Have you ever woken up only to realize that you are stuck in your dream? If so, then you’ve probably experienced a case of sleep paralysis. According to Livescience.com, “Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak immediately after waking up.” As someone who has experienced sleep paralysis before, I can personally say that it is a scary phenomenon. It feels as though you are in a coma, but your mind is completely functional and you can hear all of your surroundings. The worst part is that you are unable to move or open your eyes.
The reason behind this scary phenomenon has to do with REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement. During REM is when we have dreams; however, it is when we wake up before REM is finished that we experience sleep paralysis. When we sleep, our brains release chemicals into our body that shut down our muscles. Sleep paralysis occurs when we regain consciousness before the body’s ability to move has been reactivated, and this can either occur as you are falling asleep or before you wake up.
Over the centuries, experiences of sleep paralysis have been associated with a night demon. Many people who have experienced it have noted that in their paralyzed state, they feel the presence of a mysterious creature. This demon has been given several names including “the old hag,” “the shadow man,” and “the man with the hat.” Seeing this strange demon can be explained in the fact that “a part of your brain called the amygdala is already heightened, and this being responsible for your emotions means that you feel particularly threatened when paralyzed by sleep” (Howtolucid.com). Because of this, your brain creates hallucinations of things that are not really there. This can be especially frightening because during sleep paralysis, you are conscious of everything else.
Though the causes of sleep paralysis are not certain, researchers have found that it is more likely to occur for the following reasons. While pulling all-nighters is common and sometimes necessary in college, the lack of sleep or an inconsistent sleep schedule can be to blame for reoccurring cases of sleep paralysis. It is also more likely to occur if you are under a lot of stress, or are experiencing a mental condition such as bipolar disorder. Many have also found that sleep paralysis occurs more often to those who sleep on their backs.
While sleep paralysis can be frightening, rest assured because it is harmless. However, if it is happening consistently and is disrupting your life, you might want to see a doctor. Sleep is a priority and if you don’t get enough, you might not be able to get any!