What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a fear-induced hallucination where you become paralyzed for several minutes and then regain full control. Often, you can’t even move your eyes. The hallucination happens because you don’t want to wake up, making you feel as though you are about to die or be attacked. If you are a regular dreamer, you may even recall events from your dream that seem to be real and when you come back to consciousness, you can’t remember them at all. Moreover, sleep paralysis is an ancient superstition and this name is a derivative of the Latin word “paranoia”. This word basically means to creep. The name has morphed into “parasomnia”, which literally means a sleep disorder. This sleep disorder is surprisingly common in humans.
Sleep paralysis is where you fall into REM sleep, but then find yourself unable to move. The sensations you experience are mostly related to body paralysis and not the usual physical sensations. You may see yourself waking up from a nightmare, or even see yourself as you wake up. Your heart beats rapidly and your chest may be completely still.
What are the most common symptoms of sleep paralysis?
Most commonly, sleep paralysis starts when you are in a light stage of sleep. You’ll be more alert than normal but completely unable to move or speak, or even open your eyes. What can be done to get rid of it? Exercising, meditation and mindfulness can all be used to help wake you up from these terrifying episodes. It’s a common myth that sleep paralysis is connected to nightmares, but in fact, there’s no connection at all. It can be difficult to prevent sleep paralysis at all as it usually happens when you’re sound asleep. The only solution is to be vigilant about your sleep, ensuring you are never in a light stage of sleep. Are there any other sleep disorders you’re not aware of? Yes! Other sleep disorders are caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep.
Who gets it?
People with epilepsy, certain types of neurological or brain conditions, some types of drugs and alcohol, and extremely bored people. When does it happen? There are two types of sleep paralysis. One is a dream state where you’re fully awake but your body is paralyzed. The other is an in-between stage where you’re paralyzed but can see and hear. What are the symptoms? A sudden attack where your whole body feels numb and your senses are all over the place. You may hear a person or be unable to move and find it hard to speak. Your stomach may cramp up and you might feel sick. Your heart may pound and you might hear a ringing in your ears. There’s a sense of desperation and panic when it’s happening and it may last for up to 10 seconds.
How can you avoid getting sleep paralysis again?
It’s important to avoid getting stuck in the catatonically tired state of sleep paralysis. Sleeping at least ten hours a night is the best solution for preventing it. Another way to get your best sleep is to get your mind fully switched off before you fall asleep.
It’s pretty common and you can go a long time without experiencing it, but occasionally it can happen. Unfortunately, the more you get it, the more likely it is to happen when you have to wake up. Keep in mind that it only happens while you’re asleep and while the brain is transitioning between being awake and asleep. So, while your eyes might be wide open, your brain is still trying to wake up and change to a new state.