It’s been a horrifying experience that has plagued mankind for centuries. But what exactly is it?
Throughout history, it was believed that when someone was conscious while lying in bed but unable to move or speak, a demon was sitting on their chest (traditionally a succubus or incubus). In recent years, the explanation has moved from biblical demons to alien encounters.
Despite the terror one might feel when they wake up and are unable to move, sleep paralysis is more common than you might think and there’s plenty of scientific explanations for it.
As much as 50% of people have experienced sleep paralysis at least once in their life, and some people experience it periodically through their lives. Hallucinations run rampant during these episodes (explaining away the demons and aliens people have claimed to see while paralyzed), it usually lasts a few minutes, and almost always instills fear in the victims.
Paralysis during sleep is actually very common, but you’re generally unconscious at the time. Sleep paralysis occurs as someone slowly wakes up, and is believed to be a dysfunction in the REM cycle.
No one knows for sure what causes sleep paralysis, but it’s believed it can be brought on by sleep deprivation, psychological stress, and abnormal sleep cycles.
But a word to the wise: don’t test your luck with the documentary Nightmare on Netflix. Whether there’s a scientific explanation to sleep paralysis or not, it’s still terrifying.
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