Have you ever been asleep, but then woken up unable to move your body? If not, then you are fortunate. If you have, you know how bad it feels. This phenomenon is called sleep paralysis, and it is something you do not wish even for your worst enemy.
What exactly is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis can occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The body is paralyzed during sleep by the brain, so it would not hurt itself when acting our dreams. But when sleep paralysis happens, the person is partly woken up and can see but cannot move. The duration of sleep paralysis can be between a couple of seconds and a couple of minutes. Many people, who have felt it, describe it as terrifying.
Altogether around 8% of people experience sleep paralysis at some point. A scientist cannot surely agree on this phenomenon, but it is thought that sleep paralysis is caused by the REM sleep and waking up stages overlapping with each other.
A scientist has discovered that some people are more likely to experience sleep paralysis because of their genetic predisposition.
Why is it so scary?
First of all, it is terrifying to wake up and not be able to move your body. Scientists believe that the sleep paralysis is caused by the brain to be hyper-vigilant, which means that body senses a great danger and goes into an emergency response mode. This is because of evolution changes slowly, and we still have the same responses as our great ancestors did. The answer that once saves us from predators in the wild now only frightens us and makes us feel uncomfortable.
So what does sleep paralysis feel like?
People, who have experienced it describe it with horror. For example, some have felt hands gripping the limbs, being pulled out of bed, someone pushing them into the bed and of course voices, whispers, and screams. Others have seen dark figures attacking them or a woman sitting next to their bed. All these stories are creepy AF.
Why does our brain do that to us?
Well, it makes sense when you think about that the brain tries to wake you up when you are paralyzed. The extreme hallucinations are necessary for that. When you are feeling paralyzed during your sleep, the smartest thing to do is to try to wiggle your toes or to say something out loud, because this also helps to wake yourself up.
And unfortunately, while sleep paralysis only lasts seconds or minutes, it will feel like an eternity.