Sleep paralysis is a feeling of inability to move, speak, or react, experienced during falling asleep or awakening. In some cases, it is accompanied by frightening hallucinations to which one is unable to react due to paralysis or due to the feeling of strong current flow through the upper body, which is considered under perceived physical experiences. This article will explain the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, its causes, symptoms and how to treat it. Also, this article explains the relationship of sleep paralysis with lucid dreaming.
What’s sleep paralysis?
The occurrence of sleep paralysis poses no immediate risk to those who experience it, but it can last from several seconds to several minutes. Therefore, it is important to give attention towards sleep paralysis cure.
What causes sleep paralysis?
Genetics and sleep deprivation are considered to be one of the major causes of sleep paralysis. It is also linked with few disorders such as narcolepsy – a neurological disorder which involves decreased ability to regulate sleep-wake cycles, migraines – primary headache which is characterized by recurrent headaches that may range from moderate to severe in terms of effect, stress, anxiety disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea – a potentially serious sleep disorder which causes repeated start and stop of breathing during sleep. The chances of sleep paralysis experiences increase when you sleep in a supine position i.e., when you are lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up. It is said that about 8% of people experience sleep paralysis at one point of time in their life.
Usually observed sleep paralysis symptoms
Those affected by sleep paralysis can experience humming, hissing, static, zapping and even buzzing noises. In some cases, imagined sounds such as voices, whispers, and roars are also being experienced by them. Usually, these symptoms are accompanied by intense emotions of fear and panic and people have felt of being dragged out of bed or of flying and sensing electric tringles and vibrations running through their body, which has led to serious effect on their psychological health. People affected by sleep paralysis may experience hallucinations like menacing shadow figure entering one’s room or lurking outside one’s window while the person feels sleep paralyze.
In some cases, hallucinations include feeling of a supernatural creature suffocating or terrifying the individual and this feeling is accompanied by a feeling of pressure on one’s chest leading to difficulty in breathing. This comes due to the belief that demons are the one responsible for sleep paralysis causes by holding the people down or sitting on their chest. While experiencing sleep paralysis, people report of seeing ghosts, demons, and other strange apparitions. Therefore, it becomes essential for the affected person to find ways to prevent sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis prevention methods
It is important to note that sleeping in the supine position is believed to make a person more vulnerable to sleep paralysis. The main reason for this is that while sleeping in this position, there is a possibility of soft palate which is the soft tissue constituting the back of the roof of the mouth to collapse and thereby obstruct the airway. To prevent sleep paralysis every night, follow the habit of maintaining a regular sleep schedule and observe good sleep hygiene. This helps in reducing the intake of stimulants and stress in daily life and the best way to practice it is by taking up a hobby or seeking help from a trained psychologist for coping mechanisms for stress.
To prevent fragmented sleep and thus avoid the occurrence of sleep paralysis, one should practice meditation regularly. On the basis of research, it is found that long term meditation practitioners spend more time in slow wave speed, thus helping in reducing nocturnal arousal which in a way reduces the effects of sleep paralysis.
Sleep paralysis treatment and its cure
Treatment for sleep paralysis starts with educating the people about the various sleep stages and why they are unable to move their muscles during this phenomenon. If the symptoms of sleep paralysis persist then people should be evaluated for narcolepsy. Adopting healthier sleeping habits is considered as the safest treatment for this disease. But, in serious cases chemical compound anti-depressants like tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used. Despite, the seriousness of this disease and its harmful effects on affected people, there is no drug which can be found currently, to completely interrupt or stop the episodes of sleep paralysis.
As a cure for sleep paralysis, Meditation-Relaxation also known as MR therapy was proposed, which was partly derived from a suggestion that, while attempting to move during sleep paralysis stage can led to neurological distortions of body image and can trigger hallucinations of human shadow like figures. To stop sleep paralysis, the MR therapy is based on four steps which are applied during sleep paralysis, viz., reappraisal of the meaning of attack, inward and focused meditation attention, emotional and psychological distancing. And muscle relaxation.
