Most of us have nightmares from time to time, but sleep paralysis – a weird purgatory between sleep and wakefulness in which you feel wide awake but can’t move and sometimes have hallucinations – is much less common. Reported prevalence varies, but researchers estimate that the phenomenon affects at least 7% of people in the world, and iCarly actress Miranda Cosgrove is one of them, she recently revealed on The Kelly Clarkson Show.
Cosgrove was visiting Clarkson to discuss Mission unstoppable, her educational teen series in which she features women working in STEM (an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, in case you didn’t know). When the « Breakaway » singer asked Cosgrove about her favorite subject covered on the show, she said a sleep paralysis segment hit close to home.
“I have suffered from sleep paralysis before. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you,” she told Clarkson and fellow actor Djimon Hounsou. « This is where you wake up – your eyes are open and you’re lying in bed – but you’re sleeping, so your dreams seem to be happening in whatever room you’re in. Like, your eyes are open, but you can’t move.
» It’s terrifying. Have you ever experienced this? Clarkson asked Hounsou, who said he had indeed experienced « something similar » in which he seemed to « fall asleep briefly » but « wide awake » while feeling « paralyzed in bed. »
According to National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep paralysis occurs during or during emergence from REM sleep, a stage in which certain muscles are temporarily paralyzed, also known as muscle atony. When this happens, consciousness resumes, but your body remains unable to move.
Episodes also often involve hallucinations, usually of a dangerous person or presence in the room, as well as feelings of chest pressure perceived as choking, according to the NIH. Studies show sleep paralysis lasts about six minutes on average, but can last from a few seconds to 20 minutes (!). According Mount Sinaithe paralysis usually ends on its own or at the sensation of another person’s touch.
Sleep paralysis has no known direct cause, according to the NIH, but mental health issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as factors such as sleep hygiene and family history, are all potential contributors.
« It’s so scary, » Cosgrove told Clarkson. « The best thing you can do is have a set sleep schedule and try to stick to it, because that usually happens when you’re stressed or very tired. »
The NIH supports this advice and also recommends a comfortable sleep environment with low light, reducing caffeine and alcohol (especially in the evening), and avoiding screens (phones, laptops, TVs) for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. .
After hearing Cosgrove and Hounsou’s stories, Clarkson was relieved to report that she had never had an episode of sleep paralysis, despite living a relatively busy and stressful life. « I’ve never experienced that, » she says. « So maybe I’m fine. »