Sleep Paralysis Symptoms
The symptoms of sleep paralysis, though not necessarily physically dangerous, can take a real psychological toll. An anomaly that typically occurs during the R.E.M. stage of the sleep cycle, sleep paralysis is considered fascinating by researchers and terrifying by those who have experienced it. Often accompanied with other sleeping disorders such as narcolepsy and cataplexy, sleep paralysis has a unique, very distinguished set of symptoms. Below are some of the hallmark ones.
- Paralysis. As you might guess from the disorder’s name, this is its most distinguishable feature. During the deeper phases of sleep, the ones in which sleep paralysis occurs, a muscular state called R.E.M. atonia occurs. The state is caused by inhibition of signals coming from motor neurons during sleep, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, it’s what stops us from getting up and acting out our dreams during sleep. But when you’re psychologically awake and this state is still in effect, the only muscles you’ll be able to move are the ones controlling your eyes. This state of the brain being “awake” while the body is still paralyzed for sleep is the medical definition of sleep paralysis.
- Hallucinations. As if waking up paralyzed isn’t frightening enough, the “dream-like” state often persists after you open your eyes during sleep paralysis. In short, this means that you’ll have the sense or vision of an intruder by your bed. In antiquity, it was presumed that these “visits” were the signs of a demon’s presence in the room. Today, however, we know that it is a lingering sense of dreaming which occurs as a symptom of sleep paralysis. Nonetheless, it is extremely frightening, to the point where panic attacks are often associated with the phenomenon.
- Short duration. Though it feels like hours for those who suffer from it, one of the more positive symptoms of sleep paralysis is its short length. Most of the time, individual episodes of the disorder will only last from a few seconds up to a few minutes. With this knowledge, those who suffer from chronic sleep paralysis can take solace in the fact that the state is by nature very temporary.
- Unusual sensations. Aside from the visual hallucinations, one sleep paralysis symptom that many report is the inclusion of the other five senses in the ordeal. For some, auditory hallucinations occur. Others might experience familiar tastes and smells – often associated with the dream they were having before the episode began. Finally, and perhaps most weirdly, a few of those who experience sleep paralysis report a feeling of levitation. It’s likely caused by R.E.M. ationa, but undoubtedly bizarre nonetheless.