This isn’t really a scientific break down of sleep paralysis*, but since it’s Halloween and I don’t really have any ghost stories up my sleeve I think this is as good a topic as any to discuss. Particularly since experiencing it can be just as frightening as encountering the undead in your waking hours.
The first time I can remember dealing with this phenomenon is when I was a freshman in college. Aka the worst time to be experiencing any sort of weird sleep pattern disturbances. I remember being somewhat aware of my surroundings, but being unable to move and talk. My covers were somewhat covering my face which was aggravating. I believe my roommate was already gone for the day and I was lucky enough to have been in this position before my alarm went off. The moment I was fully awake and able to get out of bed I had a minor freak out.
I would later learn, courtesy of a required Intro to Psych class I’d been taking that semester, that the strange panic inducing moment I’d had was called something and, according to my professor, it was quite common amongst island people. Now, in case you don’t really follow me on a regular basis, my mother is from Barbados, and would also later tell me that she too has experienced sleep paralysis. It was actually a nice coincidence that I would hear about this in class the same year it first happened to me, and later on in my senior year I learned about other ways people have experienced it.
For me, it just feels like somethings weighing on me and obstructing my movement. It’s particularly unpleasant when I’m in a weird position. I’ve realized it mostly happens when I sleep/nap on my back as opposed to my side. A girl in my class mentioned that for her it was more of an out of body experience where she could roam her house and notice her body just lying there. That’s got to be even more of a mind flip, especially since the ‘wandering’ is your brain going off a memory of your surroundings.
Like with anything different or unusual in one’s psyche I’ve done some reading and have found that sleep paralysis is not a new phenomena. It was simply explained away with demons and magic, when in reality it seems like it’s possible that your body isn’t going through the sleep cycle properly. This makes the most sense to me considering I’ve had problems with sleep in the past.
Regardless of the reason behind sleep paralysis, the spookier old fashioned view of it makes me glad I live in a time where I can look up information online and not have to rely on the village elders to scare me out my wits.
*Definition of sleep paralysis according to sleepeducation.org: Sleep paralysis causes you to be unable to move your body at either of the two following times:
- When falling asleep (hypnagogic or predormital form)
- When waking up from sleep (hypnopompic or postdormital form)