Have you experienced waking up to find yourself unable to move a muscle?
Then you feel a presence in the room, hovering near your bed or perhaps sitting on your chest, crushing the breath out of you?
This weird phenomenon is known as sleep paralysis, and a new study finds that understanding why it happens helps people feel less distressed after an episode.
Believing that sleep paralysis is brought on by the supernatural, on the other hand, makes people feel more unnerved.
Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain and body aren’t quite on the same page when it comes to sleep.
During rapid eye movement (REM) 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.
In sleep paralysis, the body remains paralyzed in REM atonia while the brain awakens and the eyes start to open. Sufferers become alert in a transient conscious state, but they are unable to move voluntary muscles or speak.
Although involuntary muscle movement, like breathing, is not affected, there is often a sensation of chest pressure, which is why many people wake up from sleep paralysis gasping to take a deep breath.
Episodes can last anywhere from 20 seconds to a few minutes.
If you experience this once, you should not immediately seek a professional help because doctors will simply advise you to pay more attention to your sleeping habits, and sleep well for 8 hours, as lack of sleep often contributes to the occurrence of these issues.