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Sleep Paralysis: The Not So Terrifying Truth

Some, or maybe most of us have experienced some form of sleep paralysis while waking up from a dream or even falling asleep. While the experience might be terrifying, the truth behind why it happens is not as scary as we may think, or have been led to believe.

What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is the term given to the state (during awakening or falling asleep), where one is aware, but unable to move. It may only happen once or twice in your life, or in more rare cases can be recurrent. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, one usually has vivid dreams while the muscles are unresponsive to avoid the acting out of the dreams. If your mind wakes before the REM cycle has been completed, you will be unable to move for a period of time.

Why is it so scary?

As the myth suggests, sleep paralysis occurs when a monster or a demon sits on your chest while you are sleeping, preventing you to move or scream. This is a terrifying thought. However, you can take comfort in the fact that this is not true. This is just your mind trying to explain what is happening by making connections that make sense, and as we have an instinct to fear what we can’t explain, we see and hear things that aren’t there.

Sleep paralysis is usually self-diagnosed. Factors that may cause sleep paralysis may include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • A change in your sleep schedule
  • Stress
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Other sleeping problems/conditions such as narcolepsy or cramping during the night

As there is no treatment for sleep paralysis, should it occur more than once (recurrent), a change in your routine is the easiest way to ensure it doesn’t happen often, or ever again. Following a healthy diet and getting enough sleep will ensure that you are less fatigued and sleep restfully. If you don’t get an adequate intake of nutrients from your diet, taking supplements can provide your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally.

Once you understand what is happening, when it happens, it will not be as scary.