Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Here's what scientists say about it
By Luke Mintz/ I was a teenager when it first happened. It was the early hours of the morning, still a few hours before I had to get out of bed for school. I woke up and tried to move, but my body wouldn't let me - I was paralyzed down to my toes.
Although my brain was conscious, my muscles were still asleep. My bedroom felt hot and confining, like the walls were closing in, and I felt panicky. Finally, after about 15 seconds, the paralysis went away.
Later, I found a name for what had happened to me: sleep paralysis. It's a surprisingly common condition at night in which part of the brain wakes up while your body remains temporarily paralyzed. After that initial frightening incident, it became a frequent occurrence, with an episode every two or three nights. The more it happened, the less scary it became.
But sleep paralysis can be much more life-threatening. And for some, it comes with terrifying hallucinations.
Others hallucinate demons, ghosts, aliens, threatening intruders, even dead relatives. They see parts of their bodies flying through the air, or copies of themselves standing by the bed. Some see angels and later believe they have had a religious experience. Researchers think these hallucinations may have fueled the belief in witches in Early Modern Europe and may even explain some modern claims of alien abductions.
Scientists think sleep paralysis has probably been around for as long as humans have been sleeping.
"It's been an ignored phenomenon ... but over the last 10 years there's been a growing interest," says Baland Jalal, a sleep researcher at Harvard University.
Jalal is one of many sleep scientists now investing serious time and energy into studying the condition.
Until recently, there was little evidence of how many people experience sleep paralysis. Studies were sporadic, with little consistency between methods.
But in 2011, clinical psychologist Brian Sharpless reviewed data from 35 studies spanning five decades. Together they involved more than 36,000 volunteers. Sharpless found that sleep paralysis was more common than previously thought, with almost 8% of adults claiming to have experienced it at some point.
Pasi përjetojnë gjendjen, disa gravitojnë drejt shpjegimeve të mbinatyrshme apo edhe paranormale. Në realitet, thotë Jalal, shkaku është shumë më i zakonshëm. Natën, trupi ynë kalon nëpër katër faza të gjumit.
Faza e fundit quhet gjumi i lëvizjes së shpejtë të syve, ose "REM". Kjo është kur ne ëndërrojmë. Gjatë REM, truri juaj paralizon muskujt tuaj, ndoshta për t'ju ndaluar të realizoni fizikisht ëndrrat tuaja dhe të lëndoni veten. Por ndonjëherë – dhe shkencëtarët ende nuk janë të sigurt pse – pjesa ndijore e trurit tuaj del nga REM para kohe. Kjo ju bën të ndiheni zgjuar. Por pjesa e poshtme e trurit tuaj është ende në REM, thotë Jalal, dhe ende po dërgon neurotransmetues për të paralizuar muskujt tuaj .
"The sensory part of the brain becomes active," says Jalal. "You wake up mentally, perceptually - but physically you're still paralyzed."
BBC article, translated and adapted by tiranapost.al