The need and functioning of Sleep is a subject that is still not fully understood by us. Yet, we can be certain that sleep is essential for overall well-being. An average human spends one third of his life sleeping. TO understand how sleep paralysis occurs we first need to understand how sleep works. Some of the main activities that take place during sleep are protein synthesis, muscle repair, release of growth hormones and overall relaxation. It is known that sleep deprivation can increase a possibility of a stroke and reduce life expectancy. We don’t directly fall asleep as soon as we hit the bed, and go through 3 stages to reach a dreamlike state.
The stages of sleep are as follows:
- Stage one: Drifting in and out of sleep occurs and the person can be woken easily. This is also called light sleep stage. The muscles begin to relax and eyes begin to move slowly in the light sleep stage. Breathing and heart rate begins to slow down.
- Stage two: Activity in the brain slows down with only sudden bursts of brain waves with the eyes staying still. Breathing slows down further.
- Deep Sleep: When the person enters the third stage, the brain waves slow down even further. Eventually, only high amplitude brain waves called delta waves can be seen after certain intervals, implying that the use of the brain is kept to a minimal an d is exclusive. This stage is called deep sleep where it becomes difficult to wake the person up; sometimes it can also be referred as slow wave sleep because of the pattern of the brain waves.
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM): This stage begins in the second half of the night and accounts for around 20% of the sleep cycle. As the name suggests, in REM sleep the eyes move in a sudden way with irregular breathing. The brain activity is so immense that it is almost similar to that while we are awake. This is because we experience dreams during REM sleep. The body is paralyzed to that we do not act out our dreams and hurt ourselves.
What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a state between being awake and falling asleep where the person experiencing sleep paralysis is consciously awake but can’t move the body. People also experience choking with immense pressure on the chest and have reported seeing dark shadowy figures during their experience with sleep paralysis.
How does sleep paralysis occur?
One of the main reasons for sleep paralysis is the improper transition between the stages of the sleep. In the REM sleep a person’s body is shut off. If the subject is woken up before the REM cycle completes we experience sleep paralysis. While it has been linked to psychological disorders, it commonly occurs due to improper sleeping habits.
My Scary Sleep Paralysis Story:
Once while I was asleep on my bed at around 3 am, my eyes opened up half way and I could see a shadowy figure much, like myself sitting on my chest. As I felt like I was being choked, the figure repeatedly kept stabbing me with an extension of its arm (since it was a shadow I couldn’t see a knife). It violently repeated the action while I tried to move my body and scream for help. Slowly, I could feel my finger twitching and the shadow was receding to the backside of my bed. As soon as it was out of my peripheral vision I woke up punching the air and grasping for air. I looked around and turned the lights off to see no one around. While the experience was scary at that moment, after I looked up what sleep paralysis really was I can to the conclusion that happened because of my irregular sleeping patterns. My friend once told me a story of how his friend would experience this every month and sometimes see a dark figure with glowing red eyes. This was just a hallucination. I’ve never had sleep paralysis ever since.