What is Sleep Paralysis? Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Paralysis

Numerous physiological changes occur in the brain during sleep. During the REM period, which is the most important stage of sleep, all of the muscles in the body become temporarily paralyzed. In the meantime, if consciousness is opened and paralysis continues, sleep paralysis, which we know as nightmare, occurs. Although this has been scientifically explained, people continue to link sleep paralysis to paranormal activity, black magic, and mythical creatures. So what exactly is sleep paralysis? Let’s look at the details together.

1. What is sleep paralysis?


Sleep paralysis, popularly known as nightmare, is a temporary loss of muscle function that occurs at the beginning of sleep or during waking. Although this very common condition shows alarming symptoms, it does not require medical attention. Sleep paralysis, which is characterized by symptoms such as inability to move the body, inability to speak, and difficulty in breathing, occurs for reasons such as stress and insomnia.

2. What causes sleep paralysis?


Sleep paralysis occurs when the synchronization between the body and the brain is disrupted. A healthy sleep consists of 5 or 6 cycles. Each of these cycles is completed in 90 minutes. The last phase of sleep, REM cycle, is known as the most intense phase of mental activities. In REM sleep, all of the muscles in the body are temporarily paralyzed. If consciousness is opened before the end of the REM cycle, it becomes impossible to move the body and speak for a short time. In other words, while the brain is awake, the muscles continue to be asleep. This condition, which usually lasts between a few seconds and a minute, is described as a type of sleep disorder.

3. What are the risk factors?


Experts state that at least 50 percent of the general population experience sleep paralysis at some time in their lives. The most basic risk factors are explained as follows:

  • Sleeping on your back
  • Jet lag,
  • Irregular sleep routine
  • Using some medicines regularly,
  • Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.

People with anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are defined as a high risk group. At the same time, experts state that sleep paralysis can be a symptom of diseases such as sleep apnea, migraine and hypertension.

4. What are the symptoms?

  • Inability to move
  • Inability to speak
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache,
  • Chest pain
  • Symptoms such as extreme fear occur.

5. Why do we hallucinate during sleep paralysis?


Sleep paralysis can often be accompanied by visual, auditory and sensory hallucinations. This is because the brain is stimulated too much while in a state of extreme panic. These hallucinations can be quite vivid and frightening. Dreams mostly occur in the REM cycle of sleep. When consciousness is unlocked in the REM cycle, the dreams that are seen at that moment can become very real. For this reason, unreal meanings such as monster, creature, shadow man created by popular culture are attributed to dreams. In that short time when consciousness is open, it is felt that the imaginary world in the dream has taken over the real world. This condition, called hypnagogic hallucination, occurs in three different ways:

  • The opening of the door handles, the footsteps, the shadow man, or the feeling of a presence in the room that you think threatens you.
  • Feeling of suffocation or sexual assault by a malicious entity. This condition may be accompanied by symptoms such as chest pressure and difficulty in breathing.
  • Spirit watching as his body floats in the air.

6. How can sleep paralysis be prevented? Is there a known treatment?


There is no specific treatment for sleep paralysis. However, stress management and establishing a regular sleep routine can reduce the risk of sleep paralysis. Understanding the physiology of sleep is an important step in overcoming this condition. Frequent disturbances in the sleep cycle can lead to serious health problems in the future. A healthy sleep pattern is essential not only for sleep paralysis management, but also for overall health and well-being. You can use the following strategies to create a sleep routine.

  • Try to wake up at the same time every day, including holidays. You can click here for some tips to organize your sleep cycle.
  • Stop sleeping on your back.
  • Relax both your mind and body by meditating during the day.
  • If you have depression and anxiety disorder, be sure to seek professional help.
  • Do not consume stimulant products such as caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
  • Take advantage of the early morning sunlight.
  • Keep a distance from electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.

If sleep paralysis is accompanied by other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, an expert should be sought. After the necessary examinations, your doctor may prescribe medications that regulate the REM sleep cycle.

7. How was sleep paralysis defined in history?


Consciousness being between sleep and wakefulness is a phenomenon experienced by many. Therefore, there are many stories about sleep paralysis in historical records. Brian Sharpless, who conducted research on this subject, identified 118 different terms in different parts of the world. For example, the Germans call sleep paralysis “genius”, while the Japanese describe this phenomenon as a spell of binding with an invisible metal. Similarly, in this case called Scandinavia nightmare in Turkey “Mara” is considered as the attack is a ghost.

In the Middle and New Ages, sleep paralysis was explained by phenomena such as devil, witch and magic. At the Salem witch trials in 1692, some witnesses stated that at night witches cast a spell on them, they could not move or speak. Although all these points to sleep paralysis, no scientific explanation could be made for sleep paralysis at that time. For this reason, many women were declared witches and killed. Although there are many scientific studies that explain sleep paralysis today, sleep paralysis is still associated with the presence of supernatural forces.

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