Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

Find a Center
Use the following fields to locate sleep centers in your area.

Search radius:

Sleep Paralysis – Diagnosis & Treatment


Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis is fairly common. In most cases, it does not affect your sleep or overall health. Talk to your doctor if episodes of sleep paralysis make you anxious. You should see a sleep specialist if the episodes keep you up at night or make you very tired during the day. 

The doctor will need to know when the sleep paralysis started. He or she will want to know how often it occurs and how long it lasts. The doctor will need to know your complete medical history. Be sure to inform him or her of any past or present drug and medication use. 

Also tell your doctor if you have ever had any other sleep disorder. Find out if you have any family members with sleep problems. It will also be helpful if you fill out a sleep diary for two weeks. The sleep diary will help the doctor see your sleeping patterns. This data gives the doctor clues about what is causing your problem and how to correct it. 

Doctors do not need any tests to treat most patients with recurrent isolated sleep paralysis. Your doctor may have you do an overnight sleep study if your problem is disturbing your sleep. This study is called a polysomnogram. It charts your brain waves, heart beat, and breathing as you sleep. It also records how your arms and legs move. An electromyogram (EMG) recording will show the level of electrical activity in your muscles. This level will be very low during an episode of sleep paralysis.

If you tend to be very sleepy during the day, then your doctor may also have you do a daytime nap study. This is called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). The MSLT will measure how fast you fall asleep during the day. It will also show what kind of sleep you have when you take a nap. It will help to show if your sleep paralysis is a sign of narcolepsy.


Treatment of sleep paralysis is aimed at whatever causes it to occur. Sleep deprivation may trigger sleep paralysis. In this case, try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep per night. People with psychiatric problems may suffer from sleep paralysis. An example is someone who has bipolar disorder. This person would need ongoing treatment with medication. This would be overseen by a physician or psychiatrist. You may notice sleep paralysis occurring with leg cramps. It may also happen after a change in your medicines. Discuss these issues with your doctor.

People with narcolepsy often have sleep paralysis. They normally need an antidepressant medication to reduce or eliminate dream sleep. This will help to ease the sleep paralysis. Taking an antidepressant drug does not mean that you are depressed. It is simply a method to help reduce sleep paralysis.