Sleep paralysis what is it? ‘I can see, but my body cannot move’ | NOW
Sunseeree (31) has been paralyzed in bed at night since she was twelve. “I feel wide awake. I can see, but I can’t move or speak.” Sunseeree shares her experience with sleep paralysis and pulmonologist-somnologist Reinier de Groot explains exactly what this sleep disorder brings with it.
People suffer from sleep paralysis (or sleep analysis) when they step into or out of REM sleep. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is the part of the sleep cycle where you process memories and emotions, says Reinier de Groot, medical director and pulmonologist-somnologist at the Dutch Sleep Institute (NSI).
“To prevent you from doing the movements you dream of during REM sleep, there is strong muscle relaxation. When you wake up, you immediately regain normal muscle strength. However, there is a delay in people with sleep paralysis wake up and can’t move but can see with their eyes, “says De Groot. The cause of the sleep paralysis is unknown, he says.
“Sometimes I feel present in my room. Once I saw a figure next to my bed. Not a person as we know them, more like a shadow. “
Approximately 7.6 percent of the world’s population will ever suffer from sleep paralysis. With Sunseeree, it occurs when she tries to fall asleep. “You feel your body drop. You can see that you are falling into this sleep paralysis, but there is nothing you can do about it.”
The body does not go through the sleep phases smoothly in sleep paralysis. Since the brain is in a kind of dream mode, hallucinations can accompany it. Sunseeree says: “Sometimes I feel present in my room. Once I saw a figure next to my bed. Not a person as we know them, more like a shadow. That was terrifying.”
“You are conscious, but the reality is gone. I hear buzzing, squeaking or music and see colors. At one point it seemed like my body was vibrating from head to toe. It felt like I was leaving my body. Very creepy.”
Although sleep paralysis is a scary experience, nothing can go wrong physically, says the pulmonologist-somnologist. “We can only reassure people and explain exactly what is happening. And most importantly, emphasize that it always recovers and does not lead to physical complications.”
Affect emotions and stress
“When I was in my early twenties, I just lived alone. You grow up and go through a lot. In such stressful times I have more problems with it,” says Sunseeree.
De Groot agrees: “Emotions and stress certainly have an influence. This also applies to drugs and alcohol, for example. We advise people with sleep paralysis: Live a healthy life and ensure a good sleep rhythm.” Sunseeree decided to keep her eyes closed after being paralyzed several times. “You never know what’s coming, so I’d rather keep my eyes closed. Then I can’t see any scary things.”
She doesn’t know how long such sleep paralysis lasts. According to De Groot, it can be seconds or a few minutes. “I had sleep paralysis three times a night,” says Sunseeree. “The worst thing of all is that I can’t move.”
“It helps when I feel my husband’s warmth in bed, the feeling that someone is with me. I also concentrate on my breathing and try to relax. When my husband is not at home, I sleep with the lights on. I have the idea that this will help. But it remains lazy. “