Epilepsy Foundation

Help! Paralyzed while falling asleep related to seizures?

This is something I have pondered on for a while. I would sometimes shake this off as a normal happening since it happened from time to time. I have been technically seizure free for 2+ years, but still take the generic form of Keppra, which is Levetricetam.


At one point I felt terrified and had a seizure while I was laying in bed. At first I didn't know what was going on. I looked up at the ceiling wondering why I could sleep and then all of a sudden my mind felt like it went out for a moment and then it was back and awake. I couldn't open my eyes, and I couldn't freely move any part of my body. I thought it was a bad dream and tried to move my arms, but they felt like they weighed a ton and I couldn't make them budge. I was trying to sit up so I could think and ponder on if this is a bad dream and figured, "If I can sit up and fully wake up - perhaps I can see what's going on." I couldn't get up at all. I didn't feel as if I was shaking, and no one else was around so I don't know what exactly happened. I suddenly blacked out for a while and then woke up again on my side - it was pitch black and my air from my lungs was escaping. I tried to yell, "HELP!" but it became too silent due to lack of air and no one else was up at around 3 or 4 in the morning. I suddenly thought I was dying because my heart was slowing and my air was leaving me - felt like the air was being almost sucked out of me. It just escaped me everytime I tried to gasp for air. I thought about my family, friends, those I cared about, and then blacked out. Later, I woke up and I'm not sure how long it was until then. It could've been minutes and it could've been hours. I was incredibly frightened by the experience. I noticed I was curled up in the fetal position in the middle of my bed. I figured I must've had a guardian angel that night. I was no where near my pillow and the blanket was off the edge - caught in the frame. I could breathe fine, my heart rate seemed okay, and I wondered if it was a bad dream or a seizure. I was frightened it was a seizure and went back to bed without using a pillow or blanket just in case. I told my primary about it and I believe she informed my neurologist, but I didn't see my neurologist right away and I was completely frightened for a while about it. I eventually let it go, but it is still a scary experience. I explained it to my neurologist and I don't think they even had much to say about it, and probably thought I probably had a bad dream.


Later on, when I was married, I took some birth control that I was on for a short period of time because of the bad side effects and stayed away from birth control after that. I would try to fall asleep and at times I would become completely paralyzed (the same feeling I had when I had my seizure that one night before I was married). I couldn't move my body at all, and I tried to move my leg in order to kick my husband, but every part of my body felt like it weighed a ton. Once I snapped out of it and woke up, I cried so much and feared trying to sleep. I told my husband and I said, "Did you feel me try and kick you?" and he said, "No, I don't think you even moved since you layed there." I was so scared.


I get these happenings on and off. They were bad on the birth control pill I took for a short time and it gave me insomnia as well so I had to stop. So I wondered if the paralyzing effects were from the hormonal shifts, from the fact that I have been diagnosed with seizures that are now under control, or if it is a separate sleeping disorder in itself. Other times, I wonder if it's a type of pre-seizure like maybe the medication fighting to work and keep on track. Although, this doesn't happen to me like this every night.


The other day, I felt this paralyzing feeling again. I was trying so hard to fall asleep and just couldn't (that's a common factor with all of these paralyzing feels - it might be the body trying to fall asleep and the mind trying to stay awake). I was still tired and tried to fall asleep for a while and when I almost felt like I was asleep - my body became paralyzed. I still couldn't feel a presence of any shaking, but my body felt like every part of it weighed a ton. My husband wasn't in the room, but I had slept in longer and he was already awake. I felt completely paralyzed and couldn't move, I felt petrified - literally. Then, I snapped out of it - opened my eyes and was frightened.


During these bouts of feeling paralyzed - my brain seems to be awake and I can recall certain feelings such as not being able to move and every part of me feeling like a ton of bricks. I am frozen in one position and can't move away from it and sometimes I feel like moving ever so slightly, but not near enough - I wake up fully and I haven't moved at all. When it happens, I have a sense of fear and panic because I can't open my eyes, talk, or move. It's one of the scariest feelings in the world, and I often wake up with a sense of panic and I'm often too scared to try and sleep again and instead just get up. A few times I have tried falling back asleep and have been fine, but other times I'm so scared that something bad might happen.


On top of this, I had a nightmare before the seizure I mentioned in the first full paragraph. I was looking up at the ceiling and nothing had changed - the moonlight peering in through the blinds and shining on the ceiling looked the same. My room was the same exact mess with my door slightly opened. I suddenly heard footsteps and feared for my life. I put my hands around my neck for fear of being stabbed and someone in all black walked up to me and their knife glistened and then they walked off without doing anything. When I tried to struggle to get free, my ankles were bound together and I could not move them for the world. I couldn't move the rest of my body, either. Then suddenly I "snapped out of it", and was fully awake. The setting looked like it had never changed and I couldn't distinguish if I actually fell asleep or what was going on was truly happening. Although, I had that paralysis type feeling with everything else looking exactly the same. Someone mentioned something to me about "night dreaming" like...night dreaming as most would day dream. Some people day dream and go off into la-la land in the middle of the day at a boring place like school or work, or maybe without any real notice they are drifting off. Someone I talked to think it may be that - just at night. I haven't heard much about that, though, and always have a sense of fear and panic when I snap out of it.


