Imagine this. You are all curled up in the bed, sunlight is streaming through the windows. You are ready to roll over and begin your day.
But as you decide to wake up from the bed you cannot move. Your eyes are open, your mind is awake but it’s your body that is still sleeping.
Scary enough? This is called sleep paralysis.
According to a research, on an average about 40% of the total population has had at least experienced sleep paralysis once in their entire lifetime.
Sleep paralysis occurs in a borderline state between consciousness and sleep or as one is waking up or dozing off.
Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Don’t know what it was? We got you covered.
Here are 15 facts about Sleep Paralysis one should know.
Nightmares are scary enough when one is asleep, imagine having one with eyes open.
According to a research, it happens to about three quarters of people with sleep paralysis.
These hallucinations can be in form of anything.
It could be someone touching you, hearing weird noises, seeing something or maybe feeling someone else in the room with you.
The images or dreams become more vivid than usual.
Sleep paralysis can happen to anyone. Gender doesn’t play a role in sleep paralysis.
It usually occurs in teenage and young adults; between an age group of 20-30. It may continue further in life.
Also, family heredity plays a role in sleep paralysis. If you have anyone in your family suffering from it, there are chances you may suffer it too.
The episode is highly individual and rarely the same experience for everyone.
When a person wakes up before their REM cycle is finished
The brain has vivid dreams during the rapid eye movement (REM) while one’s muscles are unable to move.
This phenomena occurs so that the individual won’t be able to act on their dreams with their body.
However, while encountering sleep paralysis, the individual wakes up before their REM cycle is finished.
This results in person’s brain to be awake but their body won’t be able to move since they do not receive any signal from their brain to do so.
You cannot speak when encountering sleep paralysis
This is so because along with your body, you cannot move your mouth as well.
Even though you are crying out for help, not a single word it uttered or heard.
This feeling can be linked to the feeling of getting choked as not enough air may be passing to you.
Linked to Narcolepsy
Narcolepsy is a condition that is characterized by one’s excessive tendency to fall asleep in a relaxing and comfortable environment.
People who suffer from narcolepsy have a loss or damage of the brain chemical called hypocretin.
This chemical helps the body to regulate the sleep-wakes cycles and to stay alert.
As a result of which, these individuals experience disruptive sleeping patterns that leads to sleep paralysis.
Stress and anxiety leads to this episode
Having excess and anxiety keeps you up at night which disrupts your sleep patterns and cycles required by your body.
To prevent this episode avoid nicotine, alcohol and drugs at least 3 hours before going to bed.
Also, limit caffeine past 2 P.M and have a consistent sleeping schedule allowing you to get a sleep of at least 6-8 hours.
At the same time, try to exercise and meditate to cope with stress and anxiety.
Sleeping on your back results in sleep paralysis
According to research conducted, people who sleep on their back tend to experience sleep paralysis more than any other sleep position.
Try sleeping in alternative positions such as on your stomach or on your side to avoid sleep paralysis.
They may not be the comfortable position for you, but they tend to reduce the chance of experiencing sleep paralysis.
People may feel choked or a pressure on their chest
During sleep paralysis, you cannot move your body which ultimately puts a pressure on your chest or you feel like you cannot breathe.
You cannot get off the heavy feeling like something is constantly weighing you down. This results in helpless and threatened.
During this episode, try to stay calm since this feeling will end within few seconds or minutes.
It doesn’t last long
Sleep paralysis usually passes within seconds or minutes. The episode usually ends on its own.
It may also end when someone touches you or speaks to you. Making an intense effort to move can also end an episode.
It may occur only once in your life. At the same time, it may also occur many times in a year.
Two kinds of Sleep paralysis exists
According to science, there are two types of sleep paralysis; isolated sleep paralysis (ISP) and Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis (RISP).
In Isolated sleep paralysis, sufferers experience sleep paralysis once or twice in their entire lives.
In Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis, sufferers experience several episodes of sleep paralysis in their entire lives.
RISP is more intense because it can last up to an hour accompanied by an out-of-body experience.
Sleep paralysis doesn’t kill you
A research has shown that sleep paralysis is not dangerous. No matter how intense the symptoms and experience might be, it can’t kill you.
It does not cause any sort of physical harm and there are no clinical deaths known till date.
The individuals who experience such episodes don’t need to be afraid. They just need enough sleep and rest.
There is no definitive cause
Researches have shown that there is no clear cause of sleep paralysis. Stress, anxiety, depression have all been linked to sleep paralysis.
Users of anxiolytic medication- to control anxiety are likely to experience sleep paralysis more frequently than those without medication.
However, we know that sleep paralysis can either occur on its own as an isolated incident, or can result from other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.
It doesn’t mean night terrors
People often wake up to night terrors normally bolt up and sit upright in panic, usually unaware of their surroundings and where they are.
This phenomena is normal and must not be confused with sleep paralysis.
When we sleep, our brain gives a command to our body’s voluntary muscles to relax and go in a state of paralysis called atonia.
This restricts our physical movements in our dreams; protecting the body from any external injury.
However, in sleep paralysis the body remains paralyzed but our brain awakens. We are alert and conscious but unable to move our voluntary muscles.
It is not a disease
Many people assume sleep paralysis to be a disease. However, it is completely a natural phenomenon.
Sleep paralysis can happen to anyone under the sun. Most of the researches have shown that everyone has encountered sleep paralysis once in their lifetime.
But they aren’t aware of that episode. The experience depends from person to person.
Many people are terrified with the experience, while few people have enjoyed their experience.
Definition of sleep paralysis differs from country to country
In Japan, they know sleep paralysis as “kanashibar” which means bound up with metal.
In China, people know it as “ghost oppression”.
In US, some people relate it to alien abductions.
In Africa, it is interpreted as “devil riding your back” where demons have sex with people in their sleep known as “Incubus” or “Succubus”.