Imagine yourself waking up to find that you are unable to move. You lie in your bed unable to do anything. You start to get scared. “What if I got stuck like this forever?” you think to yourself. You start to imagine all the horrible things that could have made you frozen. Your eyes scan the room, looking for an answer. You see an old witch open the door and start to cackle. You wonder if she is the cause for you being frozen. You attempt to move, run or call out for help but nothing works. The witch sits on your chest and stares at you. Her long claw shaped fingers reach toward your neck…
Then she disappears. You become able to move again. You think to yourself about whether or not it was a dream. You are unable to tell why everything was so realistic. You decide to check your computer to see if anyone has had a similar experience. Then, while looking through web pages you find sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis is a scary event in which a person wakes up but cannot move. This is usually accompanied with hallucinations. This isn’t rare among teens and young adults, it affects about 6% of them each year. Sleep paralysis is often caused by awkward sleeping patterns. For example if you work in shifts you are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. You are also more likely to get sleep paralysis if you have narcolepsy. This blog will include information about: REM (rapid eye movement), stories of sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, OBE (out of body experiences) and more.
When sleep paralysis happens, it is usually during REM (The part of sleep where dreaming occurs.) During REM you are paralysed to keep yourself from moving in your sleep. Sleep paralysis is caused when the person is awake but their body behaves as if they were asleep. REM happens several times a night. (It happens every 90-120 minutes). Dreams can only happen during REM. It will keep you paralysed by an amino acid called glycine. Glycine is lightweight and travels through your body quickly.
During REM your mind is choosing what information is important and what is not. This has caused some people to believe that they can forget sleep paralysis moments after it happened. They think that sleep paralysis makes your brain make mistakes. There is no conclusion about whether or not this could happen.
The part of sleep paralysis in which you wake up and cannot move has different causes. The first, most common cause happens when you are awake but your mind doesn’t realize it. This may cause your mind to let glycine continue to freeze your muscles. Another, less common reason is when REM won’t stop. This causes REM to continue when you wake up and make sleep paralysis continue for up to 15 minutes. The least common way would be if you had narcolepsy. Narcolepsy causes you to fall asleep at random times.
One of the most common hallucinations that people experience is when a hideous witch sits on the person’s chest. Another common hallucination is when aliens attempt to abduct the person. A third hallucination that is experienced is of human shadows that run around, barely out of your sight.
One of the scariest stories is about a boy who was trying to fall asleep. He decided to stay still in one position because he kept rolling over and keeping himself awake. He stayed still but after a few minutes sleep paralysis began. He didn’t notice it until he attempted to scratch his leg and found that he couldn’t move. He was scared so he tried to talk to his brother in the bunk bed above him. However, he couldn’t talk to his brother either. After that he started to hallucinate. He saw an old man walk into the room and kidnap his brother. He told the boy that he was going to be back. The boy woke up and saw his brother still sleeping.
Most of the time, sleep paralysis hallucinations can be retold in extreme detail. For example, if one person’s hallucination had a TV on in the background they could repeat exactly what it said.
Some people say that they can control their hallucinations and dreams. Even people without sleep paralysis claim they can do this. This is called lucid dreaming. There are a lot of strategies to force lucid dreaming. The most common strategy is to do a reality check. Reality checks are when you do something like read a sentence or check the time to see if anything is weird in the world around you.
OBE’s are also common experiences. An OBE is an out of body experience. This is a type of dream where a person will watch themselves sleep in a ghost-like form. You can fly around your room and look at things during OBE’s. Sometimes OBE’s can be amazing experiences or they could be nightmares. OBE’s are more common if you have sleep paralysis.
Remember the story I read at the beginning? Imagine yourself after reading about sleep paralysis. The next day you have sleep paralysis it again, the difference is that now you can control it. Your horrible nightmare turned into a dream where you could do anything you wanted. You could meet your favourite superhero, or become a professional player on your favourite sports team. Then you become able to see yourself asleep. You look around your room staring at yourself and everything else. Then you wake up. From that point on you would never have another sleep paralysis incident other than the occasional time lucid dreaming didn’t work, but now the paralysis seem a lot less scary. During any dreams you would have in the future, you would be able to do anything.