The Sleep Demon

“Don’t kill me. Please spare my life. I don’t want to die.” The monster has grabbed me. I try to run and save my life. Oh no ! I m frozen. Help!  Help! Why are words not coming out of my mouth? And, I gathered all my courage and woke up. Wait ! Where is the demon who was trying to kill me? All this sounds like a horror movie story but it is not. It is reality.

Do you find yourself unable to move or speak in the middle of the night?

Do you feel somebody has held you tightly and not letting you run? 

Do you feel somebody is sitting on your chest? 

Do you feel words don’t come out when you try to call for help? 

Do you fear that you may die if you don’t wake up because the demon sitting on your chest will kill you?

That “somebody” sitting on your body is not a demon or some evil spirit trying to kill you but all these are symptoms of a condition called “Sleep Paralysis”. And, the good news is that you don’t die because of sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when you’re waking up or falling asleep.

Sleep paralysis can be a recurring event for some people while others may have encountered such situation only once or twice in their life. It usually lasts for few minutes. Sleep paralysis though is not very harmful but can be very scary. 

Symptoms of sleep paralysis 

– You are aware of your surroundings but are temporarily unable to move or talk.
– You seem to wake up, but you’re frozen.
– You feel choked 
– You feel pressure on your chest as if somebody is sitting on your chest and not letting you move
– You are scared to open your eyes as you may see the demon.
– You are frightened to the extent that you feel the demon will  kill you if you sleep again

Once the episode of sleep paralysis is over, you are able to move and speak as normal, although you may feel unsettled and anxious about going to sleep again.

Why does sleep paralysis happen?

According to experts, Sleep paralysis happens when parts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occur while you’re awake.
REM is explained as a stage of sleep when the brain is very active and dreams often occur. Only the eyes and muscles used in breathing move whereas the body is unable to move.
About the pressure that you feel on your chest, that’s usually because of the way breathing is regulated in REM sleep. Because your body has been limiting your diaphragm to rhythmic, shallow breaths, you might feel like you can’t breathe deeply – as if something is pressing down and keeping your lungs from filling up with air.

REM can possibly occur while you are awake because of the following reasons:

– Narcolepsy  (a long-term condition that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times)

– Sleep deprivation or insomnia

– Irregular sleeping patterns

– A family history of sleep paralysis

– Sleeping on your back

Other factors that may result in frequent awakenings are chronic pain, substance abuse, frequent trips to the bathroom, disturbing nightmares or nicotine withdrawal in smokers. People under a lot of stress or experiencing threatening or traumatic life events are more likely to encounter sleep paralysis. 

Treatment for sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis can be treated by improving your sleeping habits and sleeping environment.

– Get at least six to eight hours of good quality sleep at night

– Go to bed at roughly the same time each night 

– Create a sleeping environment that’s comfortable

– Avoid eating big meals, smoking or drinking alcohol or caffeine shortly before going to bed

In most of the cases, sleep paralysis is a one time event and usually does not happen again. But, you need to see your doctor if:

– You experience sleep paralysis regularly

– You feel very anxious about going to sleep or you’re struggling to get enough sleep

– You feel very sleepy during the day, or have episodes where you fall asleep suddenly or lose muscle control (these are symptoms of a related sleep disorder called narcolepsy)

So, if you ever encounter sleep paralysis in your life, you now know that there’s no demon trying to kill you.

 
 

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