Sleep paralysis- What is it? Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon which has attracted much interest over many centuries. It has been called by many different names over the years and some people have tried to blame paranormal activity as a cause for the very uncomfortable sensations which it can bring about…today however, sleep experts understand a large part of why it happens and as a result can offer those suffering from it some help.
What does sleep paralysis feel like and why does it happen?
The most common descriptions of sleep paralysis are that it is like being frozen inside your own body; completely unable to move and yet completely aware of surroundings, thoughts and feelings. It occurs at the moment which the sufferer falls asleep or just as the sufferer is about to wake up. Many people report that when they are in the throes of it, they are aware of an “evil presence” in the room which they cannot see but which they “know” they must escape. It is this which has given rise to the suspicions which some people have around sleep paralysis being a paranormal event…the “evil presence” being attributed to some kind of spirit or demon.
In actual fact the reason for this fearful experience is simply a trick of the brain; when the body and mind are in that phase between sleep and wakefulness, the brain can have a momentary lapse in judgement and from this arises the awful inability to move; alongside it comes a very natural reflexive fear of attack…the mind realises that the body cannot move and so creates a fight or flight response which makes the sufferer assume there’s something dangerous about which needs to be avoided at all cost. There are some experts who believe that most “ghostly visitations” and even “alien abductions” can be explained away with sleep paralysis and other sleep disorders.
How to avoid sleep paralysis
The best way to avoid sleep paralysis is to practice good sleep hygiene. This means retiring to bed at the same time every night and ensuring that you do not indulge in alcohol or stimulating drinks in the hours before bedtime. In addition to this it makes sense to avoid lively films and books, computer games and spicy foods! Ensuring that the body is not having to process a lot of input or to deal with difficult to digest foods can really help in the prevention of all types of sleep disorder including sleep paralysis.
What if that doesn’t work?
Some cases of sleep paralysis are so bad that even excellent sleep hygiene cannot improve the situation. Seeing experts at a sleep clinic is the next sensible step and your general practitioner should be able to refer you on to a qualified professional who can help you.
Sleep paralysis is a frightening and upsetting thing to experience and for many it can cause real problems as they continually wake up exhausted and stressed. Follow the sleep hygiene guidelines and try to keep a good routine at bedtime…this is something which will help most people who suffer from this unfortunate condition.
Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night, by Ryan Hurd explores this and other fascinating sleep- states