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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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Jul 18, 2010
by: Kath

Thanks for your answer Kevin, and good to know I wasn't abandoned lol! I wish I'd know you were in the UK as I'd love to have met you. I've set up a company which imports sleep apnoea (UK spelling) comfort accessories into the UK, which is helping literally hundreds of people comply with their CPAP. Anyway, regarding your reply, I'm comforted to know the many years of those awful experiences was linked to sleep apnoea - like I said, thank goodness, I've not had any of those incidents since being on CPAP. My thoughts of why I had them when going to sleep (before I was diagnosed) are that, do you think it was possible my body was trying to get straight into REM, bearing in mind my body was so sleep deprived? I didn't suffer from sleep paralysis when trying to get to sleep, but I did have those awful 'falling off the cliff' incidents and something used to happen to my brain/head in that I got terrible pressure that made me frightened of going to sleep? Like I've said - my days are over with the frightening experiences, but I'd like to know your opinion so that I can help others (which is a big part of what Hope2Sleep is about.

For your information, if it helps - I'm due for SMD surgery on the turbinates in 3 weeks to try to help the CPAP treatment better. If you're interested, I'll let you know if it does improve it. At the moment I'm having very high pressures delivered from my APAP (and the sleep clinic suspected central apnoea as well), but we're trying this procedure to see if it helps. I'm also still having an AHI of between 5-10 (with minimal leaks).

Many thanks!

Kath @

Dec 01, 2010

Mar 21, 2011
Sleep paralysis/Apnea
by: Lila

it was nice for you to share this piece of info. i dont have sleep paralysis so often. i realized that when i get it is when i sleep on my back with my arms next to my head. i also have sleep apnea which causes stress, tiredness, depression and weight gain (you need to eat often to get the energy you body needs to continue functioning during the day). so i strongly believe that in my case apnea and sleep paralysis go together. all these issues become a cycle: no sleep, stress tiredness anxiety then backwards anxiety, stress, etc. i was very hesitant about using a CPAP, i am very sensitive to anything that covers my face or nose, i just felt clostrophibic just the thought of it. thereofre, i tried a special mouth device like a guard for sleep apnea and it was a very intrusive thing one can use. i also experienced discomfort, inflamation of the jaw and dislocation. i have heard of a new device called ProVent which i am going to try. it is still new but i guess less cumbersome... Now, back to sleep paralysis, when i get sleep paralysis, i just see myself and i am conscience as if in a dream, unable to move. i try to move my body and hands to get up. it is a horrible feeling you know it is happening and you are helpless and isolated. it makes me hope that may someone at home will think i am dead and wish they would come shake and rescue me. i sometimes wish someone would come and shake me. i keep trying to move until i am out of it. i now get stressed so easily from noise (i am hearing impaired and hearing aids are not fun either coz they magnify sounds), incidents, thinking of chores i need to accomplish on time......huh!

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.

Sep 02, 2012
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Apnea NEW
by: Anonymous

What a great site. I have had severe obstructive sleep apnea for more than 20 years and have used a CPAP. But sometimes in the early morning I take it off just to rest more comfortably before getting up. This morning a fell back to sleep and apparently had a bout with sleep paraylis. My husband passed away several years ago and this is the anniversary of his death. When I woke up I removed my CPAP and in fact, fell back to sleep. I thought I waked up but couldn't more, my eyes felt open and I was in bed but I could swear I could feel my bed moving as if someone was in it beside me and I could hear someone breathing. It frightened me and I tried to scream and knew I was making wierd noises. (I live alone) Also tried to slap my face to wake...all to no avail. Of course I woke and got out of bed! I hope this is a result of not wearing my CPAP and it doesn't happen again. Although I would love to have my husband back and with me...not this way.

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?

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