The effects of sleep paralysis

Emily Worpek, Feature Editor

Imagine laying in bed peacefully, slowly slipping into blissful unconsciousness, but suddenly realizing your mind is awake but your body is asleep. You can’t move or speak or scream, and your first thought is: Not this again.

According to Wikipeida, sleep paralysis is defined as “a phenomenon in which a person either during falling asleep (hypnagogia) or awakening (hypnopompia), temporarily experiences an inability to move, speak, or react.” This can also be accompanied with other sleeping issues like insomnia, or astral projection. It can also be accompanied by sometimes nightmare worthy hallucinations.

Sleep paralysis is somewhat preventable and you can make changes to your lifestyle to help control it. Some causes of sleep paralysis are anxiety, stress, napping after 3 p.m., or for more than an hour and a half, and eating less than two hours before sleeping.

But the big question is, what is it like to experience sleep paralysis? The answer is, it’s different for everyone. I’ve had sleep paralysis plenty of time throughout the last few years that have given me more extensive knowledge of sleep paralysis than I’d really like, but it’s different for everyone. For some people it’s more intense, it can last for a long time, but for others it can last only seconds, but sometimes seconds can feel like hours.

For me, sleep paralysis begins with rejecting all of the scientifically recommended things to do to help prevent sleep paralysis in the first place. I’ll sleep for three hours in the late afternoon and wait until I’m about to go to sleep to down that pint of Ben and Jerry’s I’ve been saving. I do all this for no reason other than my stubbornness.

After finally feeling your body slip into unconsciousness you go to shift your body or move your arm and you can’t. The best thing to do in this situation is relax and hope it’ll go away soon, struggling or trying to move would only make it worse.

Some people describe sleep paralysis as feeling like someone is sitting on their stomach or like their breathing is obstructed. People claim to have hallucinations during this period as well. Although hallucinations aren’t a problem for me personally, for others it can be the worst part of the entire experience.

People claim that they hallucinate that they’re being attacked by loved ones or strangers, but often the hallucinations are really just anything your mind can come up with in that moment.

Despite the claims that sleep paralysis involves evil spirits and demons that isn’t entirely true. The Sleep Paralysis Project breaks down the scientific process. Their article claims that sleep paralysis is simply a scientific reactions that occurs when things don’t work completely right while falling asleep.  

“When entering REM sleep, the brain shuts down the release of certain neurotransmitters in order to induce a state of paralysis. The body cannot move, and so the sleeper cannot act out the activity of their dream-life (which would endanger themselves and others). In normal sleep, this paralysis ceases before the sleeper becomes consciously awake. Sometimes, however, the process falls out of step. A person may enter a state of waking conscious and become aware of their body while the body itself is still paralysed.”

Whether you believe sleep paralysis is caused by extraterrestrial beings possessing your body, or a simple mix up in the process of REM sleep, sleep paralysis will always be occurring.

Multiple sources claim that they never experienced sleep paralysis until they learned what it was, so it you’re sitting there thinking you’ll never have to worry about this, think again.