Sleep Paralysis: My Journey and So Much More
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
One night I woke up to a black figure walking up my stairs. It was singing my name telling me to get out. I was terrified, panicking, trying to move but I couldn't. The figure kept getting closer and closer. I was trying to move, to yell, to get up, but nothing was working. The figure finally got to my bed, face almost touching mine when I jolted myself awake. That was my first terrifying experience with sleep paralysis.
I've had sleep paralysis before, but never that terrifying, never something that felt so real, where I felt like I was in danger, that my family was in danger. Sleep paralysis is a funny thing and it's quite terrifying especially if you don't know the science behind it. Sleep paralysis is actually quite common and most people do hallucinate during it.
Sleep paralysis happens typically when someone is falling asleep or waking up. Their body is still asleep, unable to move but the mind is active and aware. Some people during this period of time can feel a sense of heaviness or feel like they're being chocked. Researchers believe sleep paralysis is caused by a disturbed REM cycle. During that stage, the brain paralyzes our body so we don't act out our dreams. But during sleep paralysis, we are awake, or half-awake which is why we are very aware that we can't move or do anything.
Many people experience sleep paralysis and it is something that has gone on for centuries. In the early modern period or even before then, the popular belief was that this phenomenon was the devils doing or was connected to some sort of evil spirit. Because the most popular thing people experienced was and still is a sense of heaviness and dark figures it can be understood that this connection had been made and is still made to this day.
When I experienced sleep paralysis in the past, I had many different dreams or hallucinations during them. I've seen blackbirds breaking in through my windows and spiders coming down from my ceiling. I've had figures in my room, but one time, they spoke to me. I've never experienced a talking figure before or let alone two figures. At this time in my life, I was under a lot of stress. For me, stress causes sleep paralysis amongst other things. This time two figures entered my room having a conversation with each other, they carried shovels and wore black coats. I don't think I know what they said or if what they were saying made any sense but it was absolutely terrifying. Because this wasn't the first time I've had sleep paralysis, over the years I've taught myself a little trick. Now, it sometimes takes a while for me to remember this trick as the dream is happening but in order to wake myself up, I have to blink a million times super fast. I don't know why or how this works but it just does and it's great that I have something to wake myself up.
There are many things that can cause sleep paralysis including insomnia, PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and so much more. The main cause can be stressful periods in one's life that causes anxiety and sleeping problems. Getting regular sleep (6-8hrs), having a good and consistent bedtime and getting regular exercise can help to minimize the occurrence of sleep paralysis happening.