- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
Fear of the unknown
There have been many articles written on the subject of sleep paralysis, mainly because people are striving to understand this strange phenomena. I've read some horror stories which make me shudder, but most are so ridiculous that they make me laugh out loud.
Before I go into my theory there are a few ideas that I would like to share, then you can decide whether you want to agree. First of all we need to understand some of the complexities of the brain. The brain and the mind are two totally different things. The brain controls the mind. In a way, it's the engine. It is a living organ that controls every part of our body. It can be examined, operated on and recorded (brain-wave activity). The mind is something completely different. It's our psyche - our thoughts-our imagination, and no-one has access to our thoughts. If they had wouldn't that be classed as telepathy? No one can say whats going on in there. It's a private domain (thankfully) so when it comes to sleep patterns and explaining why this or that happens, no -one can really tell you because they're not in there with you. Some of you have your own theories about what you believe is going on. I've read stories about how poeple feel like they are having 'Out of body experiences', and others who believe that a sinister spirit has entered their body, and although I can't say that this is not how they are feeling, its more than likely just a bad dream. The creative mind and the imagination are wonderful things, but sometimes they can work against us. Our brains register everything in the environment around us: Happiness, grief, confusion, horror, fear, are all common day to day emotions. Our sleepng brain has to register all this information and log it in the relevant file. Sometimes it gets put in the wrong one and we have weird dreams or nightmares. On other occasions the files never get sorted and some unfortunate people have a breakdown.
I've suffered from sleep paralysis since my teens. Not on a regular basis, it's mainly when i get over-tired, and anyone who suffers from this will know that it's a pretty scary experience, until you begin to understand what's actually going on in your brain - or mind.
After a considerable length of time I went to see my GP. I had put off going because I thought he would laugh at me. As far as I was concerned, this was only happening to me and I didn't mention it to anyone because I was afraid they would think that I was losing the plot. I've always considered myself to be a rational-thinking adult. I keep an open mind about things that I don't know anything about, or I find myself doubting the existence of, ie; ghosts and the supernatural, aliens, etc, I can't say that they don't exist just because I haven't had first-hand experience of them and I don't ridicule people who say they do. It's an individual choice, but having said all that I didn't understand what was happening to me and I was scared. I wanted a logical explanation.
All I want to do now is try and explain sleep paralysis the way my doctor explained it to me. I am happy with his theory and it has helped me to control the panic and fear that goes with the condition.
Its pretty simple really. It's just a matter of the brain falling asleep before the mind does. When we try to move while our brain is still in a semi-conscious state, because the part of the brain that controls movement has already gone to sleep, we are unable to move. One half of the brain is already in 'sleep' mode and the other is still operational. that's it. There's nothing sinister or 'other worldly' about it. Now all we have to tell ourselves in our 'still awake' mind is to chill out and let things work themselves out. I usually find that as soon as I do this I become fully awake and am able to move freely. It's when we try to fight it that we get the problems. This is when the panic and fear kick in. It's a horrible experience, especially when your active imagination is playing tricks on you, making you believe that there is some evil force at work. You try to shout out, but you have no voice and you try to get up but you feel like some force is physically holding you down. This sounds so lame but the best way to deal with it is to say in your mind 'Okay, I know what's going on here and I'm just going to relax because its not real.' You will be surprised how it actually works.
So to any sleep paralysis sufferers I'd like to just say this. If it was down to some 'spirit' or other worldly energy that meant you harm, you'd probably be already dead. As it is. you wake up when the alarm goes off, just having had a bad night's sleep. I'm not meaning to sound blase. I suffer from it myself, but once you know what it is, the fear goes and you learn to live with it.