How to stop sleep paralysis?
If you are a frequent sufferer of sleep paralysis, then it is suggested to go for preventive measures rather than using curative ones. In case you wake up in the night in throes of sleep paralysis then relax your body and don’t fight forcefully, as it may create panic and increase the chances of scary hallucinations. Gently wiggle your fingers and toes so that it will signal your brain that your body is awake and will stop the lack of muscular weakness or what is called as atonia. Then try to make eye movements by blinking and looking around the room. This will establish a waking movement which will fully awaken your brain and body together. Also, try to move your facial muscles and co-ordinate lip movements. Then focus on deep and slow breath as long as you can. One important thing to be maintained during the entire phenomenon, is a calm and positive mental state. Focus on relaxing thoughts and imagine a calm environment.
What is lucid dreaming?
Lucid dream can be stated as a dream during which the dreamer is not only aware that he is dreaming but can exert some sort of degree of control over the dream such as, in its dream characters, or narratives, or the environment of the dream. Frederik Van Eeden, a Dutch psychiatrist coined the term ‘lucid dream’ in his 1913 article titled as “A study of Dreams”. Some skeptics suggest that lucid dreaming is not a state of sleep rather it is a state of brief wakefulness or micro-awakening. Some also have doubt that is lucid dreaming real?
Relation between sleep paralysis and lucid dream
Sleep paralysis is almost similar to lucid dream, and the only difference between them is that one lacks full immersion into dream imagery. In case of sleep paralysis, the individual either during falling asleep or awakening state experiences a temporary inability to move, speak, or react whereas in case of the lucid dream, the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. Also, in case of sleep paralysis, there is a possibility of a person experiencing hallucinations, which is not true in case of lucid dream.
How to induce lucid dreaming?
Before falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning are considered as the crucial periods for learning lucid dreaming. Before falling asleep you must focus all your intent only on one affirmation which is, “the next time I dream, I will realize that I am dreaming”. It is important that you repeat this every time you fall asleep and you need to ensure that it is the last thought you have as you drift into sleep. For this to work perfectly, you need to feel it and if you do it mechanically, then it will tell your subconscious mind that you are not really interested to induce into lucid dreams and will not help you to become a lucid dreamer.
Binaural beats which is a relatively new technology, allows you to induce lucid dreams with sound. How it works is that, they entrain your brain into the right frequencies for inducing lucid dreams wherein one frequency is played in the right ear and the other in the left one. Then, your brain will identify the difference between these frequencies and will entrain to those. Thus, by using multiple frequencies one can guide their brain into the right state and get induced in a lucid dream.
Lucid dreaming devices are lucid dream inducers that attempt to induce dreams and they do this by sending a signal to the dreamer while they are in dream. In this method, the dreamer is supposed to recognize the signal coming through the dream and they need to realize that they are dreaming. There is a mask that detects REM sleep and flashes lights in your eyelids, which are supposed to come through your dreams. This is among the most common device used for inducing lucid dream. All the above processes are not as easy to use as they sound.
There needs to be a trigger in the form of signal which will help in recognizing these signals and make you realize that you are dreaming. Supplements can also be used to induce lucid dreams. First of all, the medical aspects of the practitioner need to be taken into account and this needs to be talked to the doctor on their own. Some of the supplements are capable of giving intense dreams and therefore, one needs to be prepared for it.
Meditation allows you to work more consciously along with the various states of consciousness which are possible for a person to experience. Meditation expands your ability to be aware in states of consciousness which are considered normal outside the perceivable spectrum.
Hypnotism is another method of inducing lucid dream. During hypnotism, we should activate a part of subconscious mind to remember that we are dreaming while we are in the dream and need to work on it. In this way, you can embed an affirmation in your subconscious mind which will flower when you are in a dream and thereby induce a lucid dream. Thus, the above are some lucid dreaming techniques, which will help you to get induced into lucid dream.
Please feel free to share your thoughts related to this article in the comment box below.