Have you ever woken up and found yourself unable to move? Or sensed a presence in the room? That is called Sleep Paralysis. It’s a disorder that affects millions of people. Lasting from up to a few seconds to minutes and hours, sleep paralysis triggers fear and panics. The disorder has been connected to such hallucination events such as alien abduction. Even in the novel from Moby Dick by Herman Melville, one of the characters experience a episode of sleep paralysis in where he saw a evil presence in the room. There are various explanations to this disorder from religious and cultural beliefs, to scientific explanations.  Now, studies suggest that this can be a heritable cause. What is Sleeping Paralysis? Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking up. The brain relaxes all the muscles in the body while the person is asleep which is called “Atonia”. This is for the person cant hurt themselves or act out while dreaming. (American Sleep Association, “Sleep Paralysis”)What Causes Sleep Paralysis? Sleep Paralysis is caused by the person body waking up before the REM (Rapid-Eye-Movement) stage is finished. During sleep, the body switches between REM to NREM stage (Non-Rapid-Eye-Movement). One cycle of both stages last about 90 minutes. The first stage to occur is the NREM and it generally takes 75% of the person sleep time. During this stage, the body relaxes and restores itself. After its done, the person sleep shifts to REM. In this stage the person eyes moves rapidly and dreams starts to happen. The body remains calm and the muscles are “turned off’. When the person becomes aware of their surroundings before the cycle is over, thats what causes the inability to move or speak. (American Sleep Association, “Sleep Paralysis”) (Brandon Peters, “What causes sleep paralysis  and how can it be avoided”)Symptoms The symptoms can vary from each person. A person will need to have at least two of the following symptoms to be diagnoseThe Feeling of being “Awake” Awake during the episodeNot having the ability to moveOne of the first components to be noticed by the person. Sometimes is ascribe to an   outside    forceRealistic Perception of the EnvironmentThe surroundings of the person is changes. For example. The objects around the bed are distinctive.Having Fear A sense of Fear can go along with it and can be connected to the feeling of death or dying.Pressure on the ChestWhen the person feels bring pressed down pntp the chest. The pressure can be sensual or the  outcome of an external force pushing down onto the chestSenses Presence It May be a sense of “Evil” in the roomHaving Trouble breathing This accompanies with the pressure on the chest or of fearSupine Position When the person lays on their backHellucinations – Being able to see figures around the room Historical Accounts of SP   Throughout the history of medicine, this disorder can be documented for at least 300 years. When a doctor in 1664 named Isbrand Van Diemerbroek describe one of his patient having a nightmare, stating that “She could hardly speak or breath and when she endeavoured to throw off the burthen, she was not able to stir her members”. In his r eport he also gave the cause of his patience dreaming, ” because the motion of his muscles, for the most time cease in time of sleep, except for the respiratory muscle” Doctor Van is basically giving the modern cause of sleeping paralysis, the body muscles relaxes to prevent any damage from him or herself (The sleep Paralysis Project, “Culture and History”). The earliest written account can be taken back to 400 B.C in a chinese book of dreaming. In the book, it’s been referred to as a nightmare instead. They called it “gui-ya” which means ghost pressure, the chinese believe that the ghost sat on the victim and assaulted him or her at the same time. (Jose F. R. de Sa and Sergio A. Mota, “Sleep Paralysis in Brazilian folklore and other culturals”)SP connected to Alien AbductionMost of the Reports of alien abduction has the same traits as those in sleep paralysis. Both cases are describe as being paralyzed  and unable to move. They both are in a supine position that can cause hallucinations. In a 1993 study by Spanos and French El, it showed that 60% of UFO are related to sleep. (Nicholas D. Kristof, “Alien Abduction? Science calls it sleep paralysis”).  