Have you ever found yourself awake yet unable to move? You’re able to look around your room, the surroundings are familiar and detailed. Have you ever gotten the sense that you’re not alone? Felt a weight on your chest or as if you’re floating off your bed?
These eerie — and at times terrifying — experiences are caused by a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis.
For centuries episodes of sleep paralysis have been attributed to supernatural forces, or believed to be the work of demons. But there’s a biological explanation for why we enter this bizarre state.
What Is Sleep Paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is classified as a parasomnia: A disorder that is characterized by undesired behavior that is brought on by sleep. As its name suggests, sleep paralysis causes you to be temporarily unable to move your body while you are conscious and aware of your surroundings.
This parasomnia happens during two distinct times in your sleep cycle:
- Hypnagogic or Predormital – While you’re first drifting off to sleep.
- Hypnopompic or Postdormital – When you’re waking up from sleep.
An episode of sleep paralysis usually resolves on its own, but being touched by someone, or spoken to may also cause you to snap out of it. Some people find that making an intense effort to move their body can end an episode.
Sleep paralysis is by no means a rare disorder. In fact, most people will experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice during their lifetime. The disorder typically makes its first appearance when you reach your teens, and occurs with the most frequency between the ages of 20-30 years.
While isolated incidents of sleep paralysis are by no means something to be overly concerned about, if you are experiencing multiple episodes on a regular basis they could have a negative impact on your health and the quality of your sleep. Sleep paralysis can also be a sign that you are suffering from narcolepsy.
Copyright 2017 South Florida Reporter