It is the middle of the night, and you are sleeping. Suddenly, you awaken, but you cannot move. Your eyelids will not open, and you cannot move your arms and legs. You cannot even move your fingers and toes.
Breathing is difficult. If feels like there is something sitting on your chest and you are certain there is a being sitting on you and making you feel this way. This horror lasts for minutes, but it seems like hours. Sleeping is restful anymore. It’s horrifying.
This may seem like a scene from a horror book, but it is actually a real-life issue for a bunch of people. That is right. Tonight, there will be people who wake up to the previous scenario. They will have no clue what is going on, and they will not be able to move.
It is time to learn more about this phenomenon.
These symptoms stem from a strange sleep phenomenon called sleep paralysis. While various social and psychological factors can influence the prevalence of sleep paralysis, a 2011 paper combined 35 studies with more than 36,000 participants total. The authors found that 7.6% of the general population experiences sleep paralysis, rising to 28.3% in high-risk groups, like students who have a disrupted sleep pattern. And in people with mental disorders, like anxiety and depression, 31.9% experienced episodes. (Business Insider)
Daniel Denis, a PhD candidate in cognitive neuroscience and researcher at the Sleep Paralysis Project, explains the whole situation perfectly:
“When you’re experiencing sleep paralysis, you become conscious. The idea is that your mind wakes up but your body doesn’t.” (Business Insider)
But, if the brain is awake, why can’t the body move?