The first time sleep paralysis has struck me, was back in 2013. I was going through a bad breakup and after being together for almost 4 years, I couldn’t get myself out of the relationship neither was I habituated to the sadness that an empty soul can bring. As I know that no one would pick me up, I decided to move into a new place for few days for a change. However, as the nights come; I tuck myself in the bed, turn the light off and spend few hours watching TV while the inner-self screamed that I should protect myself. There were days when I used to muffle and sob until sleep paralysis has hit me.
According to Dr. Elias G Karroun, a profound neurologist at George Washington University, sleep paralysis is startling. It turns you upside down and it affects the mental state of the person where you think that you’re stuck in a nightmare. While that is there, there are few scientific and unexplanatory things behind the phenomena that started amusing me as I started reading and discussing it with people around.
The first time when I have experienced it, I remember waking up after a few hours with my entire body temperature lowered. With the thought of getting some more blankets, I tried to move and the frightening part is that I couldn’t move. This is when I started panicking. I was confused about what actually is happening to me, why I was paralyzed. I tried to move my legs. Nothing. I tried to lift the arms. Nothing. I tried to move my body even an inch and everything went futile. My head has been deeply cemented into the pillow and I was in a frozen state.
Over the period, I noticed that the pressure has started building up on me and it got pushed against my chest like someone is sitting on me and strangling me. The more I started panicking, the harder I could breathe. As a horror fanatic, I thought, this is a scene from a horrendous movie and when I tried to scream for help, not even a single word came out of my mouth. Unable to do anything, I lied there and stared the ceiling in the darkness for what I think for few minutes but which actually felt like hours. All this time, I had the pressure sitting on my chest, tormenting me and making it difficult for me to actually move and after a few minutes, I am relieved from all of that. All I could say to myself was ‘Thank God! That’s one dreadful experience’ and then I switched the light on to check if I’m the only one in the room and sat in the bed, shivering till morning.
The following evening, I was talking to a friend of mine and somehow blurted out about this experience.
‘Are you Insane?’ she would ask.
‘Imagine this! You slept like a baby before the normal bedtime and suddenly you wake up in the middle but only with Lord Voldemort on your chest with no nose, squatting so hard that you can’t just breathe!’, I told her.
‘Humor, even in such situations’, she laughed. ‘Are you sure that this is a nightmare?’
‘I have had so many nightmares before, but this is not something that has happened ever’, I told her.
Deep down, I knew this is not something like a nightmare no matter how much she insisted. I had been fully conscious, present but I was only immobilized for a while that almost felt like an eternity. Because of this, I started discussing this with other people and most of them suggested that the grief is the main factor behind it and that the stress that has been built inside me is why I have been feeling this. As a result, I decided to know more about this and what’s better than Google to turn to. Opening the browser, I typed, ‘Awake, can’t move, paralyzed’ in the search option. Before I know, I started reading different stories out of which some are really beyond what I have experienced and then I stumbled upon a couple of words, ‘Lucid Dreaming’ and ‘Astral Projection’ in between. Here’s when I decided to dig deep and know about them and the connection they hold.
What exactly is Sleep Paralysis?
As someone who always has been having dreams, I don’t mind having bad dreams. But when you have had a bad dream and you have woken up, they tend to fade away. The terrifying part, however, is when your brain is awake but your body is still sleeping. This exact condition is called Sleep Paralysis and it can affect people who are between 7-50 years of age and it affects around 40% of the population. Before we actually get into the details of Sleep Paralysis, REM sleep is one of the most rapid and random things that we all experience in our lives.
It is usually recognized by the side movements of the closed eyes and it occurs in cycles of 90-120 min during the night and is known to accord for 25% of your total sleeping time when it comes to adults. An interesting is that the proportion of REM sleep decreases with age, while a newborn baby spends around 80% of the time in the REM stage, the older people spend around 15% of it. REM sleep usually occurs during the latter half of the sleep, the waking hours with the components increasing as the night proceeds.
When you are dreaming, most of the dreams include moving and walking. But, the brain has a tendency to shut the communication down to the muscles and therefore, you don’t actually walk or move around and rather be in bed. In cases where the communication is still working, you might confront people who sleepwalk. In this perception, paralysis is pretty common while you’re sleeping. However, this restraining of body movement is totally different from sleep paralysis as it occurs when you’re conscious enough of the surroundings but your body is restrained. The two stages where people usually go through sleep paralysis is when you are either falling asleep or when you are falling awake. While these two phases are opposite in sense, sleep paralysis is far from the night terrors.