The scary thing is, I try to fall asleep - nothing is wrong and then I suddenly feel panicked, unable to move, talk, or open my eyes and my brain keeps thinking, "What to do?! What to do?!" I try to move, I try to scream, I try to yell, I try to kick, I try to sit up, and it never works. It leaves me in fear of sleep at times. Some nights I sleep well, and I have no real indicators when this happens, or why it happens. It's not like I know what triggers it so if I saw a doctor who wanted to do a sleep test - it may happen and it may not since it's only sometimes, which may lead to a test that doesn't detect anything. So I feel a bit stuck in this...


I am posting this here because it's a concern, and wonder if anyone else has these issues, too. If you read through all of this - I thank you so much and if you respond, I appreciate it even more. I just am tired of feeling in fear of sleep sometimes. Some nights, it's a piece of cake to fall asleep, and other times I fear it will happen again. I don't even know what this type of thing is called =[


I usually wake up, have a normal day, and go back to bed. There's nothing abnormal that happens during the day to indicate this. Please help!

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It's hard to know what it is that you are describing.  Heartbeat is very fast after a GM.  I had a seizure while in the hospital with the grids on my brain.  I had seizure activity recorded when I had my strokes in the hospital.  It was the strokes that paralyzed me, not the seizure.  I was aware of what was going on at the time.  I could not move the left side of my body at all and knew it with doctors and nurses in my hospital room.  It was scary.

Thanks for your response =) and I'm sorry that you had strokes =( that would be incredibly scary. I am glad that you are alive, though! Always good to hear that =)

I have been looking into sleep paralysis and it seems to heavily describe why I can't move at all, when my mind wakes up between REM and NREM when muscle movement is kind of turned off in a sense. So it could've been a seizure that one time and sleep paralysis and a bad nightmare the other times.

This always seems to happen to me when I am physically exhausted, but mentally more awake and trying to sleep. Considering I've been trying to get back on a good sleeping schedule and I have a big tendency to oversleep, and am incredibly vulnerable to stress, which could help explain it. It happened to me the other day and I had an idea of what was happening and noticed if I stayed still, I was okay and didn't get anxious about it. However, I noticed that once I tried to move - I started feeling anxious and started feeling like I was going into a panic and then woke up shortly after. So it's weird =/ I've been trying to look into this topic more to see what I can do and find things that may help =) sometimes I wonder if it's a side effect of any medication, or a side effect of my bad sleeping schedules.

Hello, when I was taking keppra both of my arms would go completely numb for about 20min. I could not move them at all!! once they took me off, this stopped

you should get a sleep study ASAP.  That sounds like sleep paralysis. I have had it for at least 15 years...some meds can cause it or make it worse. I have a sleep disorder caused REM sleep behavior disorder and the sleep paralysis comes with it...it's absolutely terrifying. I'm treated with a high dose of melatonin and take my klonopin dose right before i go to bed- no more sleep paralysis and no more exhaustion all day every day.

What you are describing is not la la land or daydreaming it can be absence (seizure's) that you've been experiencing during (REM) rapid eye movement/while asleep (without epilepsy those can experiences these occurrences) that you are trying to elaborate Kaylen,  We can at times without our authorization have many relapse, in other words our body/mind is two separate entities that can have us psychologically during our unconsciously (rem) sleeping that can mimic seizure's or an epileptic attacks, I would recommend keeping a (seizure diary of every time awaken in the middle of night/day how many x's are you experiencing these onset episodes) would compare any notes with your follow up Neuro/Primary Physician).   To Kaylen, I would call my primary physician to see or perhaps can it be panic attacks that can have same similar reactions as to a heart attack/sz).  ( :  do hope for sure all turns out well for you always seizure free and may you have a safe weekend with yours.

Happy St. Patricks Day!


Thanks for all your responses =) I don't believe it's the Keppra causing me any issues since I'm still taking it and the sleep paralysis hasn't happened since I moved to my new place. The previous living environment was stressful so I'm thinking that it's stress and having a hard time staying asleep (due to stress and anxiety, and probably not being completely tired by bedtime) that was the trigger because I haven't had any problems since I moved into a less-stress environment. Also, before I moved into the new place, I thought to myself one day, "If this is sleep paralysis and it's caused by stress or anxiety, it can probably be controlled with mind over matter." So if it happened I might freak out the first few seconds and kept thinking to myself, "I'm breathing, so I'm okay. Just relax. You're not in any danger." and once I had been calmed down for a while, I'd snap out of it. So, I think it was probably stress and anxiety.

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