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The Terrifying Sleep Disorder That is Worse Than a Nightmare

by Trisha Dunbar 5 months ago in wellness
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Living With Sleep Paralysis

The Terrifying Sleep Disorder That is Worse Than a Nightmare
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

I was overcome with unnatural tiredness.

As I drifted off to sleep eerie darkness started to fill the room.

I tried to get out of bed, but couldn't move.

I was paralyzed.

Calling out for help, but no sound followed.

It felt like I was being held down by an invisible force.

I had 'woken up' in a dream. The lines between being awake and sleep had become blurred.

I tried to take a deep breath and put all my energy into thinking about being able to move just one finger.

If I could move just one finger I might be able to wake myself up fully.

As my finger twitched I suddenly found myself outside of my body looking at myself.

The darkness shifted as a ball of brilliant white light appeared overhead.

Then, with what felt like a huge pull I felt my body jerk. I was awake.


Sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis sounds terrifying and I am not going to lie it is incredibly frightening. However, another way to look at the condition is to think of it as an overactive security feature.

When we sleep our body loosens muscle tone so we do not act out our dreams. Although it doesn't always work, for example, think about sleepwalking.

With sleep paralysis, you wake before your brain and body are ready! You really are stuck in a limbo state of both awake and asleep. This sleep disorder is surprisingly common. Professor Kazuhiko Fukuda, Fukushima University in Japan believes that up to 60% of the population will encounter this at some stage in their life.


What causes sleep paralysis?

  • Stress, anxiety, and worry.
  • It has been documented symptom of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Insomnia or sleep deprivation.
  • Too much sleep.
  • Drugs and alcohol.
  • A documented sleep disorder in its own right, but can be linked to other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.


In Folk Lore

Sleep paralysis has appeared in folklore and myths throughout the ages. Some cultures believe it to be the work of witchcraft, demons, or evil spirits. It certainly could explain some of the nightmarish ghost stories or even alien abductions.

Modern science proposes a more logical explanation of hallucinations. What I know is it does feel like being in limbo. Both awake and asleep. Able to see what is happening around you, but not being able to do anything. It's our interpretation of the experience that can make it feel scary.


Resolute to overcome sleep paralysis

1. Knowlege is key

If you are aware it will feel less scary when it happens. Firstly accept it is a natural state, but something you may need to seek professional support for. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for sleep disorders can be very beneficial.

2. Wriggle your little finger

During an episode, I pour all of my energy and focus is trying to move my little finger. These tiny movements will inform your brain that your body is now awake. There are other things to try such as clicking your tongue or wiggling your toes. It takes practice, but this for me has been one of the most effective ways to snap back into reality.

3. Relax your body and focus on your breath

When faced will fear we can either breath-hold or our breathing speeds up. Hyperventilating will only add to the fear. Take some deep breaths to imagine your body relaxing. In doing so you may experience lucid dreaming. Personally, for me, it can help you feel more in control as you know this is a dream and this is an easier state to wake from.

4. Go with the flow

Resolute to quit resisting when and if you experience an episode. The more we fight it the worst the experience can be. Personally the more I fight the more my brain takes control of my muscles to stop me from acting out my 'dream'

5. Preventative measures

Look at getting into a better sleep routine going to bed and waking up at a similar time daily. Check out your diet and if you drink reduce your alcohol intake before bed.


The Key Takeaways

Sleep paralysis is relatively common, and a perfectly normal, experience. It means the body is working the way it should in keeping you safe as you dream.

The sleep disorder is more common in people that have anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or suffering from stress. The last few years have been tough on almost all of us. This is bound to impact our sleep patterns thus increasing the risk that we may experience this.

Although scary, knowledge is key in learning to manage the condition. Trying to fight whilst in an episode only encourages the brain to deepen the situation, by relaxing and focusing on gentle, twitching movements you will be able to either wake or switch to a lucid dream state.

© Trisha Dunbar

Disclaimer: If you experience sleep paralysis it is important to get professional support from a medical practitioner. This article contains my own personal experience with the sleep disorder.






About the author

Trisha Dunbar

Rambling of written words | Reader of things | Drinker of coffee | Doer of stuff | Welcome to my profile 😊

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