Have you ever suddenly woken up from a dream and opened your eyes but are unable to move a muscle? You feel conscious but there is something that is stopping you from getting up. This weird and eerie phenomenon is known as sleep paralysis.
I myself have experienced it and I know exactly how it feels. It’s like you are awake but then you are not. You are unable to move or speak. You feel like there is someone with you in the room that is watching you sleep or perhaps sitting on your chest, choking you.
It is one of the most terrifying things that a person can experience (apart from spotting a real ghost).
But all that about someone watching you sleep is obviously not true.
Sleep paralysis has nothing to do with anything paranormal. There is always a proper scientific explanation for things we don’t understand.
The Science Behind Sleep Paralysis:
There are two types of sleep that we experience. REM or Rapid Eye Movement and NREM or Non-Rapid Eye Movement.
NREM comprises 75% of our sleep but the rest of the time we have dreams and those dreams are caused by REM sleep.
During REM sleep, our brain tells all our muscles to paralyze so that we don’t act out physically while having a dream. (What if we hit ourselves while dreaming?)
So basically during REM, our brain and muscles are completely asleep. Sleep paralysis occurs when our body finds it difficult to make a smooth transition between these two stages of sleep.
It’s like standing between being completely awake and asleep. Our mind is awake but our body is still sleeping. That is why we find it difficult to move our muscles while it is happening. And this is the state of paralysis we feel while sleeping.
Many sufferers find this experience very terrifying.
Who wouldn’t, anyway?
It’s almost like waking up dead, trapped in a body you have no control over.
Due to this fact, sleep paralysis has been blamed on everything from witches to demons to aliens. (I wonder what they feel when they are being blamed for something they haven’t done).
Sleep Paralysis Has Been Prevalent For Centuries:
The first occurrence of anything like this dates back to the 10th century Persian medical texts where the first clinical observation was made by a Persian physicist who diagnosed an old lady with “nightmares”.
Of course, back then it was believed to be caused by spiritual possession until the 19th century when the term “sleep palsy” was coined from which we get the term sleep paralysis.
Another intriguing fact is that Swiss painter Henry Fuseli was very interested in sleep paralysis. So, he made a painting to describe what it was back then.
As you can see in this famous Renaissance painting, a woman is sleeping and a scary looking gremlin is seen sitting on her chest.
That is what it feels like during sleep paralysis. But, the gremlin or the horse has nothing to do with it contrary to popular beliefs.
Other Pointers About Sleep Paralysis:
#1. It can happen to anybody at any point in their lives but is most common to people experiencing lack of sleep, stress or psychiatric medications.
#2. It is NOT life threatening at all. If you are experiencing sleep paralysis, do not worry. It is a highly common phenomenon.
#3. It is not just a nightmare. Nightmares are completely different. If you feel transiently conscious in the middle of the night and are unable to move or breathe for a couple of seconds, chances are high that you just experienced sleep paralysis.
#4. You can reduce its occurrences by getting enough sleep. There are no medicines for it.
So, folks, that is all you need to know about this spooky medical phenomenon.
You might agree with me on this after reading it – that it is as fascinating as it is spine-chilling!
Image Credits: Google Images
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