

Jan 26, 2013
sleep apnea/sleep walking/dream paralysis/CPAP NEW
by: Annie

I have had these problems too though I am not on a CPAP and the paralysis happens at the end of the sleep cycle. It seems with the CPAP, people get to REM faster; which explains the paralysis at that time. With me, it takes all night and this will happen during a nap in the daytime. Also weird dreams and one person in particular, that helps me wake up but also know I could have died. My brothers and I used to sleep-walk in our youth. Is this a progression of a larger problem?

May 02, 2013
Can sleep deprivation cause both apnea and sleep paralysis NEW
by: Carol

I'm a caregiver, and work 96 hour shifts. That's straight through with no shift relief, breaks or off-duty time. It's not really a HARD job. The biggest problem is that I can only sleep a maximum of About 4 hours a night. This is due to my 89 year old patient who sleeps very, very little each night. She insists, and actually needs to have someone awake at all times that she is awake. She is a fall risk, and can do little to assist herself. I never had sleep apnea, sleep paralysis or even trouble sleeping ever before. Since I've had this job, it has all become routine for me. I can't quit my job for obvious reasons, and I can't cut my hours because my patient is very, very difficult, and only wants me with her. I have worked for her for almost 3 years. Changing my schedule or quitting just isnt an option. Suggestions? Advice?

Nov 27, 2014
sleep paralysis and sleep apnea NEW
by: Jackie

i get both these disturbances and both scare me , whe i get sleep apnea i wake up in a panic i feel slick and sometimes need to gasp breaths , sleep paralysis and apnea seem to come in phases , i can go weeks months without either but then i will get apnea more than sleep paralysis . The paralysis is the most frightening for me because i try to move i can't i try to take a breath i cannot or if i can breath it is so small i get to the point where i give in to it and then i suddenly move my finger and i start to breath again and i wake up scared . I wonder also if sleep apnea and sleep paralysis are linked.

Dec 05, 2014
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Paralysis NEW
by: Anonymous

I had sleep apnea untreated for several years, and during that time, I experienced three or four episodes of sleep paralysis as I woke up. After getting a CPAP, these episodes have stopped. However, a few nights ago I took off my CPAP in the middle of the night and fell back asleep-- then woke up only a little while later feeling paralyzed and like I couldn't breathe again. I definately think that there is a connection.

Dec 06, 2014
Apnea and Paralysis NEW
by: Emily

I also had sleep apnea for several years untreated, and had several episodes of sleep paralysis-- but only when I was waking up. It only happened once as I was falling asleep (that I can remember). I couldn't move at all and could only take very shallow breaths (although sometimes I seemed to have some control over the speed of my breathing and hyperventilated shallowly in fear-- but had no control over anything else). When I got a CPAP, the sleep paralysis stopped completely. But when I take a nap without the CPAP, or take it off during the night before going back to sleep, I occasionally have episodes of sleep paralysis again.
Both of my parents also have sleep apnea, and my father in particular recounts almost the same story. It's just too much of a correlation to be a coincidence-- and the article makes sense in its explanation of how the apnea and the paralysis at connected. I completely agree.

May 11, 2015
One possible reason NEW
by: Randy

I had suffered from sleep paralysis from the the age of twenty. Now at the age of 56 I was diagnosed with sleep apnoea. From the very start of using a CPAP my sleep paralysis disappeared. I found this to be a blessing but what confirmed the link was when my mask broke upon putting on one night. I was plagued with a number of sleep paralysis sessions though out that night. The next day I got a replacement mask. Upon using the mask that evening the sleep paralysis stopped and have not returned. As an experiment I tried going to sleep without using the CPAP and the paralysis started up that very night. After my wife woke me up and rebuked me for being foolish,I put the mask back on and the paralysis stopped. This may not be everyone's cause for paralysis but it seems to be mine.

Aug 14, 2015
Sleep Paralysis free for 1 1/2 years... NEW
by: Anthony M.

with BIPAP - settings are very high. diagnosed with severe sleep apnoea February 2014.

just turned 40 - occasional sleep paralysis throughout life. in-dream fight/flight response with fight dominating my older years.

never got the hang of lucid dreaming. but did manage to condition an "angry acceptance" response. (i.e. KILL ME NOW OR LEAVE ME ALONE) that would successfully end the dream.

absolutely no occurrences of sleep paralysis on BIPAP (just severe cases of dry mouth) - even with known personal triggers (i.e exhaustion, overdoing alcohol, sleeping on a full stomach)

Jul 01, 2016
Sleep apnea paralysis dreaming and ehs NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi I get paralysis dreaming when going to sleep and can feel the right side of my face and neck going into spasms this usually happens a few times a week when I have had no sleep sometimes I get ehs with it. Over days I wake up choking and cant breathe.its no fun suffering from insoo

Nov 22, 2016
I also have sleep apnea and oftentimes suffer sleep paralysis NEW
by: Anonymous

When I cured my sleep apnea, I cured my sleep paralysis. My brother told me to elevate my head so I can breathe easier. So I simply used two pillows to lay my head when I sleep. And it worked miracles for me. Now I get a full night sleep. If I wake up due to my sleep paralysis theses days, I would often find myself with one pillow or no pillow at all. Hope it helps other people.

Feb 01, 2017
Extreme sleep apnea NEW
by: Anonymous

Ive been dealing with sleep paralysis and apnea for years. My attacks occur anytime I goto sleep without my CPAP. Happens whether im laying down or sitting up. My head will bend forward cutting off my air, especially if im laying on my couch. I cant move and can only moan for help from someone whos near me to jolt me awake. When these sessions occur, it takes alot of energy to shake out of it. If I dont sit up and roll out of bed, ill just sink back into the attack again. So paranoid about becoming incapacitated and no one knowing my condition. I'm afraid this will kill me. I've had ENT surgery to help years ago, but it didnt fix issue. CPAP is controlling it to a extent, but Ive experienced attacks while wearing it as well. Frustrated and cant keep living like this.

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