Sleep paralysis is one of those conditions that is absolutely terrifying for the person that is experiencing it. For those of you that don't know, sleep paralysis is a condition that blurs the lines between being awake and asleep.
By definition it is: "a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking."
For a long time, sleep paralysis was a wildly misunderstood condition, and it can actually be dangerous for people suffering from it. But what do we really know about it? Here are seven facts about sleep paralysis that will prove it's about more than just dreaming.
1. It can be can be caused by any number of factors.
Any number of things can cause sleep paralysis to set in as a regular (yet unfortunate) part of your life. Studies have shown that three of the most prevalent causes that bring on sleep paralysis are: regular sleep disruption, a traumatic life experience(s), or any number of mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Make sure that you pay attention to what your body is telling you.
2. It blurs the lines between being asleep and awake.
The condition tends to take a hold of you when you are in that grey area between sleep and actual wakefulness. This can be either when you are first falling asleep, or when you are waking up. Doctors believe it has something to do with when we are having REM sleep, more commonly known as "dream sleep." During REM sleep we are essentially paralyzed because we are "muscle atonic," which happens so that we don't hurt ourselves in our sleep.
3. It used to have paranormal implications.
Before we began to understand what sleep paralysis really was, people would often say that they were suffering at the hands of a demon, monster, or other creature. These experiences would often include: alien abductions, shadow people, and even "demonic orgies." The mind is a powerful machine that can make anything seem real.
4. Hallucinations are often included.
As we said, the condition used to be attributed to "paranormal" sources, and that is because of the things people would see and hear while suffering through an episode. Now that we understand the depth of hallucinations that a person can experience, it takes the paranormal out of the conversation. Be warned, what you see and hear will have your mind playing tricks on you.
5. It can happen to anyone.
It doesn't matter who you are, or what precautions you take, sleep paralysis is one of those things that can creep up and take control of anyone. Studies have shown that it most frequently starts when someone is between the ages of 14 and 17, though not exclusively.
6. The percentage of people suffering from it varies.
According to various studies, roughly eight per cent of the world's population suffers from sleep paralysis. That number can climb to as high as 65 per cent for people that fall into high risk categories (see what causes it above), and it is estimated that at least 40 per cent of people have experienced at least one episode of it during their lifetime, even if they don't remember it.
7. It can mean that you have another sleep disorder.
Suffering from sleep paralysis might actually mean you could be suffering from another sleep disorder at the same time. Sleep paralysis is actually one of the symptoms for narcolepsy, which causes someone to fall asleep during daylight hours. It could also lead doctors to diagnose you with sleep apnea.
If you think that you might be suffering from sleep paralysis, it might be time to check with your doctor.