Sleep paralysis – What it is and why it happens

Hyperaxion Feb 23, 2020

You wake up in the middle of the night and can’t move your body. You know you’re awake, but you can’t see anything. You experience difficulty breathing and apprehension.

This is what people with sleep paralysis feel. A very unpleasant feeling, but something that can be explained.

What is sleep paralysis

For a long time, it was believed that sleep paralysis was linked to supernatural events, such as the presence of spirits or even extraterrestrial beings.

Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain wakes up during REM sleep, which is when the most vivid dreams happen, but the body remains paralyzed.

The person is aware that he or she is awake, but cannot move. Most of the time this paralysis is accompanied by hallucinations and can last up to five minutes.

Researchers say that people who suffer from this disorder should understand how it works to lessen panic.

Symptoms of sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis - What it is and why it happens
The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli, 1781. (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

The symptoms of sleep paralysis are terrifying. People who suffer from this condition, usually when they wake up, feel that they have no control over their own bodies.

Furthermore , other symptoms related to this disorder are:

  • Not being able to move the body;
  • Not being able to breathe;
  • You feel like your chest is tightening;
  • You see demonic figures;
  • You try screaming for help but you can’t.

Causes of this syndrome

Sleep paralysis can be related to physical and emotional tiredness, but it can also be caused by other factors, such as:

  • Not getting enough sleep;
  • Not eating enough;
  • Lack of physical activity;
  • Not having a sleep routine (same time every day);
  • Abuse of drugs or hallucinogenic substances;
  • Suffering from stress, bipolar disorder or other mental conditions.

What to do when you have sleep paralysis?

Meditation is an excellent way to reduce anxiety levels.
Meditation is an excellent way to reduce anxiety levels. (Source: Shahariar LeninPixabay).

When you have an episode of sleep paralysis, try to relax and don’t force yourself to move. Keep your focus on your breathing to stay calm.

If that doesn’t work, try to:

  • Move your toes (so the body will start waking up);
  • Make movements with the muscles of the face, like grimaces (this will help to wake up);
  • Meditate, because meditation helps to reduce anxiety.

Is sleep paralysis still a mystery?

Despite being scientifically understood, sleep paralysis still arouses the curiosity of many people about the mysteries of the “spiritual world” and its relationship with the supernatural.

Because they generate hallucinations, some researchers believe that cases of abduction or encounters with spirits may actually be episodes of sleep paralysis.


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