Sleep paralysis is when you temporarily can’t move or speak when waking up or falling asleep, it is not harmful in any way but can be one of the most frightening things to experience.
For some, it happens regularly, even nightly. Others may only experience once or twice in their lifetime. Whether you have experienced sleep paralysis or not, here are four horrifying facts about the condition.
4) You can’t wake yourself up
If you are in any way paralysed, you can’t move at least one muscle or a group of muscles. Sleep paralysis only occurs when you are asleep but unfortunately, if you are experiencing sleep paralysis you cannot wake yourself up.
You can’t wake up because you are halfway between being awake and in REM sleep. REM is a stage of sleep when the brain is very active and dreams often occur. The body is unable to move, apart from the eyes and muscles used in breathing, possibly to stop you acting out your dreams and hurting yourself.
People who have experienced sleep paralysis have claimed that they tried their hardest to try and move their hands and feet or speak to tell themselves to stop but to no avail. You simply have to wait until the paralysis stops.
3) It is more common than you think
If you have never experienced or heard anything about sleep paralysis, you’ll be surprised to hear how many people actually have to face the ordeal. A study in 2013 of over 3,000 people revealed that 65% experienced sleep paralysis at least once.
A study in 2017 from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine showed that 25% of 189 students regularly are affected by the condition with 11% saying it happens weekly. Although these numbers are quite high, it is not people in their early 20’s that are most affected but according to the 2013 study, there are similarly high numbers between people aged 16 to 43.
2) You may hallucinate and see frightening things
While not common in all cases of sleep paralysis, people have reported seeing strange things and even feeling sensations in their unmovable state. The most common feeling while paralysed is that of a weight on your chest pinning you down to your bed. As if feeling paralysed wasn’t enough.
Probably the scariest thing about sleep paralysis is that many people have reported seeing dark, shadowy figures in the room while they are having an episode. The figures can never be properly made out clearly but they can appear as though they are looming over you or watching you from a corner of the room.
If you type sleep paralysis into the Google search bar, you’ll notice that ‘sleep paralysis demon’ is the first suggested search. These figures are some of the most frightening things about the condition.
1) People see the same scary woman
Despite sleep paralysis demon being the most searched image regarding sleep paralysis, it is actually a scary old woman that is most often reported to be the figure in the room. What makes the scary old woman even worse is that she seems to enjoy watching as people suffer from their inability to move or speak.
In Scandinavian folklore, it is believed that sleep paralysis is actually caused by a woman who has passed away and left her body to terrify people as they sleep. This woman is known as ‘Mare’ is Scandinavia, which is actually where the term nightmare is derived from.
In Slovak and Russian folklore, there is also a woman known as Nocnitsa who sits on the chest of sleepers and draw life energy. The fact that there are two known women in folklore that are more than likely unknown to the majority of people who experience sleep paralysis leads many people to believe that the condition is caused by supernatural power and not anything medical.
Thankfully, there are treatments
Studies have shown that the main cause of sleep paralysis is not getting enough sleep. Simply, trying to go to bed at the same time every night and not eating right before going to bed can help the brain switch off easier which would prevent the brain from staying in limbo between being awake and REM sleeping, where sleep paralysis takes place.
It does seem as though this treatment is maybe a bit of a cop out but the reality is truly relaxing yourself and getting at least six hours of sleep can eradicate sleep paralysis.
What do you think?
Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Did you see any strange figures? What do you think is the scariest thing about sleep paralysis? Let us know what your thoughts are and try not to think about this before you go to bed.