That terrifying feeling, awake but unable to move known as “Sleep Paralysis”.
Have you ever tried to wake up and found yourself unable to move at all, you see people around you and you asking them for help to get up but you actually cant move your mouth to form those words and you are woundering why is everybody just standing around and not coming to your aid?. Such a state is defined as “sleep paralysis.”
Sleep paralysis is the terrifying feeling of being held down after just waking up or going to sleep. You can’t move or scream, and sometimes this paralysis is accompanied with the certainty that someone –or something — is in the room.
According to WebMD, it occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking.
Sleep paralysis occurs during the period of sleep called REM(Rapid Eye Movement) where dreaming frequently happens and the bodys muscles are relaxed to the point of paralysis called atonia. Atonia actually helps protect the body from injury by preventing you from acting out the physical movements in your dreams.
Intresting thing to know: In other parasomnias, such as sleepwalking or REM sleep behavior disorder, atonia does not occur properly and the voluntary muscles move while the mind remains asleep, which is why people can sometimes do crazy things in their sleep and be totally unaware of it.
Its like you woke up dead: “Most patients say the same thing to describe sleep paralysis: that it feels like you woke up dead. You know that your mind is awake and your body is not — so you’re trapped, essentially,” Michael Breus, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, tells BuzzfeedLife.
When sleep paralysis happens when going to sleep, its called “hypnagogic” sleep paralysis, whereas if it happens during waking it’s called “hypnopompic”, Breus explains.
Sleep paralysis triggers a panicked response with increased heart rate. “People freak out because they can’t move, and it’s this extreme anxiety which causes people to be very fearful of their surroundings,” says Breus.
There have been some suggestions out there to help get out of this paralysis state by trying to wiggle one’s toes, fingers or facial muscles, which some people have said helps wake up the rest of the body. “Everybody tries something different, but you can’t fool mother nature — there’s no way to pull yourself out of it. You just have to wait it out,” says Breus.
it’s most common among young adults and people with a history of mental illness. A PennStatestudy found the highest prevalence rates were in students and psychiatric patients. In students it could be because sleep paraysis is related to being sleep deprived. According to Breus, research has consistently shown that the less sleep you get and the more exhausted you are, the more likely you are to experience sleep paralysis and other sleep disorders.
Quality sleep is thought to be quite helpful in preventing sleep paralysis. If this is something you deal with, a solution could be getting enough sleep and mnot doing things that compromise the quality of your sleep (like drinking a lot or eating right before bed). Breus also suggests noting any abnormal sleep behaviors (that you or your partner may notice), like irregular breathing while sleeping or waking up gasping for air, which could actually be an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
There is not yet a definite cause that has been found that causes sleep paralysis. Stress, depression, certain prescription medications, and, more recently, an inherited gene have all been linked to sleep paralysis, Breus tells us. But while research shows associations, there is no clear cause of sleep paralysis, which is obviously super frustrating for anyone going through this. We do know that sleep paralysis can either occur on its own as an isolated incident, or it can be a symptom of other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy. And there’s no explanation for why it might happen every other day or just every once in a while.
Seriously, people have been trying to explain this weird phenomenon for centuries. Accounts of sleep paralysis can be found in Persian medical texts dating back to the 10th century. The first clinical observation was made by a Dutch physician in 1664 who diagnosed a 50-year-old woman with “Night-Mare.” It was believed to be caused by demons or spiritual possession until the 19th century, when it was termed “sleep palsy” and eventually “sleep paralysis” in medical texts.
People have blamed sleep paralysis on everything from witches and UFOs to giant ghost dogs. And there are various folk legends all over the world that attempt to explain the existence of it in different cultures.
However, there’s really no evidence that it’ll kill you. “Research has shown that sleep paralysis is not dangerous,” says Breus. “It does not cause physical harm to the body and there are no clinical deaths known to date.” While there are some terrifying cultural explanations around the world, these are constructed to make sense of a very mysterious condition. “The biggest thing is to educate people to not be afraid,” says Breus. “In all likelihood, they just need more rest. If they get enough sleep and the episodes continue with any regularity, then they should go to a sleep disorder specialist.”
Anyone who has ever experienced this can tell you that it is effing terrifying and feels almost paranormal, rather than a typical sleep disorder. Sufferers share their frightening experiences in countless YouTube videos, Reddit threads, and sleep paralysis websites.