Do I have Sleep Paralysis
Even when I was little, about 6 or 7, I remember waking up sometimes but not being able to move. It happened very rarely, and usually consecutively in a certain time period and then not again for months. For example, I'd have have 3 days in one week, but then wouldn't have it again for another 6 months or so. I probably even went a year or two without having an "episode." For this reason, I usually overlooked it because once I actually got up I forgot all about it until it would happen again.
One day a few years back, during a time when it was fairly frequent, I decided to look it up. I was scared that it was going to be something severe or that I'd have to go for one of those sleep examinations, however what I found was actually quite interesting. I had sleep paralysis; a condition very common, especially among teenagers and young adults, and nothing really to worry about at all.
What is Sleep Paralysis
Sleep Paralysis is a "disorder" I guess you could say characterized by not being able to move your body even though your brain is conscious. After a bit of research I found out that it happens because when you sleep, your brain becomes disconnected with your body for a while to let the muscles relax and so that it's activity during R.E.M (Rapid Eye Movement) does not disturb the body's rest. Sometimes though, your brain can become disconnected from your body a little too early, or doesn't re-connect with your body in time; thus causing sleep paralysis shortly before or after sleeping.
Many people also experience hallucinations of various kinds during sleep paralysis that make the experience far, far worse. I personally have never had the hallucinations but I can only imagine how frightening it must be since the sleep paralysis is pretty scary in and of itself.
For me, it usually always happens right after I wake up. I don't think I've ever gotten sleep paralysis right before I've fallen asleep. It really is frightening though and most people can't understand it until they have experienced it. What's worse for me though, and I'm sure it's happened to many people, is that it happens multiple times when it does. What I mean by this is, I wake up with sleep paralysis, and then when I finally snap out of it I'm still drowsy and sort of half asleep. Before I know it, I fall back into sleep paralysis and have to go through the experience all over again. It happens multiple times with cycles of what I like to call limbo: The state in-between sleep paralysis phases. In this state your still pretty much half asleep and so physically can't wake up. You're still at a very high chance of getting a sleep paralysis "attack" but you're pretty helpless at this point. You're too drowsy to actually wake up but relatively conscious on the inside, awaiting your next bout of sleep paralysis.
How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis
I find the only real way the cycle ever really ends is once you fall back asleep fully and properly and then wake up again normally. The thing is, once your brain messes up once and you "half-wake-up" or something it can't really be avoided. The idea is that you want your body and mind to always be in sync when falling asleep or awakening in order to avoid sleep paralysis. I've found that over the years there were certain times I was more likely to get sleep paralysis, and they were usually:
- Times of stress: such exams or big plans for the next day
- Infrequent sleeping patterns: meaning sleeping for a few hours, waking up, sleeping again for a few, staying up all of the next day, etc...
- Oversleeping: this one is a big one. Whenever I'm simply lazy to get out of bed and sleep 9 hours or more, I almost always get sleep paralysis. The longer it is, the more likely it is to happen.
- Daydreaming in the morning: Sometimes you wake up and sort of just "think" about things, and sort of get confused whether your dreaming or thinking about something. The deeper into thinking you get in bed, the more likely you are to fall asleep and so you may still be conscious but your body starts to fall asleep, which means it gets disconnected from your brain and there you have it, sleep paralysis.
How to Get Out of Sleep Paralysis
Once your paralyzed, the worst thing you can do is panic. I know, it's hard it really is, in the moment you can't think logically. After a while though, and once it's happened to you a few times, you'll realized there are some small things you can do to force yourself to snap out of it. What usually works best for me is trying to move my eyes or hands. Just trying to blink and open your eyes so that light can get into them helps a lot. It not only forces your brain to send signals to your body, but the light speeds up the process. Unfortunately though, snapping out of sleep paralysis doesn't necessarily wake you up. For me, it usually sends me into the state of limbo I mentioned earlier, where all I can hope is to try and fall asleep normally again or to garner enough energy to wake up actually. For limbo, it is again, scary to try and fall asleep again because you almost always get sent back into sleep paralysis.
The real way to actually get out of sleep paralysis in a limbo cycle is to fall back asleep completely. Like I mentioned before, once your body and mind are in sync again, you will wake up normally. When you're in sleep paralysis though, you most likely will not want to fall back asleep because it simply feels like an imminent death. Therefore, it's rare that you can consciously make the decision to do so. If however you remember this when you are experiencing sleep paralysis, simply go with it and fall back asleep. The next time you wake up, you will be normal.