May 27, 2021

Between sleep and reality

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night and feeling a hostile presence in your room. You want to jump up and turn on the light or pull the blanket over your head, but you can't move. Your body doesn't obey you. You can only breathe, and then with difficulty. And the source of the threat approaches and takes the form of... Whose form it takes, a black man, an alien, or your boss with an annual report, it's up to you.2.jpgEveryone has their own frightening image. But the condition in which, when you Wake up, you can't move your arm or leg, is experienced from time to time by about 8% of people. In terms of the World's population, this is quite a lot - almost 625 million people . This phenomenon is called "sleep paralysis" or "sleep stupor". It is not associated with any mental abnormalities and can occur in a completely healthy person.

It was first described in the 17th century by the Dutch physician Isbrand van Diemerbreek. His 50-year-old patient woke up in a state of complete helplessness several times a week. It was hard for her to breathe, and she felt as if a night thief, a dog, or a demon were pressing down on her chest.3.jpgIn those days, this was explained by the action of otherworldly forces. Researchers of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis B. Sharpless and K. Dogramiy counted 118 terms denoting similar conditions in different cultures and languages. For example, the German "embrace of the elf" and "embrace of the witch", the Japanese "kanashibari" - the constraint of magic metal, and others. In Switzerland, it was explained by the machinations of an evil fairy in the form of a black sheep, in Norway - an elf with paralyzing arrows, in Iran - an evil Genie sleeping on a person's chest.

Now doctors give this phenomenon a scientific explanation.

Sleep paralysis occurs when a person suddenly wakes up in REM sleep. During this period, our brain is active and generates images and stories that we see in dreams. At the same time, it produces neurotransmitters that relax our muscles and prevent them from acting, otherwise our body in reality would do what we do in a dream: walk, run, jump, fight…4.jpgIn sleep paralysis, the body balances on the edge between reality and sleep. The brain is already awake, but not completely. On the one hand, it sends a signal that we are not asleep, and on the other, it continues to generate images that are not related to reality. The body is still under the influence of neurotransmitters and cannot move.

The images that occur during sleep paralysis are not always frightening. For example, a person may imagine that he is floating above the ground. Some people like this condition so much that they try to cause it on purpose.5.jpg

What exactly needs to be done to cause sleep paralysis is unknown, because its causes are not fully understood. Modern medicine indicates the following:

  • Genetics;

  • Stress, insomnia, fatigue;

  • Sleep mode failure, for example, during shift work;

  • Overeating before going to sleep;

  • Smoking, alcohol;

  • Lack of physical activity;

  • Sleep on your back.

Sleep paralysis is more common in young people aged 10-20 years.

By itself, sleep paralysis is not dangerous to health. Immobility passes without a trace in a few minutes or seconds. The fear that a person experiences in this case can affect the functioning of the cardiovascular system and cause a strong heartbeat or an increase in blood pressure, but no more than fright for any other reason.6.jpg

But even without being dangerous, sleep paralysis is at least unpleasant. What you can do yourself to avoid seizures:

  • Regularly sleep 6-8 hours a day. Go to bed and get up at the same time;

  • Take care of a comfortable sleeping environment. The bedroom should be cool and dark, and the bed should be comfortable;

  • In the evenings, use dim lighting and come up with relaxing rituals for yourself: pleasant music, a book, meditation, aromatherapy;

  • Do not work or use gadgets before going to bed;

  • Do not sleep more than an hour and a half after 15.00;

  • Give up a heavy dinner, alcohol and cigarettes before going to bed;

  • Exercise, but no later than 4 hours before bedtime.

Even if you have never suffered from sleep paralysis, these recommendations will help you establish a healthy sleep and fully relax at night.7.jpgIt is not yet clear whether sleep paralysis is a purely human phenomenon or occurs in animals as well. There is no scientific research on this topic. But animals also dream, they just can't talk about their feelings, so anything is possible. Be that as it may, for a quiet life with a loving owner, a comfortable pillow for sleeping and a fun morning run, your pet will definitely be grateful and will give love in return, which will help reduce stress levels, and therefore the likelihood of attacks of sleep paralysis.

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