Is this a nightmare? Is there a ghost? Perhaps you’ve watched three too many horror flicks? You want to scream and run but unfortunately you are stuck. Your body won’t move and it almost as if you are being pushed onto the bed and are being forced to stay there.
Before you convince yourself that there is a ghost in your room that is trying to kill you, listen up! This is most likely sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis occurs when a person has disrupted their rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. When you sleep, the brain paralyzes the body so you don’t hurt yourself by acting out any dreams you may have throughout the night.
When sleep paralysis occurs, a person wakes up partially and can see, but can’t move. This can last anywhere from only a few seconds to a few minutes. People who has experienced sleep paralysis describe it as terrifying.
Only 8 percent of people will experience sleep paralysis at some point in their lives. Researchers are still trying to understand exactly how and why it happens. They do believe however, that it is caused by problems that occur when your REM and waking stages of sleep overlap with one another.
Scientists also believe that some people could have a genetic predisposition to suffering from sleep paralysis. There are also some ways that you can increase your chances of having it. If you have an irregular sleep schedule or are sleep deprived you are more likely to suffer from sleep paralysis. You better get some rest!
While we have evolved, our response to danger hasn’t. When you body senses that you are paralyzed, it goes into an emergency response mode. It senses danger. Many of our responses are based on when we once lived in the wild. Because of evolution, this response may have once saved us from predators, but now only frightens us.
Those who suffer from sleep paralysis, often see shadows and interpret them as shadow people and spirits. Others have difficulty breathing and feel like someone is pushing on their chest. Scientists believe that the brain plays tricks on you, trying to get the person out of their paralysis by making them think the worst is happening or about to happen.
Want to know what it feels like? This person suffers from sleep paralysis and described it for us.
“I've had ranging experiences. Continuations of feelings from dreams such as...hands gripping my limbs, one time a sad hug/embrace, being pulled out of bed (upon being able to move, seeing half of my body off the bed with my blanket folded, uncovering me), pressure pushing me into my bed, voices, screams. I've seen a woman sitting in my room turn around and scream at me, various lights and shadows. The works."
“It happened once in my sister's room. I was lying on my back and noticed a dark figure jumping from wall to wall. Alone, it wasn't the most terrifying experience. I have sleep paralysis often so I didn't even bother telling anyone else. The next week I was sitting at the table with my sister and she told me she had a weird dream (her first time with sleep paralysis) and she described the exact figure in detail."
"I’ve never had any visual encounters but when it happened the first time I was laying on my left side and started to feel that pressure on my chest. When I realized I was paralyzed and started panicking, something whispered in my ear, 'Just coming in to say goodnight.' That’s when I felt like something was pushing me towards the edge of my bed."
And that is only a taste of what people who suffer from sleep paralysis have to go through. If you ever experience it yourself, it’s important to get yourself into the present. Wiggle your toes or speak and say something out loud. This will help you wake up and get out of the nightmare.
Don’t be surprised if your experience feels like it’s lasting an eternity. That is part of the experience. Hopefully, you can get yourself out of it sooner rather than later. I hope you sleep well tonight.