Science behind sleep paralysis

                Recently a friend of mine asked me to research on sleep paralysis and I came across interesting facts surrounding it. So I felt compelled to share it with you guys.
             Most people in their lifetime come across sleep paralysis one time or another. Even I have had those scary experiences myself. There are many myths relating to it in varying cultures. During teenage I have heard that sleep paralysis occurred when evil spirits chocked us during the sleep. But I was sure that there was some logical explanation behind it.

            Once when I was attacked by sleep paralysis I felt someone was smothering me and I couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was shouting for help but nobody heard me. I wanted to run but I couldn’t move and it was most terrorizing moment in my life. When I researched through, I found out that some have even felt shadowy presence and noises of footsteps during sleep paralysis. Some even had felt, out of body experiences like floating and hovering.

            Now let me explain you the scientific cause of sleep paralysis. It is a condition of becoming aware but the inability to move your body. There are two types of sleep called REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). Usually when you fall asleep, you undergo NREM sleep which enables your body to relax and restricts the movement of voluntary muscles. This prevents people from acting out their dreams. Then you go into deep sleep called REM sleep where your eyes move rapidly and dreams occur. But during sleep paralysis your senses become aware due to body’s transition to or from REM sleep, but your muscles stays in the previous state of relaxation disabling you to move. This non- syncing in the brain, rings fear alarms to the brain making you panicky experiencing suffocation, sweating and even hallucination.

                 Sleep paralysis is of two types according to the time they occur. When sleep paralysis occurs during falling asleep, it is called hypnagogic. When sleep paralysis occurs during waking up it is called hypnopompic.

Now let me tell you about the type of hallucinations we could feel during sleep paralysis:

  • ·  We could feel pressure on chest and suffocation.
  • ·  Feeling of strangling or smothering.
  • ·  Sounds of footsteps or banging of doors.
  • ·  Sensation of someone present in the room.
  • ·  We could see apparitions.
  • ·  Out of body experiences like floating or falling. 

                    I bet this is not helping us, rather spooking us out. At least we know that we are not haunted rather it’s a scientific condition.

Now let us see the causes triggering sleep paralysis:

  • ·  Lack of sleep.
  • ·  Change of sleeping schedule. Many people work night shift, so they have to change their sleeping schedule which is considered abnormal to health.
  • ·  Stress, anxiety, depression and panic attack.
  • ·  Sleeping in uncomfortable position such as sleeping on back.
  • ·  Use of certain medication.
  • ·  Drug and alcohol addiction.

                    Now as we have seen the causes, let us look at the treatments concerning it. Though treatment is not necessary as sleep paralysis occurs very rarely and it is not lethal. But if you encounter sleep paralysis very often( in rare cases) and you feel afraid to sleep, fearing attacked by sleep paralysis or this is taking toil upon your physical and mental health and daily routine, it will be advisable to consult a physician. The physician may give you anti- depressant, sleep inducing tablets or give you treatment according to your medical history and severity of the situation.
for now bye,
Nandhini G

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