Thursday, 28 April 2016

A waking nightmare

I found an article about sleep that really caught my eye, as I absolutely dread sleep paralysis. I'm sure I'm not the only one to experience this disturbing event, so I decided to share it with you. Here's a slightly edited version of the article:

As you fall asleep each night, the electrical nerve impulses are cut off between your muscles and your brain. Your brain can still tell your body to do stuff, such as run away from some terrible danger (REM), but your body won’t respond (atonia).
  • REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement (the sleep phase linked with dreaming)
  • Atonia means lack of muscle tension
Having atonia while dreaming is ok, it keeps you safe by stopping you from acting out your dreams, but if you wake up when your body is still in a state of atonia, you experiment sleep paralysis. It's quite frightening, but here are some tricks that may work for you:
  1. Relax your body into the paralysis. Don’t fight it forcefully, as this creates panic and increases the chance of having scary hallucinations.
  2. Try to gently wiggle your fingers and toes. These tiny movements will eventually tell your brain that your body is awake and to stop the atonia.
  3. Try to move your eyes by blinking and looking around the room. Again, the goal is to establish waking-like movements to fully awaken your brain and body together.
  4. Try to move your lips and facial muscles.
  5. Focus on breathing as slowly and deeply as you can. If your breathing feels restricted, remember that you have been breathing fine like this while asleep for hours.
  6. Maintain a calm and positive mental state. Focus on relaxing thoughts. Imagine a beach in the sun, a million miles away from the darkness of your bedroom. Sing an upbeat song in your mind.
  7. The Ultimate Method We know — we said 6 ways, but this is the single best way to wake up from sleep paralysis and it’s really in a class of its own. When you realize you are in SP, scrunch up your face. In other words, make a face like you just smelled something bad. Snarl and squint. Do this two or three times in a row and the paralysis will break IMMEDIATELY. We’re not sure why it is so effective, but unlike the pinky wiggle, this method is foolproof.
After you wake up, get out of bed immediately and turn on a light. Wash your face with cold water. If you just stay in bed, the chance of sliding right back into sleep paralysis is pretty high.