Have you ever experienced the scary phenomenon of having to wake up but finding that you can’t move your body at all? That is not the only horrifying thing one can experience when under the condition called sleep paralysis. Some people have described to feel difficulty in breathing as if someone is sitting on top of their chests.
Before you go supernatural on this occurrence, it should be noted that there have been medical studies conducted to decode sleep paralysis. It turns out that 7.6 percent of the population tends to experience this sleep disorder, according to a 2011 study.
What is Sleep Paralysis
Upon hearing stories of people experiencing sleep paralysis and narrating how they would feel an “unusual presence” lurking in the room, it’s easy to be scared. However, the phenomenon is actually not that dangerous and it does not signify a serious medical condition.
The cause of sleep paralysis remains unclear but it is likely caused by the interruption of the transition of different sleep stages.
During the familiar sleep stage of REM (rapid eye movement), the body normally goes into a paralyzed state called REM atonia. This should prevent people from moving or reacting violently, thereby protecting the body, when dreams set in.
However, there are times when the paralysis state remains even when the REM stage is over. Once you wake up, you become conscious but your body cannot move at all.
Different Experiences During Sleep Paralysis
There are three main categories of hallucinations described by many people who have experienced sleep paralysis.
#1. The Incubus
In this case, people have noted that they have felt intense pressure on their chest as if someone is sitting on top of them. This makes them feel breathing difficulties. But according to scientists, it’s just the mind playing tricks; people are afraid and that’s why they feel they can’t breathe.
#2. The Intruder
Some people describe to have seen a shadowy figure lurking inside the bedroom as they fall into sleep paralysis. Experts describe this to be a “hypervigilant state of the midbrain,” which means that the brain perceives the slightest stimuli as a threat. Even the faintest of sound would be terrifying for someone in sleep paralysis.
#3. Out-of-body Experience
In this case, people have described that they have levitated or hovered around, seeing their body lying on the bed. In the REM stage, certain parts of the brain that inhibit movement while asleep, are activated.
“You feel like you’re moving when you’re not because the area of the brain that coordinates that is overactive,” Daniel Denis, a cognitive neuroscience researcher said.
How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis
Preventing sleep paralysis can be challenging but there are a couple of things that a person can do to solve the problem. One is to avoid sleeping on their backs and the other is to focus. The latter is easier said than done because it is hard to concentrate while being terrified. However, if the person works hard on focusing on something else, such as moving a certain muscle (even the smallest one on a finger), the paralysis can be broken.
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