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That Terrifying Moment when You Wake Up and Can’t Move

Have you ever woken up suddenly only to know you cannot move? You feel a presence near you; hovering near your bed, ready to attack. You are screaming for help but you know you cannot scream.

That terrifying moment as explained in Henry Fuseli's masterpiece "The Nightmare" is scientifically called Sleep Paralysis. Many of us have experienced this weird phenomenon, and for some it continues to worsen scaring those out of our guts, who believe it’s brought by the supernatural. After all, many testifying to the moment explain an interaction with demon or unidentified spirits that made an attempt to empower them.

Sleep Research Foundation, an initiative of Master Celeste, explains sleep paralysis as a state that occurs when the brain and body aren't quite on the same page during sleep. During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or deep sleep, dreaming is frequent, but the body's muscles are relaxed to the point of paralysis, perhaps to keep people from acting out their dreams. Scientists explain saying that two brain chemicals, glycine and GABA, are responsible for this muscle paralysis. Everyone at least once or twice in their lifetime experience Sleep Paralysis.

Estimates show at least 60% suffer from sleep paralysis every now and then, and among these most experience the feeling of falling or floating or dismembering of a body part. Sleep paralysis, however, is not necessarily linked to psychological disorder. There are three kinds of sleep paralysis: Isolated sleep paralysis: sleep paralysis as an isolated complaint in otherwise healthy individuals; Familial sleep paralysis: like the former, but transmitted genetically; – Narcoleptic sleep paralysis: sleep paralysis as a symptom of Narcolepsy. Michelle S, a graduate in Evolution and Genetics from University of Illinois and a palates expert say, “Sleep paralysis may be linked to genetics.

The characteristic fragmentation of REM sleep, hypnopompic (the state of consciousness leading out of sleep), and hypnagogic (the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep) hallucinations have a transmissible component in other parasomnias (a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep). Link between the two is evident in patients who suffer from extreme anxiety disorder, and among these at least 20% suffer from sleep paralysis. There is also a strong link between depression and sleep disturbances such as this. In many cases, antidepressants don’t help.” A research study carried on twins showed, if one twin of a monozygotic pair experiences sleep paralysis that other twin is very likely to experience it as well. The identification of a genetic component means that there is some sort of disruption of function at the physiological level.

Sleep Research Foundation indicates that sleep paralysis is more likely to occur when a person is sleep-deprived. Maintaining a regular healthy sleep pattern and getting enough sleep can definitely help prevent or reduce sleep paralysis. Insomnia and sleep apnea patients can train themselves to fall asleep more easily. Master Memory Pillow, a technology designed by NASA absorbs pressure and heat, conforming neck support for comfortable and sound sleep. The pillow helps patients of Apnea to sleep well, thus, reduces the cause of sleep paralysis. Additionally, Master Molty Memory Foam is known to provide maximum comfort during sleep by reducing tossing and turning that causes disturbed sleep. Michelle S concludes saying, “Try to identify what triggers sleep paralysis; what mood you were in when you dozed off, your sleep pattern, sleeping position and so on. Get rid of a mattress or pillow that is uncomfortable. Palates certainly help in preventing sleep paralysis. Simple stretches during work hours can save you from day long tiredness because constant fatigue leads to sleep paralysis too.”

At least 60% of sleeper suffers this condition when they sleep lie on their back for a long time. Light exercise like walk is helpful, and cutting down on foods like caffeine and sweets help. When sleep paralysis occur, try to move the small muscles or sit up or roll. Let your partner know you suffer from sleep paralysis so they remain vigilant during night and check on you if they feel you’re immobile. Worse comes to worse consult a doctor.

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