I’ve got to be honest, this is a post I didn’t think I’d ever be writing, however, over the last week I have experienced something quite horrible and it’s something that I hope I don’t experience again soon. Sleep Paralysis.
The first episode of sleep paralysis
It happened for the first time just over a week ago. I was getting ready for bed. I always check on the Little Man before I settle down so I did that and then got myself into bed. I have a little routine, I pop to the bathroom and then go and make sure his light is off (he has one of those children’s ceiling lights with dimmer switch). I went off to sleep as normal and shortly after dozing off I must have had a nightmare. I was dreaming that there was somebody in my house. It felt so very real. The dream was based in the upstairs of my house and in the rooms, I had been in before going to bed. It was all taking place at night time too and it was the same routine I had done just before I went to bed, even down to turning the light off. It was as if it was happening in real time. I think this is why it felt so real.
I can remember being lay in bed in my dream and knowing there was someone on the landing and all I could think about was my little boy in the other room. I tried to call out to my husband but nothing came out. I tried and tried with all my might but all I could manage was a whisper. So, I tried to get up and it was like there was dead weight on top of me. I couldn’t move no matter how hard I tried. It was hopeless. I have never been so frightened as I was there in the middle of the night.
Then the second
I don’t know how but eventually I managed to pull myself out of it. Of course, I then drifted back off to sleep only for it to happen again soon after. I don’t remember the story behind this dream but it was much the same all over again.
On waking properly the second time, I came to the conclusion that I needed to break my sleep cycle and after lying in the dark petrified for a few minutes, I grabbed my phone and looked up these horrible symptoms. The first thing that came up was sleep paralysis. On reading about it, it all kind of made sense.
What is Sleep Paralysis?
Good question. It’s easier if I let the professionals explain. This is what WebMD says about Sleep Paralysis:
A person experiencing sleep paralysis will find they are temporarily unable to move or speak when they wake up, or are falling asleep. This paralysis can last from seconds to minutes. While it can be frightening, sleep paralysis is not harmful to the body or overall health. Sleep paralysis may affect someone just once, or it may happen frequently, sometimes several times a night.
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking.
Up to as many as four out of every 10 people may have sleep paralysis. This common condition is often first noticed in the teenage years. But men and women of any age can have it. Sleep paralysis may run in families. Other factors that may be linked to sleep paralysis include:
So, by the time I had finished reading all of this it was pretty clear that it was what I was suffering from, but to this day I don’t understand why it happened to me so randomly. I have been getting much more sleep recently, down to a new routine that I’ve started and so the only thing that I can relate to from that list is that I was asleep on my back. At least I was the first night it happened.
The third episode
It happened again a couple of nights later and I know I was asleep on my side. The nightmare this time was that I was being bundled into my wardrobe in the corner of the bedroom, just a short distance from my bed and I was helpless.
Thankfully, this time because I had done my research I was able to tell myself that it wasn’t real and to try and keep calm. I’d read that wriggling a toe or finger is a way to bring your body out of the paralysis. Thankfully it worked.
It’s more common than you think
Obviously, after experiencing this I was keen to find out what other people’s experiences of it were and so I asked some blogger friends if they had ever suffered from this and I was astounded by the response I got. Take a look.
Karina, mumsthenerd.co.uk – I never experienced it until I reached my late 20’s, then all of a sudden it seemed to be a regular occurrence. It’s definitely stress induced for me. I remember the first time it happened, the dream was so vivid. It’s such a terrifying experience, I try to avoid sleeping on my back now as that seems to be a trigger.
Sophia, tattooedtealady.com – I’ve had sleep paralysis since I was a child, but only realised what it was when studying Psychology at University, as it’s something we covered in lectures. It was amazing to finally know what exactly I had been experiencing for most of my life! I’ve had them for so long now that mostly, I can manage it and not panic as much as I used to. It’s horrible to experience though, it can be quite terrifying!
Georgina, geegardner.co.uk – I have suffered from sleep paralysis randomly since a child. It’s terrifying and has made me afraid to sleep in the past. I find not sleeping on my back helps and also if I’m having an episode, concentration on moving my little finger helps bring me out of it.
Janet, falcondalelife.com – I suffer from it less now as I’m careful not to sleep on my back, which was my trigger. If I do rest on my back I use an extra pillow and make sure I have one hand free of the duvet. I had self-hypnosis training once, and the hypnotherapist told me that being able to wake myself from hypnosis would help me if sleep paralysis happened again. Hypnosis feels nice though, and sleep paralysis doesn’t!
