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Sleep Disorders

When I take a nap my body goes numb

03/04/2011

Question:

Almost every time I take a nap, my body goes numb and it hurts, I can see myself sleeping in my dream and I am freaking out in my head. Weird things happen, one time something was touching my back and it felt like i fell off the couch and i was like rolling down a hill, but I was still on the couch and all I could hear was some roaring sound that kept getting louder and louder and no matter what I couldn`t wake up.

Only one time it happened when I was sleeping during the night, It is extremely uncomfortable and I am scared to nap at all anymore because it scares me, I can`t scream or anything its like I`m vulnerable because I have no control of my body.

Yesterday, I took a nap and there were people in the room, and i was able to talk in my dream, but then the numbness came back and I was trying to get out of the bed and my head went back and my arms were flying everywhere trying to hit the person that was next to me to signal them that I needed to wake up like right now.

I have a trouble sleeping, or feeling rested when I wake up so my doctor prescribed me muscle relaxers to help me sleep. I have been on them for over a year now and I wasn`t sure if my pills had to do with it or what was going on.

I`m only 17.

Should I be worried or should I just avoid taking naps?

Answer:

It sounds as though you are experiencing the symptoms of sleep-related hallucinations and sleep paralysis. Feeling like you cannot move when you awaken can be a frightening sensation. However, you should not feel alone (or worried) as this is extremely common, particularly in your age group. Up to 15-40% of young adults experience this at least once in their lifetime and as many as 5-6% have this occur recurrently.

Sleep paralysis is usually described as the inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset or upon awakening. Individuals often report that they cannot speak or move the limbs, trunk or head. While breathing is actually not affected, the sensation of not being able to breath can accompany the paralysis and can be quite scary. Most individuals will recall the events. The episodes usually only last for seconds up to a few minutes and tend to resolve on their own. Occasionally, the episode will end if the person is touched or spoken to.

Episodes of sleep paralysis can be very anxiety producing. In addition to the sensation of not being able to breathe, sleep-related hallucinations, whether hearing or seeing things that are not present, can accompany the event. Sleep paralysis can be brought on by lack of adequate sleep, keeping an irregular sleep schedule and being under excessive stress.

Several additional pieces of history would be important in determining if you need further evaluation for this.

The reasons these questions are important is that they might help determine if you symptoms could be related to underlying obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or narcolepsy, both of which can be associated with sleep paralysis and sleep-related hallucinations. One possibility would be that 1 year ago when you started having trouble sleeping and woke up not feeling rested that you were having OSA. Starting a muscle relaxant may have made this condition worse.

I suggest that you discuss these symptoms with your physician. I would consider stopping the muscle relaxant now (discuss with you physician if the medication needs to be weaned). I would also discuss a referral to a Sleep Center to determine if further evaluation for sleep disordered breathing or narcolepsy is needed.

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Response by:

Mark   Splaingard, MD Mark Splaingard, MD
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University