Is Sleep Paralysis Real? Understanding It's Scientific Basis

Is Sleep Paralysis Real? Its Scientific Basis

Sleep paralysis was historically referred to as a "nightmare" and was related to spirit possession. Bloodletting and shaving the head was traditional therapies. Although science can now understand the disease, it remains a terrifying experience.

Lately, we are using the term "nightmare" to describe any frightening dream or uncomfortable experience, but until the late nineteenth century, the term "nightmare" was only used to describe sleep paralysis, a sleep disorder wherein the body is momentarily immobilised at the time of waking or falling asleep.

It is a mild, but widespread, body/mind problem that up to half of the population claims to have experienced at least once in their lives.

Sleep paralysis can be a sign of diseases such as narcolepsy or PTSD, however, these disorders do not always cause sleep paralysis.

Random instances of sleep paralysis are usually caused by a lack of sleep, a medical or anaesthetic mistake, or a high amount of stress. Because of the unpredictability of this parasomnia, it is all the more terrifying when it occurs.

The science of sleep paralysis: Sleep paralysis is a relatively simple disorder that is not dangerous.

It happens when the brain and body are not in sync when sleeping. During a 'typical night's sleep, we may anticipate the brain to send a message to the nervous system that relaxes the muscles to the point where they become inactive during sleep, preventing our bodies from acting out physically.

The brain delivers the order to cease or start the paralysis when it is woken to a waking state or when it goes into a sleeping (hypnagogic) state.

Sleep paralysis occurs when the procedure is carried out at the incorrect rate when the brain and body are out of sync. If the brain does not send the instruction to the muscles, the muscles remain asleep while our minds are awakened to consciousness, giving us the sensation of paralysis.

As this liminal condition endures, it triggers our limbic system, our emotional reaction centre, resulting in anxiety and terror. If a person is in the midst of a frightening dream, this sensation of anxiety is multiplied tenfold since there is generally a hangover that causes visual and aural hallucination.

Although our current understanding of neurology helps to explain sleep paralysis, it does not equal the extrasensory amazing experience of it. It's no surprise that it's been associated with paranormal entities throughout history, from demons to aliens.

Riding with the demons:

The Western idea of the nightmare is laden with historical interpretations derived from the tale of the incubus. A demon known as the incubus was blamed for your unpleasant nightmares from ancient Mesopotamia through the Roman Empire.

The incubus, from the Latin 'to sit on,' rested on top of your chest, creating terrifying nightmares and physical immobility, becoming the earliest documented explanation of sleep paralysis.

The name "mare" derives from the Old Norse form of the incubus, the mara, which comes from the verb merran, which means "crusher." A mara is a person with magical abilities who 'ride' their victim for the thrill of sheer evil.

Today, the beast of sleep paralysis has reincarnated as an extra-terrestrial abduction, exploiting our fear of the mysterious world that surrounds us.

Nightmarish therapy:

There is presently no approved treatment for sleep paralysis, although doctors suggest that maintaining a regular sleep pattern might help reduce parasomnia episodes. However, the first therapies for incubus and nightmares were sometimes as terrifying as the event itself.

In the seventh century, Byzantine physician Paulus Aegineta made the first reference of a cure for sleep paralysis. Paulus describes in one of his seven books on the history of medicine that the most typical treatment for the problem was "bleeding, extreme purgatives, and rubbing of the extremities.

"Paulus focused on the head as the cause of the disease, implying that if the foregoing treatments failed, cupping and scarification of the throat, a limited diet, and shaving of the head would.

Sleep paralysis was considered demonic possession throughout the Christian era, and persons suffering from it were treated with prayers and exorcism.

However, when the Age of Enlightenment dawned, demons faded and medical care shifted toward our current understandings of scientific observation, resulting in a shift in the management of sleep paralysis.

Possibility for creativity:

We understand what sleep paralysis is and how to manage it, yet it still frightens us. The most intriguing aspect of sleep paralysis is that it happens while the mind has perfect control: the body's senses are constrained, and the imagination has virtually complete reign.

What happens when we orient ourselves through touch, fine-tuned hearing, and crisp vision are all at the mercy of our brain's misfiring? The initial feeling of the depths of uncontrolled consciousness is referred to as sleep paralysis.

It permits the imagination to expand beyond the logical limits of reality, blurring the lines between waking and daydreaming life, making it a significant tool for artists throughout history.

The experience of sleep paralysis teaches us about the power of uncontrolled imagination. This is why the study of sleep paralysis is essentially a study of cultural storytelling.

Sleep paralysis has been utilised to portray the drama of an unconstrained imagination and the dark corners of the psyche in everything from the book to visual art, theatre to music.

The experience of sleep paralysis not only impacts an individual's awareness at the time of awakening or falling asleep, but also has left a permanent imprint on our perspective of reality in Western civilization.

Written By - Tanya C

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