Furthermore in another study in 2008 by French el, found out that people who claim to have alien abduction reported having sleep paralysis more than a control group. With that information it can conclude the idea that alien abduction is just a form of sleep paralysis myth.Cultural Explanations In Japan, they use a nocturnal attacker called “Kanashabari” in which it means “to tie in a iron rope” is obtained from a Buddhist God called Fudoh-Myohoh. The proposition of being tied up comes from the beliefs of ancient monks could be able to paralyze people using magic with a metal rope. In modern day Japan, People still believe that evil spirits influence Kanashibari. The Symptoms are identical to Sleep Paralysis. (Yokai.com, “Kanashibari) In other parts of the world such as the Caribbean, the common term for sleep paralysis is “kokma”.  Kokma is believe when dead babies that haven’t been baptized goes and strangle their victims.  Also, in other African cultures, sleep paralysis is the result of Voodoo, with zombie attacking people in the night. ( Karen Emslie, “Awake in a Nightmare”)Religion Beliefs In Most religions such as Christianity, they are believed that the causes of sleep paralysis is due to ghost, demons, and negative energy.  Using a person sixth sense, they are capable of presenting the spirits and even seeing them. They don’t believe that it’s hallucinations because of the sixth sense. Research by the SSRF showed that only 3 percent of God believers had experience sleep paralysis while non-believers has 20 percent.  The frequency rate of a non believer experiencing sleep paralysis is five times more than a believer.  The researchers stated that because of the god seekers believing in god that they have a higher protection from it. (Spiritual science research foundation, “Sleep Paralysis”)Christianity was also the first to associate the nightmare with erotic dreams. They believe in the demon called “incubi” and “succubi” who sexually harass the people during their episode of sleep paralysis. Incubi is the male version of the demon and Succubi is the female demon that took advantage of men throughout their sleep. To repel the demon, they recommend to call the name of “Jesus christ” on doing this will scare the demons away. (John Cline, “Incubus attack”) Sleep Paralysis connected to Genetics Specialist studied a group of over 800 twins and sibling in whether or not they have encountered Sleep Paralysis. The outcomes demonstrated that hereditary qualities were mostly the fault for the phenomenon. Doctor Denis and his associated utilized the information from 862 twins either identical or non and other regular siblings between the ages 22 and 32.  In the study, the participants needed to agree with the statement that, “sometimes, when falling asleep or waking up from sleep, i experience a brief period during which i feel i am unable to move, even though i think i am awake and conscious of my surroundings”. (Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer, “Sleep Paralysis linked to genetics”).  The label “sleep paralysis” wasn’t utilize in that statement to prevent miscalculations.  After that, they compared the answers of the siblings to those of the identical and non identical twin, the specialist found out that their genes counts for over 50 percent of sleep paralysis. The researchers began to look into singles genes that can be the cause of SP.  They found out that people who carries the gene called PER2 are most likely to have the disorder. That gene is connected to the daily cycles of alertness called “circadian rhythms”. In Another study, a single family was found that within the 64 members,  about half (33 of them) stated that they had sleep paralysis at least one time in their life.  In the second family, with a total of 22 members only 19 of them reported to have sleep paralysis. Comparing these results, it gives evidence that genetics play part of sleeping paralysis. (Dan Denis, “A twin and moleculr genetics study of sleep paralysis and associated factors”) Patients that suffers from Narcolepsy also experience sleep paralysis. When it occurs outside narcolepsy, its called isolated sleep paralysis Conclusion There are many factors that contributes to the disorder called Sleep Paralysis. It can range from Demons to Ghost to just a figment of a person imagination. Each explanation to this Phenomenon is peculiar to one another. Religious People believe it to be the work of the devil, Culturals believes in a beast and ghost, and modern day science believe it to occurs just because the simple fact that there’s stages of our sleep that people at time, can become aware of it before its finish. When a person has a family member or siblings that has experienced with sleep paralysis, themselves can have a higher chance of experiencing it as well. This is due to a gene called PER2 that common family members share. That gene is responsible to the sleeping and awakening stage of the person. Due to the studies made, Genetics does plays role in sleep paralysis.


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