Do you suffer from Sleep Paralysis?
Does Sleep Paralysis Exist? Apparently So
You wake up in the middle of the night unable to move a muscle. Panicked, you feel a presence in the room and see the image of a ghost or a demon gliding toward you. The figure approaches you, sits on your chest and puts its hands around your neck. You actually feel it strangling you and you try to scream, but you can’t even open your mouth.
This may sound like something out of a horror movie, but it is an actual phenomenon many people describe experiencing. Though the ghostlike figures aren’t real, the physical sensation and fear are genuine. Experts say it’s a typical episode of sleep paralysis.
The condition is defined by the inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking, and usually lasts for a minute or two. It is sometimes accompanied by hallucinations that are essentially projections of dream imagery. Many who suffer from it describe feeling heaviness on the chest and the overwhelming sensation of another presence in the room. The combination produces the terrifying feeling of a real-life nightmare.
So what causes sleep paralysis? Christopher French, Ph.D., studies it as head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. (“Anomalistic Psychology attempts to explain paranormal and related beliefs,” his department’s website explains.) French says sleep paralysis happens during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the stage of sleep in which dreams occur.
“During REM sleep, the muscles are actually, literally paralyzed. Usually you’re not aware of it because you’re aware of whatever you’re dreaming about. Putting it simply, it’s that your brain has woken up but your body hasn’t,” he told CBS News.
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