Why Sleep Paralysis is a Real-Life Nightmare

Why Sleep Paralysis is a Real-Life Nightmare

You wake up suddenly in the middle of the night, overcome with dread. A shadowy figure glares at you from the corner of your bedroom and begins to float closer and closer. You try to scream, but no words come out. Your body is completely frozen, leaving you helpless and afraid. For just a minute, your bedroom becomes a dark realm of your worst fears.

Believe it or not, the situation described is not a fictional scene in a horror movie. It’s an experience that roughly 8 percent of the general population have encountered in some form. That statistic raises to 28 percent for students and 32 percent for psychiatric patients. So what is happening here?

The frightening reality of sleep paralysis

Some may consider it as a supernatural event, but actually, it’s sleep paralysis, a form of parasomnia that happens when your body is having trouble transitioning out of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The body goes into a state of paralysis during REM, the sleep stage when you actively dream, to prevent you from physically acting out your dreams. If this state of paralysis spills over to your other sleep stages and you wake up, sleep paralysis occurs. You lie there unable to move or speak for roughly one to two minutes, an anxiety-inducing experience in itself.

Even worse, people sometimes experience hallucinations during sleep paralysis, often seeing figures like shadow people, ghosts, aliens, demons, and other terrifying creatures. These hallucinations occur when the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls fear, senses a threat. The creepy visions stem from what’s already in your head, so your brain is quite literally amplifying your worst fears.

What are the causes?

The main causes of sleep paralysis are sleep deprivation and an irregular sleep schedule, which may explain why students who lack sleep from studying late often experience it.

Other factors that can increase the chances of sleep paralysis include:

  • Mental conditions such as stress or bipolar disorder
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Sleep issues such as narcolepsy or nighttime leg cramps
  • Use of certain medications, such as those for ADHD
  • Substance abuse

Ways to prevent sleep paralysis

Those who have healthy sleeping habits shouldn’t have a problem with sleep paralysis, so it’s important to stick to a regular sleep and wake schedule and get the recommended amount of sleep every night (seven to eight hours).

A few of us here at Coop have experienced sleep paralysis in the past, and it just once again proves the importance of sleep. Not only is it good for the mind, body, and soul, but it also keeps you from living out your nightmares. Remember to get enough sleep and…

Happy Halloween from all of us at Coop!