If you've ever suffered from sleep paralysis, you know first-hand just how terrifying the experience can be. If, however, you've never experienced it and you're wondering what it's like to have sleep paralysis, a recent AskReddit thread has the answer — and it highlights just how terrifying going to sleep can be for some people.
Psychologists define sleep paralysis as the phenomena where people awaken from sleep to find they are unable to move or speak. Often, sleep paralysis occurs when people are in their REM sleep cycle, where dreams are generally very vivid, but the body is paralyzed. In this stage, your muscles are in paralysis to stop you from physically acting out your dreams... but when your mind wakes up before your body does, it can be a disorienting and frightening experience, particularly when hallucinations or the shreds of dreams are involved.
As you'll see in the responses from the AskReddit thread below, sleep paralysis varies from person to person — that is to say, people don't necessarily experience it with the same frequency, length of time, and so on and so forth. However, there are some common traits that signify sleep paralysis: Feeling held down, fearing a strange or unusual presence, and recognizing a threat against your safety are three of the biggest ones.
Studies show that sleep paralysis is relatively common in the general population, though more prevalent in students. People who have panic disorders are also more likely to experience sleep paralysis.
Here are eight stories from the AskReddit thread that show what it's like to have sleep paralysis; head on over to Reddit for more. If you think you might be experiencing sleep paralysis, it might be worth seeking out a sleep specialist to get to the bottom of it — because everyone deserves to have a good night's sleep
1. You Might Experience Exploding Head Syndrome
2. You Might Have Difficulty Breathing In Real Life
You know how you can dream that you're choking or something but then you wake up and you're fine, just freaked out? For people with sleep paralysis, it's possible you'll wake up and realize you're having difficulty breathing because you literally can't roll over and get enough air.
3. Sleep Paralysis Can Occur When You're A Kid, Too
Sleep paralysis isn't something only adults have to deal with. It can begin when people are children and sometimes lasts into adulthood, though not necessarily.
4. "Demons" Frequently Appear
In nightmares connected with sleep paralysis, perceived "demons" are a commonly occurring theme. Demons frequently appear throughout folklore and religious texts, as well; indeed, for some people, they're a representation of fear and evil.
5. Not Being Able To Move Is Fundamentally Scary
Even if you aren't experiencing super intense auditory or visual hallucinations, just knowing that you can't actually move in order to protect yourself is fundamentally terrifying for most people. It goes against our basic instincts for survival and self-preservation.
6. The Episodes Can Repeat Themselves
Yep: You can "wake up" and still be experiencing sleep paralysis, with the dreams repeating over and over and over again. And waking up and returning to sleep in real life doesn't mean sleep paralysis is gone for the evening, either.
7. You Might See Yourself During Your Own Sleep Paralysis Episode
Some people experience sleep paralysis as though they're watching themselves from another person's perspective. Talk about disorienting.
8. The Hallucinations Are Intense
Sleep paralysis can take teh "creepy kid" trope to a whole new level of weird — particularly when it feels like it's really happening.