23, January 2012
Article Review: Freaky Sleep Paralysis: Being Awake in Your Nightmares
Did you ever awaken and find yourself unable to move? Perhaps you sensed a presence in your room or a pressure on your chest. I never knew that it was just a sleep paralysis until Professor Travelbee informed us about the Limb paralysis reflex. It is a common disorder that affects millions of people. Most believe it occurs as we are on the edge of REM sleep. The disorder has been connected with such hallucinogenic events such as alien abduction or an evil presence. Sleep paralysis is an inability to move or speak, occasionally accompanied by ...view middle of the document...
I think it’s so amazing that everyone who experiences this all describe the same thing. If it was just a sleeping disorder, then you would think that everyone would experience the paralyzing part, which is physical, but how is it that we all describe the evilness and its actions the same? It really makes you wonder.
Freaky Sleep Paralysis: Being Awake in Your Nightmares
You wake up, but you can’t move a muscle. Lying in bed, you’re totally conscious, and you realize that strange things are happening. There’s a crushing weight on your chest that’s humanoid. And it’s evil.
This is not the conceit for a new horror movie starring a ragged middle-aged Freddie Prinze Jr., it’s a standard description of the experience of a real medical condition: sleep paralysis. It’s a strange phenomenon that seems to happen to about half the population at least once.
People who experience it find themselves awake in the dream world for anywhere from a few seconds to 10 minutes, often experiencing hallucinations with dark undertones. Cultures from everywhere from Newfoundland to the Caribbean to Japan have come up with spiritual explanations for the phenomenon. Now, a new article in The Psychologist suggests sleep researchers are finally figuring out the neurological basis of the condition.
“This research strongly suggests that sleep paralysis is related to REM sleep, and in particular REM sleep that occurs at sleep onset,” write researchers Julia Santomauro and Christopher C. French of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, at the University of London. “Shift work, jet lag, irregular sleep habits, overtiredness and sleep deprivation are all considered to be predisposing factors to sleep paralysis; this may be because such events disrupt the sleep–wake cycle, which can then cause [sleep-onset REM periods].”
In other words, you experience just a piece of REM sleep.
As David McCarty, a sleep researcher at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center’s Sleep Medicine Program, explained it, humans tend to think about the elements of the different stages of sleep as packaged nicely together. So, in REM sleep, you’re unconscious, experiencing a variety of sensory experiences, and almost all of your muscles are paralyzed (that’s called atonia).
“But in reality you can disassociate those elements,” McCarty said.
In sleep paralysis, two of the key REM sleep components are present, but you’re not unconscious.
Narcolepsy, which can be linked...