Can Sleep Paralysis Cause Death?

If you’ve ever woken up in the dark feeling terrified, unable to speak, and completely frozen, then you’ve experienced sleep paralysis. If you’re wondering if you’ve ever had sleep paralysis before, then most likely, you haven’t had it. Sleep paralysis is one of the scariest phenomena known to man, and no one is completely safe from it. It’s like how it sounds, being in a paralyzed state while sleeping. The affected person wakes up and is conscious, but their body doesn’t respond. People can also hallucinate, thinking that ghosts or demons are there in the room with them. Sometimes they can also feel pressure building on their chest or heart.

These effects can be extremely terrifying, so you might be wondering - can sleep paralysis cause death? Well, it may be frightening, but sleep paralysis doesn’t result in death. However, as it is mentally distressing, it can cause other health issues that you should be aware of. In this article, we’ll cover what sleep paralysis is, how it affects your health, and how to get rid of it.

What Does Sleep Paralysis Feel Like?

If you have had sleep paralysis before, you may have believed that you were experiencing a bad dream. This isn’t the case. Dreams happen when the body is asleep. Sleep paralysis is different, as it occurs when you are mentally alert. You can be waking up or falling asleep. Other sleep paralysis sufferers can feel like their mind is racing. These uneasy thoughts are difficult to deal with, as they can be anxiety-inducing. In both cases, the body can’t move its muscles, which can be terrifying when right in the moment.

Why Does Sleep Paralysis Happen?

Unfortunately, we don’t fully understand what causes sleep paralysis. This can be frustrating to hear, but sleep experts do have a theory.

Experts do know that sleep paralysis interrupts REM sleep, when dreams happen. There are two types of sleep paralysis. One is predormital, which happens when waking up. The other is hypnagogic, which takes place when falling asleep.

Some experts believe that sleep paralysis happens between NREM sleep and REM sleep. In REM sleep, heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure increase. Your muscles then temporarily paralyze. This is a normal part of sleep called atonia. It’s important as it stops your body from acting out its dreams. Researchers believe that sleep paralysis occurs when you wake up in this stage. This can be when the body is falling asleep or waking up.

Some Risk Factors

We don’t know the exact reason why sleep paralysis happens, but we do know that some factors can make you more prone. These can be mental, such as depression and anxiety. They can also be physical, like high blood pressure or a general lack of sleep. Certain sleep medications can also aggravate the problem.

Some people are also more likely to get it than others. There have been higher rates of sleep paralysis in people who experience nightly leg cramps. People with sleep apnea (a disorder in which breathing is interrupted while sleeping) have also been known to experience the condition.

Research has shown that psychiatric patients and students are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. Individuals who don’t have a normal circadian rhythm, like night shift workers or travelers with jet lag, are also at a higher risk.

How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Paralysis?

If you’re wondering if you’ve ever had sleep paralysis before, chances are, you haven’t had it. The signs are difficult to forget about, as they are very intense. Still, it’s always a good idea to know what the symptoms are, so you’ll know what to do if they occur.


This is the main symptom of sleep paralysis. You’ll be awake, aware of what’s going on around you, but you won’t be able to move your muscles. This is temporary, lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes.


This varies from person to person, but some sufferers have said that they’ve seen demons, heard scary noises, or felt a presence in the room. This may be because sleep paralysis occurs during REM sleep, the phase where vivid dreams occur.

Physical Symptoms

Other than paralysis, physical symptoms can include pressure building on the chest, breathing difficulties, muscle pain, and headaches. These can also continue after the initial incident.

Mental Symptoms

Sleep paralysis is terrifying, which can have adverse effects on one’s mental health. People experience strong feelings of terror, paranoia, and even death. These negative emotions can continue into regular daily activities when the person is fully awake.

Sleep Paralysis Varies

Some people have a single, infrequent sleep paralysis episode, but others can experience it more regularly. Although rare, some people can have an incident a few times a week. These can cause a lack of sleep, which has greater health risks.

How To Get Rid Of Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis can be scary, but rest assured, it can’t cause death or extreme health issues. Despite this, sleep paralysis can be mentally straining, causing long-term sleep deprivation. The body needs adequate rest to recover properly. Sleep deprivation can make you lose your temper easily, make it difficult to concentrate, and make you feel run down. There’s no known cure for sleep paralysis, but there are ways that can help you deal with the condition, and maybe get a better night’s sleep.

Cope When It Happens

One of the most effective things to do is figure out how to manage a sleep paralysis incident. This involves trying to relax both the brain and body. Remembering that the paralysis won’t last forever can help, as you’ll be calm, letting the time pass until it’s over. Write down some matter-of-fact phrases that remind you that sleep paralysis is temporary, will end eventually, and won’t hurt you or your body. Memorize these and try saying them out loud. This will make you more likely to think of these statements when you have an episode.


If you’re experiencing any other issues, like anxiety, depression, or fears of death, it’s important to work through these with a professional. Mental health issues can make it more likely to experience sleep paralysis, so therapy could help stop the problem from occurring.

Change Your Medication

Some prescriptions have been associated with sleep paralysis. Studies have shown that some sedatives can bring on the condition. If you regularly take any sedatives or have started a new medication, consult your doctor to see if they could be a cause.

Take Care Of Yourself

Physical conditions, like high blood pressure, have been linked to sleep paralysis. Make sure that you get regular exercise and eat a balanced diet. Taking care of yourself can lower your risk of health issues, which in turn, can lessen the likelihood of sleep paralysis.

In Summary

Sleep paralysis is horrible, but there are ways to deal with it when it happens. If it happens to you, remember, it cannot cause death. Take a look at your lifestyle to see if any factors could be causing your episodes. Knowing more about sleep paralysis can help you deal with it head-on, so you can continue to live your life normally.