If you’ve ever had sleep paralysis, you know how terrifying it can be. You wake up in the middle of the night in darkness and can’t move your arms or legs. Then you try to yell out, but you can’t speak. Some also report feeling a negative presence in the room that is trying to harm them or putting pressure on their chest. If you have ever suffered from this type of experience, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, a study found that 28 percent of students had experienced sleep paralysis. In addition, 7.6 percent of the world’s population has encountered at least one attack of sleep paralysis in their lives (via Science Alert).
In fact, this phenomenon first dates back to the 17th century, according to Medical News Today. The case was first reported by Dutch physician Isbrand Van Diembroeck, who wrote he had a 50 year-old patient that complained of mysterious experiences at night. “[W]hen she was composing her self to sleep,” explained Van Diembroeck, “sometimes she believed the devil lay upon her and held her down, sometimes that she was [choked] by a great dog or thief lying upon her breast, so that she could hardly speak or [breathe], and when she endeavored to throw off the [burden], she was not able to stir her members.” So how do experts currently define and treat this frightening condition?
How to help get rid of sleep paralysis
According to a study via Science Direct, researchers define sleep paralysis as “a common, generally benign, parasomnia characterized by brief episodes of inability to move or speak combined with waking consciousness.” If you’re struggling with this, Medical News Today has some suggestions to help alleviate sleep paralysis symptoms like trying to not fall asleep on your back. Laying on your back seems to be the most common way of experiencing this sleep condition.
Medical News Today also recommends doing everything you can to get uninterrupted sleep during the night. Repeatedly waking up at night has been shown as a potential risk factor. Avoiding stimulants like coffee, tobacco or alcohol could also be helpful in achieving peaceful sleep. Practicing meditation and relaxation techniques before bed could also help to quiet your mind. In addition, trying to move your fingers and toes during sleep paralysis has been shown to help disrupt it. Lastly, if you struggle with this regularly and think it could be related to stress or anxiety, it could be worth looking into cognitive behavioral therapy.
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