We grow up listening to the stories of demons and creepy creatures. Thousands of tales relating to the unsatisfied evil who tries to have sex in the dark, demonic footsteps or forces that tightly hold your hands and legs etc. can be traced backed in history. Ghost stories and movies have attracted each one of us and threatened us in our childhood to an extent that we won’t even go to the bathroom alone. As we grow up, we accept that these are merely stories and there is no need of being afraid of such abstract things.
But what if you wake up in the night, feel the presence of an intruder or shadow and find yourself not able to move? Won’t it be horrifying? This is true fear. You can see someone hovering over you or standing beside your bedside but you are unable to move even a single muscle. You will not know what real fear is unless you experience ‘Sleep Paralysis.’
Sleep paralysis is unlike the common paralysis and it lasts for just few seconds while falling asleep or waking up. It occurs due to some secretions (GABA and glycine) in the body by the brain. In an episode of sleep paralysis you are mentally awake but your body is not. Sleep paralysis occurs when there is disturbance in sleep transitions. When you fall asleep, your body follows REM (Rapid Eye Moment) sleep cycle. Sleep paralysis can occur when you’re falling asleep, called ‘hypnagogic’ sleep paralysis, on the other hand, if it happens while waking up then it is called ‘hypnopompic’ sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis can last from few seconds to minutes to hours (person may suffer from panic attack).
Following are the symptoms one may experience during the episode:
Inability To Move Body
During the episode of sleep paralysis, the individual is unable to move. One can just maneuver toes and fingers but not the whole body. Internal screaming is usually experienced. The science behind it is, normally when you fall asleep, your body relaxes and you are in the state of atonia, where your muscles are paralyzed protecting you from external injuries during sleep and dreams. But during an episode of sleep paralysis, the brain wakes up making you conscious but your body still is in a paralyzed state.
Terror With Realistic Environment
Distinctive things in the room where you have fallen asleep can be seen and the perception is very clear, making it the worst part as you experience the real world environment along with the terror. This is because of ‘waking consciousness’ and is not a dream and hence you experience the real world trauma. The things which you see in dreams when you are deep in sleep are visualized in your room making it really scary; the inability to move while you are awake adds a spooky attribute.
You can feel your chest crushed and choked breath. You can also feel the presence of evil appearances and the dead surrounding your bed and above you the demonic shadows which are trying to take you with them and out of body experience. You can even hear them; the sounds made by them and smell the flesh. These episodes make you believe in the demon working in the dark and you feel terrorized because it happens in your very own bedroom when your mind is all alert.
Sleep paralysis can occur to anyone who has repeated changes in sleep patterns or are stressed. Few studies say that sleep paralysis is also deeply rooted to mental illness. Sleep researchers say, mostly women have a high rate of sleep paralysis disorder. Till date no medicine is discovered for the terror episodes. Anti-depressants are prescribed in serious cases. The best way to overcome this disorder is to stay calm in the episode as it Is not going to harm you by any means. Try to wiggle toes and fingers or facial muscles; this will help you awaken your body. Most importantly, try to follow a proper and healthy sleep hygiene.
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