Have you ever woken up and felt like there is a presence in the room?
It feels almost spirit-like or ghostly.
You go to move, but suddenly realize you’re unable to shift your arms or legs, you can’t seem to wiggle your fingers or toes, and your head seems rooted to the pillow.
You’re lying on your back, but it feels as though someone is on top of you, holding you down.
Panic rises inside of you and your anxiety levels are through the roof.
You can hear sounds/noises and is that a demonic apparition at the foot of the bed?
As scary and as terrifying an ordeal as that sounds, literally millions of people go through this regularly, sometimes on a nightly basis.
This phenomenon is known as sleep paralysis.
And today, I’d like to discuss how to get rid of sleep paralysis.
However, before I get to the potential solutions, I think it’s important to get a better understanding of sleep paralysis.
What is Sleep Paralysis? – Are The Ghosts for Real?
Sleep paralysis occurs when part of the brain is awake and another area of the brain is still in sleep-mode. The region of the brain that is still “asleep” is typically the part that controls your body.
This is why you’re unable to move for a few seconds, or more scarily (at the time), you find you cannot seem to move a muscle for a few minutes.
However, sleep paralysis wasn’t always viewed in as simple a way as this.
Historically, a person may have been considered to be possessed or have been visited by a spirit.
This, unfortunately, is still the case in certain countries. Various African nations believe that sleep paralysis actually means that a person is carrying the devil on their back.
Then there’s the case of “Pee Am” in Thailand, where it is widely accepted that this is a ghost trying to steal your good karma.
In the western world, we view things a little differently. Doctors are now aware that this feeling of a presence is simply a projection of the mind due to panic caused by being paralyzed.
In fact, sleep paralysis is used as a scientific explanation for those who believe they have encountered aliens, demons, ghosts or evil spirits during the night.
Sleep paralysis is basically a transitional state between being awake and asleep.
As I mentioned above, certain areas of the brain have woken up, and this creates an awareness. However, this occurs before the part of your brain which controls your limbs has woken up.
Just out of interest, the complete opposite is true in terms of sleep talking and sleepwalking (the part of the brain that controls the limbs is awake, but the region of the brain that controls consciousness is still asleep).
Sleep paralysis can materialize as you’re falling asleep or waking up, although it is most common upon awakening.
There are studies which have shown that sleep paralysis can be linked to certain conditions, such as anxiety disorder, migraines, narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea.
What Are the Most Common Signs of Sleep Paralysis?
The most common signs include:
- You are unable to move your body upon falling asleep or waking up, and an episode could last a few seconds or for several minutes.
- Feeling that you are consciously awake, but you are unable to speak or move during the episode.
- You have certain sensations or even hallucinations that fill you with fear.
- You have difficulty breathing and feel pressure on your chest.
- You are sweating, experiencing headaches, muscle pains, and paranoia.
- You have an impending fear of death.
It is estimated that up to 8% of the general population have experienced sleep paralysis on at least one occasion. However, it is believed that the real figure is actually much, much higher, as these are only the reported cases (nearer to 50%).
The Causes Of Sleep Paralysis
You won’t find a single specific cause for sleep paralysis, but certain factors which may disrupt your usual sleeping cycle can have an effect.
- Any activities which may disturb your normal sleeping schedule, thus causing sleep deprivation can lead to the condition. If you work night shifts, are a new parent, typically work a lot of overtime, or stay up very late.
- If you suffer from other sleeping disorders, e.g. narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, etc. there is a higher risk of experiencing sleep paralysis.
- Abusing alcohol and drugs will affect the quality of your sleep and your sleeping patterns in general. This can also lead to instances of sleep paralysis.
- If you are stressed or anxious this will once again influence your overall quality of sleep and can have a knock-on effect.
- Sleeping on your back is often cited as a common issue, as your soft palate can collapse and obstruct the airway, which can lead to panic.
Can You Wake Yourself Up & Can You Die From Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a terrifying experience and it can be equally scary for someone watching another person going through an episode.
People often wonder whether you can wake yourself up, or even whether you should attempt to wake someone else up during an episode. There is even the fear of death for many people.
Unfortunately, there is no way to just snap yourself out of an episode of sleep paralysis by telling yourself to wake up.
A researcher from Cambridge University, Baland Jala, came up with a four-pronged method to help you deal with your initial worries:
- Firstly, tell yourself that this is fairly common and is only temporary.
- You should then remind yourself that there is absolutely no reason to be afraid.
- You should try to focus on something completely different, something like a happy thought or a specific mantra.
- Try to relax as much as possible and do not attempt to move until the episode has completely passed.
As for the fear of death, it’s just that, a fear, nothing more.
I understand that an episode of sleep paralysis can be extremely scary, but you cannot die directly from it.
Don’t get me wrong, you may even have heard claims that people have died because of sleep paralysis, but in truth there is typically always an underlying medical condition to blame.
The deaths have been caused by another preexisting condition and nothing related to sleep paralysis.
It can be a truly harrowing experience, but you do not need to make it even worse for yourself by believing that you may die.
Is There a Specific Cure?
If you’re here hoping to find a specific pill or magical potion to deal with sleep paralysis then I’m sorry, I’m going to have to disappoint.
There is actually no need to treat the condition medically, although I will advise you that if your symptoms persist or escalate that you should speak to your doctor.
In some extreme cases antidepressants may be prescribed, but most medical professionals agree that you should look into developing good sleep hygiene.
In order to treat sleep paralysis you have to look at improving your overall sleeping habits, managing your levels of stress and anxiety, and maintain a regular sleep schedule:
- Have a consistent bedtime and wake-up time and stick to this at weekends and on holidays.
- Reduce your exposure to light in the evenings and consider installing dimmer switches and night-lights.
- Leave your smartphone and other electronic devices outside of the bedroom and try not to use these items at least an hour before going to bed.
- Avoid studying or working in the bedroom where possible.
- Ensure you get plenty of outdoor light exposure during the day.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal just before bedtime and you shouldn’t really be eating within a couple of hours of going to bed anyway.
- Ensure you get some form of daily exercise, but again not within 2 hours of going to sleep.
- Refrain from alcohol and caffeine in the evenings.
- If you have to nap during the day, keep them short, and not after 3pm.
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Sleep paralysis can be a terrifying ordeal, especially when you have no idea what’s going on.
You are now aware that this is simply different parts of your brain working (or not working as the case may be) independently from each other
The feeling will usually pass in a few seconds to a few minutes at most, and you definitely can’t die from this condition alone.
It is very rarely treated medically, but antidepressants may be prescribed in the most severe cases.
And as for how to get rid of sleep paralysis – this has more to do with your own sleep habits, routines, patterns, plus your stress and anxiety levels than anything else.
The simple fact of the matter is, the better you sleep the less chance there is of you suffering from sleep paralysis.