Have you ever awoken from a deep sleep only to realize you cannot move or talk? Furthermore, you might feel there’s a weight sitting on your chest or you feel an unknown presence near your bed? If you have, you might have experienced sleep paralysis. It’s a condition when your mind is awake but your body is still asleep, and it can be accompanied by hallucinations, feelings of fear and pressure in the chest.
According to Live Science, sleep paralysis occurs when a person wakes up while their brain is still in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep the brain effectively “turns off” the muscles in your body so that you do not perform movements that might hurt yourself.
In normal sleep, a sleeper’s body and brain activity slow down before they fall to sleep, before speeding up again as the sleeper enters a REM cycle. REM cycles repeat several times throughout the night.
It’s during REM sleep that people have the most vivid dreams, which might be why some people believe there are supernatural forces at work behind sleep paralysis. Superstitions and cultural explanations include stories of evil spirits, vampires, dark magic and alien abduction.
Thankfully, studies suggest that only around 8% of the general population experience sleep paralysis (many of them in people aged in their twenties). The causes of it are still not conclusive, but some suspected causes include sleep deprivation, irregular sleeping patterns, sleeping on one’s back and processing past traumas.
In the video below, you’ll learn 12 terrifying facts about sleep paralysis. I never knew sleeping could be so scary!
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