Imagine you are about to fall asleep when suddenly you open your eyes and you can’t move. You lie still on your bed, engulfed by an unknown fear.
Your heart beats faster and your chest starts to feel heavy. You feel a presence in your room and finally, you see it…. A dark shadow standing in the corner, approaching you.
Is this a dream? A hallucination? Or is this all real? You scream for help, but you can’t…. You can’t even breathe now as the entity moves in closer.
Can you imagine how scary that would be?
This terrifying experience is known as Sleep Paralysis and it belongs to a category of sleep-related conditions called parasomnias.
What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a state when you are awake and conscious, but your body is in a paralyzed state of sleep.
You may feel that you are conscious but unable to speak or move. You feel a sense of being choked or pressure on your chest.
You may also experience hallucinations – hear, see or feel things that are not real – which can cause fear, panic, and superstitious beliefs, like a demonic presence.
Although people with the sleep disorder narcolepsy are more prone to experience sleep paralysis, healthy individuals may also have this terrifying experience.
This psychological state may be caused by a dysfunction in rapid eye movement or REM sleep and can be triggered by unusual sleep cycles, sleep deprivation, or stress.
It is fairly common and is usually not considered dangerous.
Here are some of the most fascinating facts about sleep paralysis.
8 Shocking Facts About Sleep Paralysis
1. Sleep paralysis occurs during REM sleep
Although little is known about sleep paralysis, scientists do believe that this state is related to the rapid eye movement or REM sleep stage.
During this sleep cycle, our brain has vivid dreams and prevents muscle function so that we don’t physically act out those dreams and hurt ourselves or others.
Sleep paralysis occurs when we wake up during this REM stage. Although we may regain consciousness, our body is still left paralyzed as the muscles have not received the brain signals to move.
This leads to confusion, panic, and fear.
2. It is NOT a paranormal phenomenon
Have you heard about the sleep paralysis demon?
People who experience sleep paralysis often report seeing or being attacked by a shadow being or demonic entity known as the sleep paralysis demon. Some others also report about being abducted by aliens.
Also known as incubus or succubus, these demons reportedly engage in sexual acts with the helpless victim.
But regardless of the countless folk tales, movies, and alleged true stories of the sleep paralysis demon & UFO abductions, sleep paralysis is a form of sleep disorder and has nothing to do with supernatural forces.
3. You can have scary hallucinations
Are these reports of scary beings, demons, or aliens seen during sleep paralysis real or simply hallucinations conjured by our sleeping mind?
While these scary creatures can be terrifying and intriguing, these are merely hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations that are different from normal dreams.
Although your experiences may seem real, the demons or aliens are certainly not. These hallucinations occur when you are waking up or falling asleep and can make you believe that your nightmares are real.
As you wake up during REM sleep, you regain your consciousness but are still dreaming. No wonder so many people report seeing scary beings. But dreams are just that…dreams.
4. You feel physically ‘paralyzed’
During an episode, you may be fully conscious but you lose the ability to control your muscles. This can make you feel unable to breathe, move or talk along with a feeling of being choked, suffocated, or tightness in the chest.
In this immobilized state, you feel threatened and defenseless as you struggle to breathe and scream for help. But this happens more due to a dysfunction in REM sleep than due to a demonic attack.
5. Sleep paralysis can’t kill you
While there is no doubt that sleep paralysis can be extremely scary and frightening, it is actually harmless. Till now, there are no clinical records of death caused by sleep paralysis.
But people who have experienced this state often fear for their lives even though it cannot physically harm you. Sadly, superstitions and cultural explanations associated with this condition make it seem scary and mysterious.
6. We don’t know what exactly causes sleep paralysis
Although scientists know that sleep paralysis is related to REM sleep, they are still not sure about what exactly causes an episode.
While interruption in your sleep pattern can be a major factor; medications, stress, anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, sleeping on your back, and sleep disorders can trigger this sleep state.
Some experts also believe that sleep paralysis can be inherited, which means that if you have a family member who experiences sleep paralysis, then you are likely to experience it as well.
However, there is no clear cause or explanation for it yet.
All you need to do is get some undisturbed sleep, and you will be just fine.
7. You’re not sleeping during sleep paralysis
During sleep paralysis, you are not in a state of sleep nor are you awake. It is a state of immobilized consciousness that occurs between wakefulness and sleep and may last for a few seconds or few minutes.
Sleep paralysis makes our senses hyper-aware, our mind active and our body paralyzed. In this unfamiliar space, our mind perceives nightmares as real experiences making us see ghostly or extraterrestrial entities.
This is why we can remember the terrifying episodes more clearly than normal dreams or nightmares, as in waking dreams we are unable to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.
8. It is more common than you think
Did you know that around 8% of people experience sleep paralysis once in their lifetime?
This sleep condition is fairly common and often experienced first in our teenage years, between the ages 14 and 17. However, you can experience it at any age and both men and women can suffer from this terrifying experience.
Sleep paralysis is a mysterious condition surrounded by superstitions and paranormal beliefs. But in reality, it is simply a disruptive sleep-related disorder that can cause hallucinations that seem all too real.
Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Let us know in the comments section below.