In the dark ages, people believed that at night a witch comes to young people, sits on their chest and is fed by their vital energy. Hence the popular name for sleep paralysis - "old witch syndrome". What is it really and how to identify it in yourself? We deal with the candidate of medical sciences, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, somnologist Elena Vladimirovna Kolesnichenko.
What it is?
Sleep paralysis is a condition that occurs with incomplete awakening during REM sleep, when the immobility inherent in this phase remains. During it, people see dreams, and with incomplete awakening, that is, in the case of sleep paralysis, a person can dream in reality. This state is characterized by hallucinations: a person can see frightening phenomena, and the inability to move and speak at this moment causes the awakened to feel a sense of horror and despair.
The duration of sleep paralysis is short - from a few seconds to two minutes, after which consciousness is fully restored, and the immobility disappears. But what happened leaves an indelible mark on the memory, making you doubt your own mental health or believe in the existence of supernatural entities.
A little medicine
Sleep paralysis is a fairly common phenomenon. Sleep paralysis is especially common before the age of 30. Sometimes episodes of sleep paralysis occur in those whose relatives have reported the occurrence of sleep paralysis in them, that is, in the case of a hereditary predisposition.
Sleep paralysis can be recognized by the following characteristic features:
- Sleep paralysis occurs at the time of spontaneous awakening;
- Accompanied by the inability to move and speak;
- May be accompanied by sensations of suffocation, a feeling of heaviness on the body, compression of the chest;
- Characterized by a feeling of someone else's presence in the room and eerie hallucinations;
- Causes intense fear and dread.
Is sleep paralysis dangerous and how to deal with it?
Fortunately, sleep paralysis is not a necessary symptom of a mental disorder. But its occurrence can be triggered by stress, smoking, alcohol, overwork and irregular sleep (see also: "Sleep well: why deep sleep is important and how to improve it").
The recurrence of sleep paralysis episodes can be prevented by eliminating the provoking factors. It is necessary to establish a sleep regimen, devote more time to healthy rest, give up bad habits, and eliminate stress factors. It is important to bear in mind that sleep paralysis occurs in those who sleep while lying on their back and almost never happens to those who sleep on their right side.
Waking up with an alarm is another way to prevent sleep paralysis from recurring. In the event of a frightening episode, you need to remember that it will end soon, try to move your tongue, toes and hands.
Despite the fact that sleep paralysis is safe for life and health, some, due to the intensity of the horror experienced, may develop fears of the dark, sleeping and falling asleep. In this case, it is better to seek help from a psychotherapist. The specialist will help to cope with such emotional problems as nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, which are fertile ground for the resumption of episodes of sleep paralysis.
About the expert:
Elena Vladimirovna Kolesnichenko
Photo: Getty Images
- Sleep quality test: how to tell if you're getting enough sleep
- Sleep psychology: why we have nightmares, exes and sex
- 7 life hacks for your bedroom that will improve sleep
- What psychological problems does a mess in the house indicate?