Sleep paralysis in the elderly
Isolated sleep paralysis (SP) is a common sleep phenomenon that is highly colored by indigenous beliefs. In Hong Kong Chinese, the ‘ghost oppression phenomenon’ (GO) has been shown to be descriptively identical to SP. The prevailing concept is that the majority of cases with SP have their onset during adolescence, but the lack of any systematic study on an older population means that late-onset cases can not be excluded. In a study investigating the prevalence of mental disorders in Chinese elderly aged above 70 y in Hong Kong, we employed the revised GO questionnaire to study the prevalence of SP in this group of elderly as well. One hundred and fifty-eight subjects were finally analyzed for the study. Almost 18% (95% C.I. 11.77%, 23.68%) of the subjects reported experiences of GO. Their description of the features of GO showed striking similarity to those of SP. There was a clear bimodal distribution of onset of GO with peaks during adolescence and after age 60 y. At least one-third of the cases were late onset. In concordance with the rapid eye movement (REM)/wakefulness dissociation hypothesis of SP, those elderly with GO+ experiences also had more frequent nocturnal sleep disturbances. A family history was reported in 10% of subjects.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Prince of Wales Hospital, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Publication date: June 1, 1999