Sleep Paralysis, The Reason You’ve Woken Up In The Middle Of The Night


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Have you experienced intense pressure on your chest in the middle of the night and you can’t even move a finger? You want to shout but your voice seems to be stuck in your throat and you can’t produce any sound?

You’re not being possessed. It’s all because of a phenomenon called sleep paralysis

Read on to know more about sleep paralysis and how to tackle it.

What is Sleep Paralysis?

It’s a state when you’re half asleep and half awake. When you enter the deepest part of your sleep which is called the REM or rapid eye movement, that’s when you have dreams. And while you’re dreaming, to prevent injury in an attempt to act out your dream, the body becomes almost paralyzed. The brain sends a signal to the muscles to relax completely. However, when disruptions occur at this stage of your sleep, you may experience sleep paralysis – where you can open our eyes and your mind is awake but your body isn’t. So you’re in a half-conscious state.

When was it first identified?

In 10th century Persian medical books, cases of sleep paralysis have been recorded. A Dutch physician got the first case in 1664 of a 50-year old woman and named the condition “Night-Mare”. In those times, demons and spirits were deemed as the probable cause of such a condition. It was much later in the 19th century that the terms “sleep palsy” and “sleep paralysis” evolved.

How does it feel?

Sleep paralysis can make you feel like there’s somebody sitting on your chest. You feel the pressure. Panic sets in when you can open your eyes but you can’t move. The pressure and the panic can make you get out of breath. This stage can last from a few seconds to a couple of minutes but is enough to make you sweat.

Some people even experience hallucinations during sleep paralysis. They see forms and figures and even hear strange noises. That is probably because the brain feels a threat in the stage of paralysis and sends warning signals to your body to try to wake you up.

Why does Sleep Paralysis occur?

Sleep paralysis has been linked to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Another theory is that it is genetic in nature. Whatever it is, sleep paralysis is more common among young adults and people with psychiatric conditions. Some medications, depression and stress have also been factors pointed out as probable causes. But there is still a definitive cause to be found.

How to minimize sleep paralysis?

To prevent sleep paralysis from occurring, try to get a good long sleep. Take some meditation lessons to reduce stress and practise at home. Avoid drinking too much alcohol as that would prevent you from getting into the deeper stages of your slumber and so, affect your quality of sleep. You should also avoid eating a big meal right before you go to sleep.

Have you ever had a bout of sleep paralysis? Share your experience with us in the Comments section below. 

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