Ever felt awake yet unable to move, accompanied by a malevolent presence in the room? You might have this condition:
Sleep paralysis, described as “a complete temporary paralysis occurring in connection with sleep and especially upon waking.”
It affects only 8% of the general population. Last month, a report by 7days confirmed the prevalence of the condition among Dubai residents.
Here are a few things about sleep paralysis you might want to know:
1. Sleep paralysis is an old phenomenon
Henry Fuseli’s painting, the Nightmare (1781), which depicts a woman sleeping on her back, with a demon sitting on her chest, represents symptoms of sleep paralysis, such as the feeling of a heavy weight on one’s chest. In Herman Melville’s 19th-century novel Moby Dick, the main character Ishmael experiences an episode of sleep paralysis in the form of an evil presence in the room.
2. More likely to occur when sleeping on your back
Psychologists suggest to try new sleep positions for those who complain about recurrent episodes. Unfamiliar surroundings such as a new house and disrupted sleep patterns caused by jet-lag, working night shifts, a crying baby, late night partying are also contributing factors to its occurrence.
“Ever since I stopped sleeping on my back I haven’t had it happen once, thankfully, started noticing that about a year ago.”- ShaqilONeilDegrasseT (via Reddit)
“Weird, I almost never sleep on my back and have only had two episodes, one a few weeks ago and the first was like 8 years ago. Both times I happened to be sleeping on my back.” – CapMercaptan (via Reddit)
3. The feeling of immobility is accompanied with a unique set of hallucinations
The Sleep Paralysis Project classified these as:
- Intruder: Sensing a presence in the room in a visual or auditory manner.
- Incubus: Feeling a heavy weight on the chest, breathlessness.
- Unusual Bodily Experiences: This includes the feeling of floating, out of body experiences with a sense of elation.
“I have sleep paralysis a couple of times a year, and it’s always an awful feeling of something very evil in the room, just standing and watching me. I want to scream, I want to move, but I can’t. Then I have a huge anxiety attack, where I get the feeling if I don’t move this instant, something awful will happen, and slowly a low growl comes out of my mouth, and I wake up.” -StopDropAndBurn (via Reddit)
4. Sleep paralysis serves a protective function
Sleep paralysis can occur at two times: when falling asleep, the body relaxes but your mind stays alert during shutdown process. Contrarily, while waking up, a more common instance, say researchers. During the night, we move through deeper levels of sleep.
According to No Sleepless Nights, sleep paralysis occurs “during what’s called the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage when you tend to dream more vividly. And so the brain ‘switches off’ your muscles to prevent you from acting out your dreams, which could be dangerous.”
5. Don’t confuse it with night terrors
In night terrors, a person feels they’re being chased or attacked and wake up immediately with a start, soon forgetting the reason for their panic. In sleep paralysis, the body cannot move and one can’t forget the scary experience.
6. It might feel longer than it is
Episodes last between a few seconds and a few minutes. Researchers can’t establish time estimates easily, due to the fact that a few hours in our subconscious state is a lot lesser in reality.
7. Beware of false awakenings
You feel like you’ve snapped out of it and you’re awake. You might feel you’ve even told someone about your horrible sleep paralytic experience. Then you realize you’re still dreaming. This may occur repeatedly.
8. It’s a symptom of narcolepsy
Yet, it is possible to suffer only from sleep paralysis. In which case, it’s called Isolated Sleep Paralysis (ISP).
You will wake up, but to avoid it, try this:
- Get a good sleep routine, banning sleep deprivation.
- Before bedtime, try to resolve stressful issues.
- During an episode, wiggle one toe or finger to wake up.
- Use a sleep tracker to monitor your snooze pattern.
- Speak to your family and friends about it.
- See a doctor, if it hinders your sleeping and causes you to stay awake. Don’t let the fear of falling asleep get to you.
For assistance, contact the London Sleep Centre, Dubai today.