A doctor will consider whether one of the causes of sleep paralysis apply when a patient is complaining of not being able to move or speak while trying to go to sleep or upon waking up. The physician will ask questions about the patient's work schedule and lifestyle to determine if a lack of sleep or the sleep position is a factor. The answers to other questions will reveal whether the patient is living with a mental illness that may be contributing to the condition. The doctor will also investigate other causes of sleep paralysis, such as substance abuse, medications or another sleep disorder are at play.
During a sleep paralysis episode, the patient is fully awake but has no control over his or her limbs. The individual is not even able to call out for help, which makes this type of event very scary for those affected by it. Some people report feeling like they are being choked during an episode, which may have given rise to legends about a hag or other paranormal entity attempting to steal a person's breath while they are asleep.
When investigating the causes of sleep paralysis, the doctor will gather some basic information about the patient's lifestyle and routine. This disorder has been linked to lack of sleep, and the doctor will want to find out how much rest the patient is getting. People who work various shifts and who have their sleep patterns disrupted are also at higher risk for sleep paralysis. Sleeping on one's back is another one of the causes of sleep of paralysis, and the treatment may involve adopting a different position during sleep.
Medications can affect the quality of a patient's sleep, and the doctor will need to know about everything the patient is taking to rule out drugs as one of the causes of sleep paralysis. The patient should tell his or her doctor about all substances, including illegal ones, that he or she is taking, since this information will help to uncover the reason for the sleep paralysis.
If none of the causes of sleep paralysis listed above apply, the doctor will consider whether a mental illness or another sleep disorder is at play. People living with bipolar disorder are more likely to experience sleep paralysis, and the doctor will ask about family history in addition to asking questions about the patient's moods to make a diagnosis. Stress can also be a factor when trying to diagnose sleep paralysis, and the doctor will want to know about any changes, both positive and negative, that may have increased the patient's stress levels.