There are times at night, when we wake up from our sleep and are unable to move our hands or feet. This is something not new to many people and for some it is almost a part of their routine. Waking up with stiff muscles, not being able to move or turn over and feeling heavy objects on the chest are some of the symptoms of this phenomenon. In medical terms it is referred to as ‘sleep paralysis, and thankfully, as dangerous as it may sound, it does not pose any immediate danger to your mental or physical health. Some individuals may not experience sleep paralysis at all, while for some it can occur many times at night. Here are some facts about sleep paralysis to help you understand this phenomenon better.
Why Can't I Move While Sleeping?
Sleep paralysis can occur in different stages of sleep. Some might experience it during the early stages of sleep, when the body is at rest, but your mind is not. In such cases, the brain remains active throughout the entire sleeping process while the body rests. In much deeper sleep, which occurs in the REM (resting eyeball movement) stage of the sleep cycle, the brain shuts down your body in order to prevent it from ‘acting out’ your dreams. This partially induces paralysis, which is why when you wake up from your dream; you might find your body unable to cope with your movements.
Why Do I Have Hallucinations During Sleep Paralysis?
Hallucinations can be considered as false perceptions or visions and sounds. Hallucinations date back to a history of witch crafts and mythic, where evil objects and characters were seen in dreams. These phantoms or deadly animals were seen as a representation of evil presence of all sorts. Many famous writers have used hallucinations in their stories such as the old hag in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Some say that hallucinations occur because of someone’s presence in the room or something evil lurking around. Others might consider this as an out of the body experience.
But how does science see these occurrences?
- There are many explanations of what we see in hallucinations. Firstly, when we sleep, our body is induced in a state of paralysis, which may consequently choke the airways. This choking will lead to a feeling of suffocation and strangling, which may cause the activation of our threat system. As a response to these symptoms and some stored information in the brain, one might hallucinate.
- Secondly, when a person feels threatened or is scared while going to sleep or has some tensing thoughts on his mind while going to sleep, it is likely that the physical body reacts through a fight and flight response. In addition to that, when you wake up feeling paralyzed, it may leave you in a hyperactive state, which may further aggravate the hallucinations.
- Thirdly, our own concepts and perception may play out in front of us through a hallucination. It is likely that your brain structures react with each other to create a scenario that is built out of the information you have fed in it.
All three states i.e. feeling threatened, being hyperactive and having false perceptions might amalgamate into a hallucination.The following video link explains both the scientific and supernatural believes relating to hallucination.
What Can I Do When I'm Experiencing Sleep Paralysis?
1. Move Your Toes or Fingers
When your entire body is paralyzed, the best place to start is by moving your digs and toes. Since they are furthest away from the main body, it is easier to start with them. You can start by moving your fingers and toes back and forth. Also try squeezing your fingers together, this gets the blood circulation running and bring back your movement quickly.
2. Control Your Breath
Have you noticed how we sometimes forget to breathe when in fear? Well, this is exactly the reason why you should control your breathing. You can control your breathing by different ways such as exhaling and inhaling deeply or trying to focus on the sound of your breaths. This control will help you relax and come back to your conscious state of mind.
3. Let Your Partner Help
If you share your bed or have someone close sleep to you at all times, you can take help from him or her with your sleeping problem. You can ask your partner to respond in a way you would like to be dealt with when in sleep paralysis, for instance if you want to get up but can’t tell them to help you, make slight movements upon asking. Also, educate them about your condition, so that they can do their best in easing you.
4. Tense Your Facial Muscles
There are different ways to tense your facial muscles, it could be done through coughing, and deep breathing etc. These sudden movements will jerk you out of your dream into reality, thereby causing an end to your sleep paralysis episode.
5. Roll Your Eyes
It is a fact that your ability to move your eyeballs will not diminish, even when dreaming. This can be advantageous in episodes of sleep paralysis to help you come out of paralysis state. Move your eyes in circular motions and identify the environment around you.
How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis
1. Proper Sleep Schedule
When a person is unable to maintain a routine for his sleeping hours, it is likely that the sleep-deprived mind enters the REM stage more quickly; this may result in sleep paralyses. Put yourself in a habit of sleeping at regular hours every day, so that your mind trains to a particular routine.
2. Tilted Sleeping
Instead of sleeping on your back, give preference to sleeping on either of your side. More than 50% episodes of sleep paralyses occur when a person is lying on his back.
3. Stay Fit
Staying fit will not only balance your physical and emotional status, but also boost your brain health. Since both these elements are disturbed during sleep paralyses, exercise can prove to be very useful.
4. Get Professional Opinion
Suffering from SP continuously can be an indication of a deeper psychological problems. Get professional consultation, if the episodes becomes frequent, disturbing or becomes associated with other sleep disorders.
5. Go Stress Free
Unhappy and high-rush thoughts can disturb your normal sleep cycle. It is preferable to relax yourself into sleep, for a more peaceful transition into the REM stage.
For some it may be an unusual part of their sleep, while others may experience it occasionally, in either case it indicated a disturbance in sleep cycle and the need to go stress-free.