Remember that time you woke up in the middle of the night, by yourself in the middle of your room? Well if that wasn’t scary enough, oh yeah and you couldn’t move, talk, or even breathe!
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Then my friend you have experienced “sleep paralysis”. Sleep Paralysis has become such a common phase that many go through in this crazy life that we are in. Sleep paralysis is simply a sign that our body is not moving smoothly through the stages of sleep. Rarely is sleep paralysis linked to deep underlying psychiatric problems. Sleep paralysis is caused when hormones produced by the body to help you sleep do not wear off as you wake up. This means that you remain temporarily paralyzed but conscious. Over the centuries, symptoms of sleep paralysis have been described in many ways and often attributed to an “evil” presence: unseen night demons in ancient times, the old hag in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and alien abductors. The thing is everyone experiences Sleep paralysis at least once in a lifetime.
How much do you know of what is Sleep paralysis?
Have you ever felt like you were awake but unable to move? You might have even felt afraid but could not call for help? This condition is called sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis may leave you feeling frightened, especially if you also see or hear things that aren’t really there. Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. 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 may happen only once, or you may have it frequently — even several times a night. Sleep paralysis occurs as a person is moving into or out of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the deepest part of sleep. During REM sleep, the body is largely disconnected from the brain, effectively leaving the body paralyzed. Sleep paralysis is the result of premature or persistent mind-body disconnection as one is about to enter into or exit from REM sleep. The good news is sleep paralysis is not considered a dangerous threat at all. Sleep paralysis is most often associated with narcolepsy, a neurological condition in which the person has uncontrollable naps. The two major classifications of sleep paralysis are isolated sleep paralysis (ISP) and the significantly rarer recurrent isolated sleep paralysis (RISP). ISP episodes are infrequent, and may occur only once in an individual’s lifetime. However, there are many people who experience sleep paralysis without having signs of narcolepsy. Sometimes it runs in families. Sleep paralysis occurs most often after jet lag or periods of sleeplessness that interrupt the normal REM patterns or after changes in sleep patterns. It affects both sexes equally and occurs at all ages but is most common in teenagers.
Recognize the symptoms of Sleep paralysis : Sleep paralysis can affect in many different ways. Some commonalities that people experience are:
- Inability to move the trunk or limbs at the beginning of sleep or upon awakening
- An inability to move the truck or limbs at the beginning of sleep upon awakening
- Brief episodes of partial or complete skeletal muscle paralysis
- Visual and auditory hallucination often senses an evil presence or feels a phantom touch or hears an unidentified noise in the room.
- A sense of breathlessness or chest pressure
Causes of Sleep Disorders
What are the causes of some of the most common sleep disorders? Although the answer is often unknown, some of the things that might contribute to the various disruptions in sleep are:
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring is simply a sound produced by the vibration of soft tissues in the nose, throat, and mouth. It occurs nearly universally. However, it may also be associated with conditions that narrow the upper airway. These may include:
- Nasal congestion
- Malformation of the skull or face (including abnormal jaw position or size and narrow nasal cavities
- Tonsil or adenoid enlargement
There are numerous potential causes of insomnia, which is the most common of the sleep disorders. These causes may include:
- Poor sleep habits
- Caffeine or stimulant use
- Drug use
- Other medical or psychiatric conditions
- Idiopathic or unrecognized causes
- Over tiredness
- Physical exhaustion
How to cope with sleep paralysis
- First relax your body into the paralysis. Don’t fight it forcefully as this will create panic and increase the chance of negative hallucinations.
- Try to gently wiggle your fingers and toes. These tiny movements will eventually tell your brain that your body is awake and it will stop the atonia.
- At the same time, try to move your eyes by blinking and looking around the room. Again, the goal is to establish movement to fully awaken you.
- Try to move your lips and facial muscles.
- If your breathing feels restricted by the paralysis, remember that you have been breathing fine like this while asleep. Focus on breathing as deeply as you can and not letting panic overtake your thoughts.
- Keep your mental state positive and calm. Focus on relaxing thoughts – can you imagine a beach or distant location in the sun? Some people find it helps to sing in their mind as this instantly raises your positivity.
My own Experience – It takes extreme effort to wake up.
I get this on a regular basis, but mostly when I nap, not when I go to sleep for the night. I have never experienced the “demon”, but the experience is terrifying. I can see everything (or at least it seems like I can) but I am unable to move. It feels like if I don’t make every effort to move I will be stuck like that forever. I usually have to start by wiggling a toe, or a finger, and then keep that momentum going until I fully wake. It takes an extreme amount of effort and if I don’t keep the effort constant, I have to start all over again.
While many factors can increase risk for ISP or RISP, they can be avoided with minor lifestyle changes. Sleeping in the supine position is believed to make the sleeper more vulnerable to episodes of sleep paralysis because in this sleeping position it is possible for the soft palate to collapse and obstruct the airway. By maintaining a regular sleep schedule and observing good sleep hygiene it helps subjects to reduce the intake of stimulants and stress in daily life by taking up a hobby or seeing a trained psychologist who can suggest coping mechanisms for stress. However, some cases of ISP and RISP involve a genetic factor, which means some people may find sleep paralysis unavoidable.
Medical treatment starts with education about sleep stages and the inability to move muscles during REM sleep. People should be evaluated for narcolepsy if symptoms persist. The safest treatment for sleep paralysis is for people to adopt healthier sleeping habits. However, in serious cases more clinical treatments are available. The most commonly used drugs are tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Despite the fact that these treatments are prescribed for serious cases of RISP, it is important to note that these drugs are not effective for everyone. There is currently no drug that has been found to completely interrupt episodes of sleep paralysis a majority of the time.
If sleep paralysis is just a dream, then why does it feel so real?
Some of the effects are real. This state is a very clever merger of waking consciousness with the dream world. It’s a bizarre mind trick This of course has been frightening people over the years, It’s the fact that one is living in one’s own nightmare, but maybe just maybe this might be true. Several people over the years have described the feelings of ghost hands holding them so they won’t move, breathe and even somehow it blocks your morning mood.