Karen, grumpyishmum.co.uk – I suffered with it years ago. I couldn’t move, talk, or make any noise. I could only control the way I was breathing to try and get my husband’s attention. It lasted for months but went away on its own. Stress-induced.
Eva, captainbobcat.com – I’ve had it so many times! Not in the past few months luckily (probably because I’m so sleep deprived they stopped) but before that very often. To me, it always happens in the early morning hours or during an afternoon nap (they made me stop having an afternoon nap altogether). It’s something like your mind is fully awake but you can’t move your body and you try to scream and move and you can’t. Often you know what’s happening, thinking oh no, not again. It’s very scary. Sometimes, I was able to stop it by calming down, telling myself you know what’s happening, it will be over in a bit – but I’m not always fully awake to realise this. It’s a weird thing for sure!
Katy, katykicker.com – I suffer from sleep paralysis. When I lay there I find it helps to focus on moving my little finger first. Then slowly but surely I’m able to move more and come out of it. It’s so scary though!
Kaiden, kaidenlaverty.com – I had it throughout my childhood, up until I was around 20 years old. It then started happening only when I was stressed after that. Having it happen to you is one of the scariest things – as a child, I NEVER slept in my own bed because of it, I slept on the floor beside my parent’s bed. I would be just drifting off to sleep and suddenly, I would get a weird sensation run throughout my body and I couldn’t move. I would scream out for someone but according to them, all they heard was a slight noise. My Mum soon learnt that it was me asking her to wake me up. But most of the time, she never heard and all I could do was stay there and wait for it to pass. Over the years, I learnt the signs that it was going to happen and could wriggle myself out of it. My body would start to ‘paralyze’ but if I focused hard enough, I could get my arms to work and then the rest of my body would then start working too.
Nikki, glamandgeekymum.com – I experience a version of sleep paralysis quite frequently when I’m under large amounts of stress. The reason I call it a form of sleep paralysis is it matches sleep paralysis for all but one symptom, I never get the sense of dread or fear that others report. I get very frustrated when I can’t move but never scared. The trick to breaking off sleep paralysis though is not to fight it with your entire body. By concentrating on moving just one small body part (for me I wiggle my toe) it allows me to break from it. I’ve heard that works for a lot of other people too.
Epril, epsandamy.co.uk – I’ve had a really scary nightmare once, dreaming about a ghost in our house and As If like I’m awake. And in my dreams I’m trying to fight the ghost or soul by praying, I’m also shouting as in scared in my dreams. Thank God my husband woke me up as he says that he can hear me like talking or making a sound. My daughter said that was a sleep paralysis as I’m trying to do something but I can’t, even though I thought I was shouting. I think it’s a good idea if someone will wake you up if that will ever happen to you or also try to pray or move your finger. It’s like your conscious but your in a different world or situation which is out of your control. It’s hard to describe but it’s so scary. I think this happened to me few times and every time I’ve had it, I always try to pray or just fight it. This thing happened also to my husband and I knew it whenever he makes that sounds so I just woke him up and he thanked me for that as he’s having a bad dream.
Kim, brummiegalincardiff.co.uk – My Dad use to get this regularly – My mom said she always knew he was like it cos she could hear him make a slight noise ( he said he would be shouting at her ) so she would wake him up – he always thanked her xxx I’ve had it a couple of times and I honestly thought I was shouting too but woke up to hubby sleeping !haha! I felt like something /someone was sitting on my chest.
Sarah, whimsicalmumblings.co.uk – I’ve seen my husband suffer from it in the past. He told me I shouldn’t wake him but he did ask me to put the light on. It looked like a normal nightmare to me apart from he was having a normal conversation with me like he was awake!
I realise there are quite a few here, so well done if you have got to the end of this post! I included all of the responses I received because everybody’s experience is very different and I didn’t want to miss any out. Certainly after reading this, I know that this is definitely what I’ve experienced. It’s also reassuring to know that I’m not being silly by being frightened by it. I can’t describe how awful it is. There’s nothing worse than feeling so helpless when you feel your life is in danger, even if it isn’t real!
If anything, I hope this post helps someone who may have experienced sleep paralysis and hadn’t realised it. You are normal – WE are normal. But knowing how to cope with it I think is half the battle.
Have you any experience of sleep paralysis? How do you cope? Let me know in the comments.