‘Sleep is as close to death as we get’
– The Devil in The Room
The first time it happened to me, I was frankly terrified. Who wouldn’t be? To be trapped in your own body, unable to move, unable to utter a single sound, unable to open your eyes– at the same time, feeling the sense of panic increasing along with the intensity of the footsteps coming nearer and nearer till it stopped right beside you stifling you, crushing you with its malicious aura and you knew with terrible certainty that the intruder was looking down at you, you completely helpless and at its mercy.
Sleep paralysis is even more common than we think. Even though it is harmless, the sense of being paralysed along with the various hallucinations conjured up by the human mind which can be very creative at the most inconvenient times; it can be quite a horrifying experience.
So, what is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is the temporary inability to move or speak that occurs upon falling asleep or waking up. There are 2 types- Hypnopampic that occurs while waking up and Hypnogogic that occurs while falling asleep.
During sleep, our body alternates between REM and NREM. During REM, the brain had vivid dreams while the muscles of the body are relaxed. Sleep paralysis occurs when a person wakes up before REM is finished thus having consciousness but with the muscles still relaxed and the body’s ability to move not turned back on yet.
The episodes may last for a few seconds to a few minutes, may be a single episode or a series of them throughout lifetime and tend to first appear during the teen years. Not really sure what the cause is. It may vary from simple anxiety and stress to mental or sleep disorders. Treatment has the usual ‘maintain your sleep hygiene’ notes.
There are studies saying that one’s sleeping position also plays a certain factor.
For me, it happens in the sleeping position I am most comfortable with so it’s a little hard to not naturally get into that position when I’m drowsy.
There is a malevolent presence that makes itself known each time I’m alone. If the door is locked, my ears will pick up the sound of someone leisurely unlocking the door as if it knew that it had all the time in the world. And then it just gets worse and I find it increasingly difficult to breathe.
Sometimes the experience may even be a pleasant one, like someone whom I’ve missed a lot had come to visit me, sometimes from beyond the grave not normally- not in zombie style.
If there is someone with me, there is no evil presence, but I am unable to communicate. Sometimes I may manage to open one of my eyes and the book I am trying to read starts sinking into the mattress and I become more and more annoyed only to realise with an internal groan that my eyes are shut after all. I just thought I opened them.
Most of the times by making a supreme effort I break out of it; other times I really have no choice but to wait for it to pass.
What’s even more annoying is that my mind feels all groggy and I feel cheated of the usual refreshing alertness promised by slumber… particularly during exams.