Growing up, I use to have several nights where I will be awake, sometimes my slightly opened other times tightly close; and what I usually experience was quite hellish. There used to be varying degrees of the experiences back then, sometimes I feel like I am being pressed really hard against the bed, other times I feel like my whole body is stiff and I am unable to move, speak, open my eyes. And all through these experiences, I always felt this enormous fear, and my heart beat was usually fast.
It was when I got a little older that I started understanding it meant and why I was having those experiences, initially, whenever I told my mom about the difficulties I face when trying to sleep, she says its the devil, that I should pray hard before going to sleep. Later I discovered that was indeed a name for it, it is called “Sleep Paralysis”
What is Sleep Paralysis
It is a condition that happens evenly to both sexes, during which the patient either while falling asleep or waking up, becomes aware of his environment and himself, but is completely unable to speak or move. Patients have mostly confirmed that during such episodes, they don’t lose their ability to feel, hear, but are often said to see things that aren’t present. The window a typical sleep paralysis lasts for varies from person to person, but it normally lasts for several minutes, and it can be recurrent i.e happen several times within a short period of time especially when one is trying to fall asleep.
Typically, this condition affects both healthy people, as well as people suffering from narcolepsy (which can be characterized as a neurological disorder that sees its victim having reduced the ability to control their wake-sleep cycles). Sleep paralysis is said to be hereditary, as some modified genes can be passed down to offsprings that may lead to this condition. Researchers believe sleep paralysis is as a result of the patient’s body not successfully moving through the necessary stages of sleep, and it doesn’t necessarily mean one has a grave psychiatric or psychological challenge.
What you need to know about Sleep Paralysis
The most evident sign of this condition is the inability of one to move his body while trying to sleep or awakening. Other associated signs include the hearing of sounds such as static zapping, hissing and humming; while the patient paralysed. Most of these systems are accompanied by massive emotional distress such as intense panic and fear. Patients are said to experience the feeling of being aggressively dragged out of their beds, the feeling of vibrations, and feeling completely numb.
Other signs of the condition are hypnogogic hallucinations which is a little extreme, as patient often they have sensations that involves supernatural beings physically abusing them. This happens in the forms of intense pressure to every part of their body, especially their chest, making breathing extremely difficult, while being suffocated. The terrifying experience usually scars patients a number of patients tend to scare whenever they need to sleep.
Other forms of hypnogogic hallucinations manifest in forms of strange figures in forms of shadow entering the space of patients while they are paralyzed. Others involved menacing shadows lurking around the corridor or window of their subjects. Although these signs have all been attributed to REM mentation, REM induced sexual urges, somatic sensations and fear which are all hidden beneath the patient’s narrative.
Somatic symptoms and REM sleep physiology together with the knowledge that one is paralysed do generate an array of psychological symptoms during an episode of a sleep paralysis, together with worry and fear which is made worse with the feeling of being attacked. This activates the fight-flight response and panic induced arousal, eventually, the sleeper will want to escape this paralysis, arousal, and somatic response gets aggravated as the implementation of motor programs in the lack of dampening proprioceptive feedback could lead to intensifying sensations of the tightness of the body, as well as pain, pressure.
Combating Sleep Paralysis
There is no need for sophisticated treatment for this disorder, However, other underlying complications like narcolepsy could be treated if it makes this the patient unable to sleep due to associated anxiety. The procedures could help
Ensure you get adequate sleep daily, a daily dose of 6 – 8 hours sleep daily is best
The use of antidepressants medications are advised in order to regulate sleep cycles
Ensure other lurking mental complications are identified and treated, as they may lead to complications that may enhance the nature of the sleep paralysis
Ensure all forms of sleep disorders are properly addressed.
This disorder is prevalent and widely known by people of all nation and race, as 8% – 50% people have had this experience at some point in their lives, while others experience sleep paralysis on a regular basis. I believe understanding the problem, helps in solving it, and I believe if one understands the nature of this disorder, deliberate steps can be taken to combat these demons.