For hundreds of years, the phenomenon of sleep paralysis has been written off as everything from being fake, to being caused by witches, goblins, or aliens. If you’ve ever experienced sleep paralysis, you know all too well how real it actually is. It’s absolutely terrifying, and just because you’ve never experienced it – doesn’t mean you never will.
If you’ve never experienced sleep paralysis, I’ll do my best to describe it:
Imagine waking up but not being able to move. Sometimes your eyes open. Sometimes they don’t. You can try to move or look around the room, but your body doesn’t respond. At all. Most commonly, people experience sleep paralysis when they go into REM sleep very quickly after laying down, because the body doesn’t have time to go through its normal “shut-down process”. When we go into REM sleep our brain paralyzes out bodies, theoretically, to keep us from acting out our dreams. Therefore, if that process gets interrupted at some point the mind wakes up before the body does.
Although there is typically no rhyme or reason as to why one person experiences sleep paralysis while another person does not, it is believed that sleep deprivation is a factor. Professor Kazuhiko Fukuda at Fukushima University in Japan, suggests that between 40 and 60% of all people will experience sleep paralysis at least once in their lives, but only about 8% of people experience it regularly. If waking and not being able to move isn’t bad enough, often times people have associated hallucinations with the already scary symptoms of sleep paralysis. Doctors believe that because the brain is busy trying to get itself back in order, the hallucinations are often a reaction to feeling like you’re being held down.
The good news is that sleep paralysis is totally harmless. It’s just a condition of your brain playing tricks on you because it cut some corners in shutting down and putting you to sleep. Again, if you’ve never experienced the sensation of sleep paralysis that seems like a really easy statement. If you have experienced sleep paralysis, you know just as much as I do, how absolutely terrifying it really is.