Sedative Meds

Sleep paralysis

“IT WAS THREE-FOUR YEARS AGO. I FOLLOWED TO SLEEP AS USUALLY , and then I woke up in the same room, with the same furnishings and lighting. I woke up from the fact that someone was walking around me – I clearly heard steps, – says Olga. – I tried to move, but I couldn’t succeed, and because of this, panic began. Three times I thought that I was waking up, but I really woke up and could only move on the fourth – and I realized that it was all in a dream. A terrible feeling: panic, you start screaming inside yourself, but, of course, you can’t hear anything. Everything is very realistic. ” The condition that Olga describes is called sleep paralysis: the person faced with it realizes that he is awake, but cannot move, as if he is paralyzed. Sometimes in this state, people have hallucinations.  

What is sleep paralysis

In fact, paralysis is an integral part of sleep. When we are in REM sleep, our brain is active (it is at this time that we usually dream), and the body is practically paralyzed – only the eyeballs and the muscles responsible for breathing can move. Thanks to this, we cannot harm ourselves when we see something in a dream and want to act.

Usually, the ability to move comes back to us even before awakening, but it happens that this process is disrupted. The person is in a semi-conscious state: his brain wakes up, sometimes he can even open his eyes and look at the room, but still cannot move. It is this condition that is called sleep paralysis – such episodes last from a few seconds to several minutes. “The reason for the development of sleep paralysis is believed to be the recently discovered ability of the brain to sleep and stay awake only partially. Thus, when most of the brain has already woken up, those zones that inhibit muscle tone during sleep with dreams continue to “sleep”, ”notes the head of the Sleep Medicine Department of the First Moscow State Medical University. I. M. Sechenova , associate professor Mikhail Poluektov.     

Sleep paralysis is a fairly common phenomenon: according to American studies, almost 8% of people have experienced it at least once during their life. Among students and patients of psychiatric clinics, the proportion of such cases is even higher: 28% and almost 32%, respectively. Mikhail Poluektov notes that young people encounter him more often: according to his data, up to 40% of people under the age of thirty and 5% of people in older age groups experienced symptoms of sleep paralysis. Most often, the symptoms of sleep paralysis appear on waking, but it can also occur when a person falls asleep.

Sleep paralysis has other signs: in this state, many feel that their chest is as if something were compressed, and it is difficult for them to breathe – although in fact they breathe freely. Some people manage to open their eyes during this state, which cannot be done in a normal dream. Many people feel that there is someone in the room, and someone even has visual and auditory hallucinations – they see or hear a creature that wants to harm them.

Sleep paralysis is a fairly common phenomenon: according to American studies, almost 8% of people have experienced it at least once during their life.

“When sleep paralysis happens, it’s hard to believe that I’m still asleep, because the situation exactly copies reality,” says editor Julia. – I dream that I open my eyes in my room, in my bed, but I feel the presence of something “demonic”. And then the fantasy every time throws something new: this “creature” is hanging over you, it runs towards you across the room, it stands in the corner – and so on. The appearance of this “creature” also varies. What is invariable is that you cannot move a single muscle, you try to shout, wave your hand – and nothing. A real paralysis, mixed with pure horror and such a heaviness in the chest that it is impossible to breathe. “

Many people find that sleep paralysis attacks worsen when a difficult period in life arrives. “I studied at the institute and worked at the same time, pouring my sadness with alcohol at constant parties,” says designer Dasha. – And then sleep paralysis began to manifest itself more severely and more often. For example, I remember how I sleep – and I have a nightmare. I wake up and see a black, incomprehensible mass that floats in the air above me and seems to begin to pull me out of my body – an eerie sensation. There was a deafening ringing in my ears, it seemed that the eardrums were about to burst. I became so scared that I ran away to sleep with my parents (I was still living with them then) as soon as I could finally wake up. ” 

Head of the Sleep Medicine Center, Moscow State University M. Lomonosov Moscow State University Alexander Kalinkin notes that even repetitive sleep paralysis may be a single symptom does not affect the quality and life expectancy – but there are more complicated situations, “Sleep paralysis can also be a symptom of narcolepsy. This is a neurological pathology, it has several characteristic features, chief among them is pronounced daytime sleepiness (that is, a person can fall asleep during active daytime activities). ” According to the expert, it is important to distinguish between such cases. 

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