There are two causes of sleep paralysis, depending on what school of thought you tend to subscribe to. If sleep paralysis frightens you and you dread going to bed every night, you’ve certainly wondered if there is a way to prevent sleep paralysis. If you’re like me, however, you welcome sleep paralysis every chance you get.
According to sleep experts, sleep paralysis is caused by the malfunction with the mechanism in the brain that paralyzes you during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This is when you are dreaming.
The mechanism prevents you from moving so that you don’t physically act out your dreams. This way, if you’re dreaming you’re fighting off a home intruder, you won’t give your bed partner a black eye.
When the dream stage (REM) ends, the mechanism is supposed to shut off. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t; it lags behind, and as a result, you exit the dream and become aware of awakening. But you are paralyzed. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s a sensational feeling, because it doesn’t seem like the same kind of immobility that a person with a spinal cord injury would experience.
You absolutely cannot move; you can’t even flinch a muscle, yet you can FEEL. No matter how hard you try, movement is impossible. However, every time I have sleep paralysis, I can move my eyelids, strangely enough. I also believe I can move my lips and make grunting sounds. But I am never able to keep my eyes open for long during sleep paralysis; they feel heavy and weighted down, and the weight soon takes over and forces me to close my eyes. But I can always reopen them moments later.
Sleep paralysis supposedly lasts seconds to a minute, but I swear that mine can last a full 2-3 minutes.
The paranormal explanation is that you are on the brink of an out of body experience; or, you just had an out of body experience and have just re-entered your body. But the re-entry isn’t complete; you’re still somewhat disengaged from your body; hence, the paralysis, yet full conscious awareness of the event. You’re not quite “in” your body yet.
This theory isn’t all that half-baked, because 100 percent of the time that I have sleep paralysis, I have just come off from a lucid flight dream that was strikingly realistic; in the “dream,” I was cruising above majestic canyons or valleys, feeling like a bird, and there was nobody else in the “dream.” The flight is always vividly real, and I am fully aware that I am “dreaming.”
My sleep paralysis never, ever follows some crazy dream in which I had no idea I was dreaming.
I like to experiment when I have sleep paralysis by slipping in and out of it at will. When the sleep paralysis ends, there is a very brief window of opportunity during which I can will myself to slip back into it. I am not able to describe how I do this, but the opportunity lasts only several seconds after the paralysis ends. If I wait too long, I will not be able to slip back into it.
I can do this back and forth several times. For those of you who are skeptics, sleep paralysis can easily be proven objectively by the person experiencing it. I have proven it many times by taking note of the precise configuration of the crinkles and folds in my bed sheets, plus the position of my arm and hand, as I am lying there unable to move. Remember, I can keep my eyes open long enough to gather this visual information.
When the sleep paralysis ends, I fully open my eyes and sure enough, I am viewing the exact configuration that I had moments ago mentally recorded. I have also noted the precise time, and upon exiting the sleep paralysis, have noted that the time was within a minute or two of what I had noted during the experience.
Sleep paralysis is nothing to fear, even if the Old Hag syndrome accompanies it. For people who wish to minimize this experience, practice stress management; get adequate sleep; plenty of exercise; and if you take anti-anxiety drugs, these may encourage sleep paralysis, though that’s only conjecture and hasn’t been proven scientifically. The experience is also more likely to occur if you are on your back.