If you’ve never experienced sleep paralysis, then count your blessings. It’s perhaps one of the most horrific things I have ever experienced, and until I realized what was causing it, I thought I had lost my mind.

For those who’ve never experienced it, sleep paralysis is the feeling of being paralyzed in your sleep, but the kicker is that it feels like you are awake. Imagine laying in bed, not realizing you are asleep, and peering around the room. Suddenly, you feel as though you can’t move and terror fills your body. This is what sleep paralysis is like.

Many of us who have experienced this and don’t know any better immediately assume we are haunted. Or at least that was my experience. However, science offers a much better explanation that I will share with you.

What Is Happening?

According to both Cleveland Clinic and Harvard Health, when we begin to fall asleep, the brain sends signals that relax our arms and our legs. Due to this, we experience muscle atonia, which keeps us still when we are in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. When we endure sleep paralysis, our awareness comes back, but our muscles are still in atonia.

When this happens, people often hear and see things that are not there or experience hallucinations. Because of this, the experience of being paralyzed is made all the scarier. Hence, why people tend to think they are experiencing a demonic haunting.

What Causes It

While anyone can experience sleep paralysis, there are a few factors that largely contribute to it. I’ll go over them here.

1. Narcolepsy
2. Shift work (having to work a second or third shift job.)
3. Sleep deprivation.
4. Sleep apnea
5. Excessive alcohol consumption.
6. Drug abuse.
7. Some medications, such as Seroquel, or Adderall.
8. Sleep schedule changes.
9. Mental health issues such as anxiety or bipolar disorder.

How to Fix It

The vast majority of people who experience sleep paralysis do not need treatment. The only case in which you would be if it’s caused by a medicinal reaction or another underlying health condition. Other than that, here are some tips suggested by WebMD.

– Improve your sleep habits: Make sure that you are getting adequate sleep, and sticking to as much of a bedtime routine as possible. While not everyone can establish a hard and fast everyday routine, trying to adhere to one as much as possible is beneficial.

– Treat your mental health (if it causes it): If you have an underlying mental health issue, you may need to seek counseling or treatment for the disorder to alleviate symptoms.

– Exercise regularly: Exercising regularly can provide a myriad of benefits, including better sleep. Just be sure not to exercise within four hours before bed.

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