10 Things You Must Know About the Terrifying Condition Called Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis is a sleep condition that we all have suffered from at least once in our life, whether we remember it or not. It’s a condition where a person on waking up experiences a sense of paralysis or inability to move or speak. It is also commonly accompanied by hallucinations, which makes the situation a whole lot creepier. These are 11 facts that look at different aspects of sleep paralysis:
1. Symptoms of sleep paralysis
Several studies have showed that people who are exhausted, stressed or sleep-deprived have a bigger chance to experience sleep paralysis. The researches tried to find out what exactly causes the sleep paralysis but they didn’t come to the solution so far.
2. There is no actual danger
There is no denying that sleep paralysis is scary and it feels like you’re inserted into a horror film scene, but there is no actual danger for your health, it doesn’t harm your body or causes death. The idea is to trick yourself into not being scared whenever you experience something like this. Because when we experience this, our minds are aware and we know that we are stuck in it, so while that happens, try to think that you’re not scared and you are above it, by the fact that it’s not real.
3. You lose control over your body
No matter how aware your mind is you cannot take control over your body, it just doesn’t move. Some people can just move their fingers or wiggle their toes or facial muscles. Some people also wait until the paralysis is over so they can wake up on their own. The state of sleep paralysis can last anywhere from 20 seconds to a few minutes.
4. Historical cases of sleep paralysis
Persian medical texts, (10th century) also have accounts of sleep paralysis. The first-ever observation of sleep paralysis was made by a Dutch physician in 1664, and he believed that a 50-year-old woman was suffering from ‘nightmares’ and it was called thus till the 19th century. Ultimately, the name was changed as ‘sleep palsy’ and then ‘sleep paralysis’.
5. Fuseli’s interpretation of sleep paralysis
The Swiss painter Henry Fuseli made a painting of a sleep paralysis back in the renaissance times, and this is an important historical example. He explained it as the demon (in sleep paralysis you also have hallucinations and illusions) who sits at the top of the chest, making it almost impossible to breathe with that pressure. That is also one of his best works.
6. It’s NOT a disease
This is certainly not a disease, 100% truth. People that experience this are often unaware that they’ve experienced it, or even those who did are aware that it can happen sometime. The level of intensity of the paralysis varies from person to person, and young adults and people with a history of mental illnesses are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. But still not a disease.
7. Nightmares and hallucinations
Symptoms of sleep paralysis include hallucinations and nightmares. But these are unlike the visual you see when your brain is fully asleep. These hallucinations occur when your mind is alert and feels awake. This is what makes it twice as scary as we are thought to believe that seeing it makes it real. You feel an added sense of anxiety as you are unable to scream or move.
8. Folk stories
There are many folk stories and legends that talk about this type of condition. For example in Japan “Kanashibar” means being bound up with metal. The Chinese know of this as the “ghost oppression” as in the USA, they relate it to alien abductions. In African culture, they associate it with “devil riding your back” where demons have sex with people in their sleep and it commonly refers now to Incubus or Succubus.
9. How it occurs and the science behind it
Sleep paralysis occurs when your body has a problem making this transition. When it happens while you are falling asleep, it is known as ‘hypnologic’ sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis occurs during one of these two transitions; when you’re falling asleep or waking up. The body has to go into a REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep) and must come out of it. When it happens when you are in the process of waking up, it is known as ‘hypnopompic’ sleep paralysis.
When you sleep, what happens is that your brain sends a command to your body’s voluntary muscles to relax and go into a state of paralysis known as Atonia. This tends to restrict your physical movements in your dreams which help prevent your body from any external injury. In a sleep behavior disorder or nightmares, atonia does not happen properly and the voluntary muscles move while the mind remains asleep. This is why when people walk or talk, they are completely unaware of what they are doing.
10. The feeling of dying slowly
The feeling of the sleep paralysis can often be described as slowly dying and going into the unknown. The feelings when you actually wake up are like you’re rising from the dead and can be often occurred with having headache or just feeling dizzy. These are two accounts of horrific sleep paralysis experiences as told by two Reddit users:
“I had my first sleep paralysis when I was in high school. I was a Freshman or Sophomore. I fell asleep at my desk while studying. Suddenly, I became aware of my surroundings. I could see my desk and book. My mom walked in and moved stuff around. I tried to call out to her, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t move my body either.” – SocialJusticeTemplar, Reddit
“I’ve been experiencing sleep paralysis when I was in high school till now due to stress. I was around 15-17 when it started but earlier today I experienced the scariest one yet. Usually whenever my SP starts to kick in, and when I say kick in I mean I can know or feel that my SP is going to happen.
“How do I know? Well, if you experience SP a lot and by “a lot” I mean 3 times a night if I’m lucky, you can know. But earlier today, I didn’t notice. It just ambushed me in the middle of my sleep and this time, everything I try to do didn’t work. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move+I was in the worst sleeping position ever.
“Every time I have my SP, I would just normally count from 1-10 and try to relax or whenever I’m too tired, my exhaustion beats the SP and I fall back asleep. Those things didn’t work. It took me so long to wake up; I was so scared and desperate that I choked on my own fucking saliva!!! I thought it was the end!!!!!!!!”
– KiriAsu, Reddit
Did you have a sleep paralysis? Was it awfully scary to you, what exactly did you experienced? Write in the comments below or share this to your friends! We would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.