Sleep Paralysis — What it is and Why it Sounds So Scary?

Sleep Paralysis — What it is and Why it Sounds So Scary?

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A lot of people haven’t heard about the sleep disorder which is known as sleep paralysis. We have suffered from sleep paralysis at least once in our lives, whether we have remembered it or not. It is actually a medical condition when someone while waking up, experiences the inability to move or speak, having some sense of paralysis. This condition is also usually accompanied by hallucination, which actually makes the situation even more terrifying. Here, we are going to present you 11 facts that look at different aspects of sleep paralysis.

1. Stress and exhaustion are the two major factors which cause a sleep disorder.

A lot of studies have consistently shown that those people who are tired, as well as anxious and sleep – deprived, are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. Some researchers have been trying for a long time to understand why people experience sleep paralysis. Still, there has been no valid explanation for this condition so far.

2. It is not something dangerous.

Although it cannot be denied that this condition is a terrifying experience, there is actually no danger from it, as it does not cause any physical harm to our body. There have been no clinical deaths reported as a result of this condition until now. One of the ‘solutions’ is to trick ourselves into not being horrified whatever we experience the ‘paralysis.’ We should tell ourselves that it is just a dream and that it is not real. It may feel like forever, but the more we stay calm, the less scary it will be. The key is self- reassurance.

3. We lose control over our body.

No matter how hard we are trying, even if somehow we are aware of the state of sleep paralysis, we cannot wake our body up. Some people can just move their fingers or wiggle their toes or facial muscles. Eventually, that will be helpful for them to wake up, but the majority of people have to wait until the horror comes to an end. The state of sleep paralysis actually lasts from 20 seconds to a few minutes.

4. There are some historical cases of this condition.

Some researchers have been trying to explain, as well as understand the phenomenon of this type or paralysis. Some medical texts from Persia, which actually date back to the tenth century, also have reported sleep paralysis. In 1664, a Butch physical has made the first-ever observation of sleep paralysis. He has claimed that a fifty-year-old woman was suffering from ‘nightmares’ – that is the name that has been given to the condition until the 19th century. Eventually, this condition was renamed as ‘sleep palsy’ and after that ‘sleep paralysis.’

5. Fuseli’s interpretation of sleep paralysis.

One significant historical example of sleep paralysis can be spotted in the Renaissance painting by Swiss painter, named Henry Fuseli. The painting actually displays a demon which represents the feeling of extreme pressure on the chest which someone sense when they are experiencing sleep paralysis.

6. It is not a disease.

You should remember that sleep paralysis is not a disease, but it is a totally natural occurrence. It is a condition which can happen to anyone. A lot of studies have proved that there are a lot of people that have experienced the condition at least once in their lives and they were probably not aware of that. The level of intensity of the experience varies from person to person. In most of the cases, young adults, as well as individuals that have a history of mental illnesses are more likely to experience the condition.

7. Nightmares and hallucinations.

Some of the symptoms of this condition include hallucinations and nightmares. Nevertheless, these are not like the visuals which we see in our sleep when our eyes are closed. Such hallucinations happen when our mind is alert and feels awake. That is what actually makes the situation twice as horrifying as people think that seeing is believing. We also feel an added sense of anxiety, as we do not have the ability to scream or move.

8. Folk stories and legends.

There are a lot of folk stories, as well as legends all over the world which describe this condition in various cultures. ‘Kanashibar’, in Japan actually means being bound up with metal. In China, the sleep paralysis phenomenon is actually described as ‘ghost oppression’, while people in the US link it to alien abductions. In the culture of Africa, people associate sleep paralysis to ‘a devil riding your back’, when demons, commonly referred as Incubus, have sex with those people who sleep.

9. How it happens.

This condition can usually happen during one of these two transitions. Either when we fall asleep or when we wake up. Our body goes to a REM sleep (which means Rapid Eye Movement) and it comes out of it. Sleep paralysis usually occurs when our body has some problems with making that transition. When it happens while we are falling asleep, it is known by the name ‘hypnagogic’ sleep paralysis, and when it occurs when we are in the process of waking up, it is known by the name ‘hypnopompic’ sleep paralysis.

10. You feel like dying slowly.

This condition is usually accompanied by a sense of total despair or dread. It is almost as though we are slowly dying. That actually leads to a feeling of relief when we finally wake up almost as if we rose from the dead.

11. Here is what actually happens according to science:

When we sleep, what occurs is that our brain sends a command to our voluntary muscles of our body, in order to relax and then go into a state of paralysis which is known as Atonia. That actually tends to restrict our physical movements in our dreams that help prevent our body from external injuries. During a sleep behavior disorder or nightmares, Atonia does not happen properly and our voluntary muscles move while the mind remains asleep.

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