You’re Conscious, but Can’t Move: Sleep Paralysis, is it Harmful to Your Body?

Have you ever woken up from sleeping, and found yourself unable to move? This horrific phenomenon has been happening to human beings since we’ve been conscious enough to talk about it, but it’s only been in the last century that we’ve been able to give it a name and start to analyze why it happens to us. This phenomenon is now known as sleep paralysis, but to people in the past, it was thought to have something to do with the Devil, or evil spirits that sought to torture people while they slept.

Today, we’ll talk about what causes sleep paralysis, and how getting into healthier habits can help you ease this terrifying experience.

What is sleep paralysis?

When we sleep, our body essentially paralyses itself in a process called REM atonia to prevent us from waking ourselves up during a dream. Most of the time, it’s what stops people from sleepwalking, or acting out their dreams.

Sleep paralysis is what you experience when your mind wakes up from sleep, but your body remains dormant. Most of the time, people who have experienced episodes of sleep paralysis find themselves unable to move or talk, and it may feel as if you’re unable to breathe deeply. This is because the diaphragm is usually the only part of the body to awaken with the mind, so we’re able to take in air, but our chest muscles refuse to expand, so we’re only able to take shallow breaths.

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What are some other sensations I may experience during sleep paralysis?

Many reported cases of sleep paralysis include intense feelings of panic or fear, possibly due to our inability to breathe deeply. Some people have also reported hearing noises that were later confirmed to be imaginary — buzzing, humming, and even specific sounds like other voices whispering or animal noises such as roars. Many people also feel sensations like vibrations or hallucinate the feeling of other hands on their body. These reported sensations often overlap between patients, but researchers have determined that this is likely because most people hallucinate that which they fear the most, and these fears are often common within the local population.

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