Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night And Can't Move: Explained Part 2

Aug 06, 2022

Aug 06, 2022

Waking up in the middle of the night and can't move: explained part 2

(Photo by Dorran)

In part 1 I described the common symptoms of sleep paralysis. I also touched on what studies suggest causes it. 

The gist is: the overlapping of the waking and dream states can be quite intense. If you had an experience and had never heard of sleep paralysis, you could be convinced that there is a serious reason for concern. It's likely the closest thing to a supernatural encounter that most of us will ever have.[143] [144]

I also talked a little bit about some of my own personal experiences with sleep paralysis. The first few times that it occurred scared me a lot. But then I learned about its existence and what the symptoms were like. I have to admit that when it happened again, I thought it was kind of funny.

Knowledge makes it less scary

About a year ago I had 3 different episodes in a 2 month period: 

The first time, I fell asleep on my side and woke up because my arm had gone numb. I tried to go back to sleep, lying on my back so as not to keep cutting off circulation to my arm. All of a sudden there was a deafening "ZAP!" and I was aware of a malevolent entity in the room with me.

The next time, I saw and felt myself suspended over a dark chasm, clutching my bedsheets. A powerful gust of wind roared up from underneath me, tearing at the blankets. I could hear myself trying to yell over the sound, but all I could manage was a low groan.

Then I noticed a darker-than-dark figure, like a swirling-void in the corner of my room. That is when I realized what was happening and I thought to myself, "Oh! I know what this is!" Once I understood what was going on, the supernatural elements just started to fade away.

The third time, it was a witch that visited me. I didn't actually see a witch, but I somehow knew it was one. It's kind of like how you know who someone is in a dream, even if they don't look like that person. The next morning, I was going over the experience in my head. I realized that I had been binge-listening to a podcast that discusses true crime and supernatural stories...

I had probably heard 4 different stories about witches in the last month. That is when I decided to take a break from that podcast for a while. As much as I enjoyed the stories, I was priming my brain with supernatural material.

If you've experienced sleep paralysis, think back on it. Were you doing anything that might have primed your brain for this "encounter?"

Why are sleep paralysis experiences usually bad?

In the research they refer to a state called "threat hyper-vigilance". This is a scientific way to say that waking up paralyzed can make you feel vulnerable. Because of that vulnerability, you are likely to feel like you're in danger. 

You attempt to move, but find it impossible. So of course you panic and start to struggle against whatever is holding you. Your brain is desperately looking for answers. It will likely come to a conclusion about the reason you are awake but cannot move: some outside force is exerting power over you.

There are several cultures that attribute these "attacks" to certain demonic or evil beings. Depending on our background and beliefs, there may be a legend that a culture promotes or accepts. That can be what the brain manifests if we find ourselves in this state. 

Some people experience this as alien abduction. Tall, slender, gray figures that come into their rooms and telepathically elevate them off of their beds.

I feel that it is important to convey to you just how real what you experience during sleep paralysis seems. It is not like some dream that begins to get fuzzy and fades as soon as you wake up. You are actually seeing the real world, but with dreamlike elements overlaid on top of it.

Sleep is the problem, but sleep is also the answer

The most common aggravating factors are prolonged sleep deprivation, physical fatigue, and an erratic sleep schedule. Some things you can try at home are to get 6-8 hours of sleep a night, go to bed at about the same time, and get regular exercise. Try not to eat a big meal or drink caffeine before bed. 

Sleeping on your back also seems to be a significant contributor. Lastly and the hardest one, see what you can do to relieve a little stress from your life. Paying attention to these habits can help to keep sleep paralysis from happening.

Take a look at your sleep habits and see if there is any room for improvement. Are you getting enough sleep? How are you positioned? Do you snore or grind your teeth? There are lots of ways for you to make small improvements that will help you get some relief from this terror.

What if that doesn't work?

There are unfortunately no known medical treatments for most instances of sleep paralysis. But it's generally diagnosed based on the patient's description of the events. Luckily, the symptoms and imagery are so well known that any medical professional should be able to recognize them. 

Narcolepsy could be a factor. This is a medical condition that causes intense drowsiness during the day and may even come with hallucinations. A genetic test is required to diagnose it, so it may not be the first treatment you pursue. Unless you are falling asleep during the day and having waking nightmares.

It could also be something like sleep apnea, sleep deprivation, a change in work schedule. Or anxiety, stress, depression, or any number of mental health issues. 

While there are drugs that can be prescribed, none have been tested specifically for sleep paralysis. It may be better to first try and change the conditions that can lead to the possibility of an occurrence. Speak with your doctor, they should be able to help you take steps to alleviate it.

Goodnight and sleep tight!

It's important to me to make people aware of this bizarre phenomenon. Just in case they need to hear it. How awful to have these terrifying supernatural things happening to you? Especially if you feel as though you can't tell anyone close to you. 

Ask around. I bet that you know someone with a wild story to tell you.

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