The research team from the United Kingdom and Italy found in a pilot study that meditation relaxation therapy (MR Therapy) helps in the treatment of sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is a condition of paralysis when a person is either waking up or falling asleep and experiences the inability to move or speak even being aware of the surroundings. One may hallucinate and see or hear things that are not present, and it usually leads to fear.
A small-scale pilot study was published today in Frontiers of Neurology, suggesting a dramatic decrease in the number of days and episodes people experience sleep paralysis. Moreover, meditation relaxation therapy, according to self-reports, also reduced the disturbance experienced by hallucinations.
Although scientists have been well-aware of the condition for quite some time, there is a lack of empirical pragmatic treatments and published clinical trials.
Researcher team from the University of Cambridge and the University of Bologna, Italy, conducted the study in collaborated work. Researchers studied the effectiveness of MR therapy on 10 patients with narcolepsy, who experienced sleep paralysis.
Meditation relaxation therapy for sleep paralysis focused on the following four steps.
- Re-evaluation of the context and experience of attack (reminding oneself that the experience of temporary, common, and the hallucinations are not logical)
- Emotional and psychological distancing (reminding oneself that there is no reason to experience fear or worry and it will only make the experience worse)
- Inward focused-attention meditation (focusing their attention on an inward emotional feeling or memory of a significant other, or prayer to God)
- Muscle relaxation (deep breaths and relaxing the muscles to avoid having control on breathing, and allowing to feel relaxed, instead of trying to move)
Participants recorded their emotions and the occurrence of sleep paralysis in a daily journal. In the first four weeks, about 66% of the patients experienced waking up during sleep (51%), hallucinations (66%), and while falling asleep 14% of the participants experienced sleep paralysis.
Later on, meditation relaxation therapy was given, and the number of days people had sleep paralysis reduced by half, and so did the number of episodes. Moreover, the disturbances due to hallucinations also reduced by the end of the final month of therapy. Dr. Baland Jalal, the co-author in the study from the University of Cambridge, said,
“Meditation relaxation therapy led to a dramatic fall in the number of times patients experienced sleep paralysis, and when they did, they tended to find the notoriously terrorizing hallucinations less disturbing.”
He also added that,
“Experiencing less of something as disturbing as sleep paralysis is a step in the right direction.”
However, the authors acknowledged the small study sample and recognized the efficacy of meditation therapy for sleep paralysis.
Suppose the scientists replicate the findings of the current study in a larger data pool. In that case, the meditation relaxation therapy could serve as an effective and simple treatment for people with not only narcolepsy but also sleep paralysis.