- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Do you have Sleep Paralysis: The Old Hag Syndrome Explained
Have You Been Bewitched?
Sleep Paralysis is a condition in which a person is unable to move. He or she senses the presence of an entity just before falling asleep or just after waking up.
The problem with sleep paralysis is that many people do not understand and don't want to believe that they have this condition. Instead what they do believe is that they are being abducted by aliens or being possessed by an evil spirit. This is how it got the name "Old Hag Syndrome". But is there really an old witch doing this.
For years, this sleep disorder was not understood by science and there is a lot which still needs to be explained. But one thing is clear; this Old Hag Syndrome has nothing to do with an old hag or witch. It is just sleep paralysis.
Take a look at these statements and find out if you have ever experienced an episode of sleep paralysis.
Has this ever happened to you?
You have just hit the pillow. And you find yourself unable to move.
You wake up and find yourself unable to move.
You try to scream, but as hard as you may try, the best you can maybe do is murmur a little.
You try very hard to move your arms and legs. Even after trying your best, you are not able to move any part of your body. Or the best you are able to do is wiggle your toes or fingers.
Why Does This Happen?
If you think the old witch has put a spell on you and has you totally under her control, you are absolutely wrong.
Inability to move is the main symptom of sleep paralysis.
Here’s what happens. As most of us know, we dream during the deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. During this stage, the brain turns off most of its body’s muscle function. This is done to prevent a person from actually acting out his/her dreams.
This way dreams remain dreams and don’t become actions. This is called muscular atonia. It basically means that the body becomes temporarily paralyzed.
However, sometimes when we wake up during REM sleep, the brain does not come out of the dream state. This is what leads to sleep paralysis. So the person is conscious but is unable to move. Beiieve me, it’s not because the old hag has cast a spell on you.
Have you experienced these symptoms?
As you find yourself unable to move, you experience some or all of these strange sensations:
You feel the presence of something or someone who is closely watching or monitoring you.
You see a shadow or a black and cloudy entity floating near you or hovering above you.
You are unable to breathe and you feel as if someone or something is trying to choke you.
You feel a pressure on your chest. It feels like someone has put a very heavy thing on your chest or as if someone is sitting on your chest.
You feel as if someone is trying to pin you to your bed. As if a strong force is trying to hold you down.
You feel as if someone is trying to drag you out of your bed. You are floating in the air. Or you are having an out-of-body experience.
Why does it happen?
So, you really think that the old witch is responsible for making you float in the air? Please don't because here is what actually happens.
If you have had any of these experiences, it just means that you are having hallucinations. These hallucinations are known as hypnagogic and hypnopompic.
As mentioned before, sleep paralysis occurs when your brain is still in a dream state. You are conscious but unable to move. So you are in a half-asleep and half-awake state.
You wake up and you find yourself unable to move. Since you are unable to move, a sense of fear and anxiety takes over you. This is, of course, quite obvious considering that you feel that you have lost all control over your body. The natural reaction of the brain, which is still dreaming, is to panic.
Combined with your past beliefs and the brain’s dreaming state, this sense of impending danger takes the form of hallucinations. In reality, there is nothing there. No witch and no demon. So, you still think that it was witch which was sitting on your chest?
How to get rid of the old hag syndrome
So what should you do if you have had these episodes of sleep paralysis? If they occur way too often, they may be associated with disorders such as narcolepsy in which the individual suffers from excessive daytime sleepiness.
If these are isolated episodes, then there isn’t much to worry about. A regular sleeping schedule, getting around 8 hours of sleep, and keeping your stress under control will help. Also most of these episodes occur when the person is lying flat on his/her back. So sleep on your side.
Whether it’s a constant occurrence or an isolated episode, it is always a good idea to consult your physician about your sleep paralysis. A good physician who understands this phenomenon will be able to give you good advice and much needed assurance.
Remember, whatever others may tell you, there is no demon or witch trying to possess you. It's just simply sleep paralysis. Your sleep paralysis episodes are going to be worse, if you believe the old hag story. Also remember, that an episode may seem to last for hours, but in reality it actually only lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes.
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