The Scary Phenomenon of Sleep Paralysis
We've probably all heard something go bump in the night or had a nightmare that made us scared for the rest of the week. For someone that has sleep paralysis often, they know these feelings all too well.
There are two different types of sleep paralysis that occur in between wakefulness and sleep. The first occurs when you are trying to fall asleep (Hypnagogia) or when waking up (Hypnopompia). During these moments of sleep paralysis, you are unable to move and/or speak. People also often hallucinate and see things like demons or shadowy figures, the sensation of being strangled/pressure on chest, and even voices or noises that may sound demonic. People have also been known to have an out-of-body experience where they essentially feel like they are floating and are able to see themselves sleeping and wander a little if they feel like it. So is what's going on supernatural or scientific?
Well, for the most part, scientific. Sleep paralysis happens when the person remains aware but the body itself shuts down for REM sleep. It is often thought that our body "shuts down" when we sleep to avoid acting out our dreams. The main reason people feel,hear, or see an intruder is because the emergency response is triggered in the brain when people feel vulnerable to attack. It is created from a hyper vigilant state in the mid brain. Feeling helpless extends this threat response making it higher than the normal level which explains why the presence may be evil and so vivid. Don't worry though, even though the hallucinations are creepy as hell, sleep paralysis is virtually harmless.
While a lot of people have few episodes, some people might have reocurring sleep paralysis. This may mean you have a sleeping disorder. Some things you can do to help stop this is maintaining a regular sleep habit (6-8 hours of sleep a night), using antidepressant medication if prescribed to you, and treating any other mental illness that could possibly contribute to this.
Now I would like to take a moment to tell you about my personal experiences with sleep paralysis. It's happened only a couple of times in my life, one of which actually happened this morning (that is what motivated me to write this article!). Unfortunately for those of you who love to hear about creepy mysterious experiences, mine didn't involve sights of shadowy figures or demons, but they weren't exactly fun either. My first one was probably less than a year ago. Around midnight I was sleeping and then kind of woke up. I was laying on my stomach and all of a sudden I found myself unable to move. It felt hard to breathe, like someone was sucking the air out of me, strangling me. I also heard voices. I can't remember exactly what gender was talking or what it sounded like particularly, but I remember hearing them. After what seemed like nearly a minute I was finally able to move my body and regain control of it. My next experience which happened the day I am writing this article, I was taking a morning snooze after not getting much sleep the night before. I was having a combination of dreams but my last one was the worst. I dreamt that I was in a small bedroom and this girl was trying to strangle me. I knew I was in a dream so naturally I tried to wake up by opening my eyes. It worked, sorta. I was laying on my side and my whole body was frozen. I couldn't move. I probably wasn't able to speak either, but I didn't try because no one else was home so it's not like anyone would have heard me anyways. All of a sudden I heard footsteps followed by the creaking of the floor in my living room which I'm guessing was "the intruder". I was home alone, so the first thing I thought about was where my phone was in case I need to use it. Of course, it's hard to find your phone when you can't move. Despite that though, I wasn't that freaked out over the footsteps. I was well aware of sleep paralysis especially because I had experienced it before so I guess I kinda knew it wasn't real. Now if I had seen some kind of demonic figure, that's a whole different story.
So what do you think? With all this demonic like things going on, is it really just our hallucinations or is something real communicating with us when we are in a certain level of consciousness?
Sleep tight! ;)