Relationships between sleep paralysis and sleep quality: current insights

Nat Sci Sleep. 2018 Nov 2:10:355-367. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S158600. eCollection 2018.


Sleep paralysis is the unusual experience of waking up in the night without the ability to move. Currently little is known about the experience, despite the fact that the vast majority of episodes are associated with extreme fear and in a minority of cases can lead to clinically significant levels of distress. The aim of this work was to review the existing literature pertaining to the relationship sleep paralysis has to sleep more generally, measured both with subjective questionnaires and objective laboratory recordings. In terms of subjective sleep variables, worse sleep quality has been found in multiple studies to be associated with increased odds of sleep paralysis occurrence. In addition, insomnia symptoms (but not a diagnosed insomnia disorder) have also been found to predict sleep paralysis. Associations between sleep paralysis and other unusual and/or threatening sleep experiences such as nightmares, exploding head syndrome, and lucid dreaming have been reported. In terms of objective measurements, the limited literature to date shows sleep paralysis to be a "mixed" state of consciousness, combining elements of rapid eye movement sleep with elements of wakefulness. Future research needs to focus on longitudinal designs to disentangle the direction of effects and more typically employ a broader assessment of sleep paralysis that better captures associated features such as hallucinations, fear, and distress.

Keywords: hypnagogic; hypnopompic; incubus; parasomnia.

Publication types

  • Review