Sleep paralysis is something that happens to all of us but many of us will never consciously experience. At its most basic, sleep paralysis is where you awake at night but cannot move. When we are in the REM cycle of sleep, our bodies are paralysed. This evolved as a safety feature, ensuring that we do not act out our dreams and hurt ourselves. Sleep paralysis can be seen as the opposite of sleepwalking. When you sleepwalk, the brain is still asleep but it is no longer paralysed, when you suffer from sleep paralysis, the body is paralysed as if you were asleep but the brain is awake.
Many people believe that sleep paralysis is the explanation behind a number of different mythical and paranormal phenomena, including ‘old hag’ spirits of old and more recent alien abduction stories. Often when these stories are analysed, they show all the traits of sleep paralysis.
The best thing you can do if you awake but cannot move is to not panic. Of course, this sounds impossible, but it is only a temporary paralysis and panicking will only exacerbate the situation. Many doctors recommend simply trying to fall back to sleep as this is the best way of overcoming it.
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