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Isolated sleep paralysis

Definition

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

See also: Narcolepsy

Alternative Names

Sleep paralysis - isolated

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Isolated sleep paralysis is more likely to happen during the first two hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep or sleeping on the back may cause more frequent episodes.

Though this condition may be associated with narcolepsy, many people who do not have narcolepsy have isolated sleep paralysis. It is common in adults and is also seen in children.

Most people with isolated sleep paralysis do not have any mental health problems. However, these episodes seem to occur more often in people with:

Rarely, it runs in families.

Symptoms

People with isolated sleep paralysis have episodes that last from a few seconds to 1 or 2 minutes in which they are unable to move or speak.

  • These spells end on their own or when the person is touched or moved.
  • Rarely, the person may have dream-like sensations or hallucinations, which may be scary to them.

Signs and tests

If you do not have other symptoms of narcolepsy, there is usually no need to perform sleep studies.

References

Stores G. Parasomnias of childhood and adolescence. Sleep Med Clin. 2007;2:405-417.

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


Review Date: 6/12/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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