Sleep paralysis – scientific or demons in the room?

A little girl behind the window curtain was staring at me. In a fraction of seconds, the girl tried to choke me up. She was about to swallow me, and I was making an extreme effort to ran away from her, but I was unable to move an inch.

It all started with wiggling the toes; fingers and screaming. I was trying to escape and was feeling like stuck. The momentum was kept going until I was fully awake. It was midnight at 3 O’clock and I don’t know what was happening to me!!

The research suggests that around 8% of the general population, 28% in students, 32% in psychiatric patients; suffers from such a situation (1). It may have linked with other underlying psychiatry, familial, and sleep disorders and may occur in healthy individuals also.

Earlier the researchers have described it as a nightmare as it lasts from few seconds to a few minutes and involves episodes of hallucinations and feelings of suffocation or chest pressure.

A subset of population may also experience;

  • A feeling of foreboding
  • The sense that someone is in your room
  • The sensation of someone pressing on your chest or choking you
  • An image of a monster, witch, demon, or other menacing figures.

Scientific explanation

The sleep paralysis is a serious condition where we start to wake up mentally and become aware while still under the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) paralysis. It is a state associated with the inability to move that occurs when an individual is about sleeping or just waking. The victim is left feeling trapped, not able to move or speak upon falling asleep or upon awakening, however, the individual can breathe and is properly aware of his surroundings.

Scientifically, It is a postural atonia as a result of the suppression of the skeletal muscle tone by the pons and the ventromedial medulla, effected by the neurotransmitters y-Aminobutyric acid and the glycine which inhibits the motor neurons in the spinal cord.  

How does it develop?

There is some other explanations for the situation in every culture, religion, tradition, countries, and ethnic groups. It is also noted some different explanations for the prevalence and causes.

Sleep paralysis is quite a common condition. The cause is unknown, but studies have identified some potential risk factors. They may include;

  • The major problem is causing the situation is sleep deprivation or lack of sleep. A changing sleep schedule, sleeping on the back or irregular sleep are few to mention.
  • The mental condition such as bipolar disorder
  • Stress or trauma; PTSD
  • Genetic Influences
  • Physical illness
  • Use of certain medications such as ADHD.
  • Substance use like drugs, alcohol, or prescription drug addiction.
  • Other psychiatry disorders like childhood sexual abuse, Anxiety disorder, Narcolepsy, etc.

The SP is surely a treatable one. Most of the time, it does not require treatment. The underlying condition diagnosis and treating it may help to reduce frequent experiences.

Improving sleep habits may surely help to prevent or treat the condition. Just it requires a good sleeping pattern, enough sleep, good food, sufficient exercise, and avoid overthinking. All in all, lifestyle modification should be the choice.

Many a time, the SP has been treated as unscientific. If such experiences noticed frequently, report or consult with your health expert rather than confined to the stigma sufferings. The condition is purely scientific and there is no need to be afraid of demons.

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