Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sleep Paralysis or something like that

I’m not yet comfortable being called an “expert” to this because the first time it happened to me, I can still freshly remember how I literally freaked out and vowed I won’t ever go back to sleep again without installing some medical interventions. Having a person beside me just won’t do because they wouldn’t really know the difference if you’re “awake” or not. I’m talking about Sleep Paralysis.

The first time this happened to me was when I was sick, sometime in grade school. I seldom get high fever and if I did it would mean immediately mean bed rest for me. When I’m sick, I move whenever I can, have a weak appetite and have naps in between cartoons. In one of those sick afternoons, I was watching Tiger Sharks in Channel 9 and the next thing I knew was I drifted into sleep. I slept and wasn’t aware of the time until I already knew I’ve already stepped out of dreamland because I heard and SAW that the maid entered my room and turned off the TV. I was ready to tell her not to and leave it open, when I couldn’t find my voice. In my head I was screaming and talking, but there was no sound. I tried to move and stand up, but I can’t. My mind was actively awake, but my body was paralyzed. I could see how our maid picked up some stuff and cleaned random things in my room, while I was trying to catch her attention, screaming frightening insanities in my head. I thought I was going to die.

After a minute or two, I tried to stop screaming and began imagining my life as paralyzed. Since I haven’t experienced it before, I didn’t know what to do. I thought, so this is what paralysis feels like. If I’m awake and I hear and see things perfectly, how come my maid didn’t think of me as a nutcase if she could actually see my eyes open and wild? Was my spirit the one who saw and heard everything and just hadn’t gotten the chance to enter my body? Or were my senses already awake, but I just couldn’t command my body to speak and move? Too much thinking, coupled with fear made me close my eyes and relax. After a few minutes, I could already move my feet, my fingers and just like a captive in ropes, I jumped out of the bed, went after our maid and told her everything.

Naturally my maid told me that I was possessed. In fairness to her, I did think of that too, but there must be a medical explanation to this. When my mom came home from the office, I told her the whole story eliminating all possible suggestion of possession. My mother just told me that I was too fat and I needed to exercise.

I was afraid to sleep without someone beside me, but I was trying my best to figure out what went wrong. For a couple of days, I prayed before I sleep and slightly exercised while I’m at it.

It didn’t happen to me again. I thought it was a one time thing, until it happened again in high school and more instances in college. At that time I already knew what to do. When I found out that I couldn’t move, I just tried to sleep again and make fun of the whole situation. I eventually came out safe and refreshed. There were times that I really had to get up because I was suffering from a major desire to pee, and I’d hate to explain it to everyone in the house if ever I did pee in my bed. In times like that I move my extremities. I move my fingers, my feet until I influence my whole body to wake up. It usually needs utmost concentration.

This is also confirmed by one of my psychology professors in college. She even mentioned about an invisible string of spirit and body through the navel. When we sleep our souls go up, but still tied down to our bodies through our navel or something like that. The point is it’s veering from a natural to a symptomatic neuron internal issue that one just has to manage. So now that every time this happens, I am an “expert” enough not to panic and do what I have to do, either to sleep or move my extremities really hard. The many instances also made me realize that this “sleep paralysis” happens usually on stressful times. Times when didn’t get enough sleep, or if I’m sick, if I’m anxious about something or if I’m upset. It figures.

Last night, I stayed late at the office and had a slightly stressful occasion on some wrong process that we’ve made. As a result, some people were stressed by it and inefficiency is something we do not take lightly here. We were stressed enough to find ways in covering the issue and consulting with people. I went home extremely late, upset somebody who was waiting for me and in short had a very upsetting late night drama. I wasn’t able to sleep on time, my mind and heart are tired, my eyes are tired and I woke up at 5:30 in the morning. I lack sleep. I was stressed and I was upset. Three major whammies that will contribute to the double whammy sleep paralysis I’ve encountered this morning.

After a creamy breakfast of toasted bagel with Cream Cheese and Pulpy orange at 7, I went to my office, logged on my computer and started reading online news when I felt my body crashing to sleep. I turned off my computer, went at a secluded area and slept. A couple of minutes while listening to Robbie Williams’ Angel, I finally drifted to Lala Land. Until I heard someone near me, opened his computer, tinkered with his key and opened his drawers. Damn it. I was already awake. But suddenly I couldn’t move. I did what I had to do and slept again. The next consecutive instance was when I woke up again and heard two colleagues of mine talking about an upcoming basketball game. The voices are clear and I could easily jump into their conversation (If I know anything about basketball), but then I found myself paralyzed again. A consecutive instance happens rarely. I waited a couple of minutes and I still couldn’t move. I began to shift my foot. I concentrated moving my foot in whatever way and tried to shake my fingers. My jaws were chattering and I knew my body was already picking up. In a few seconds I was awake with loud bang of headache. People around me were surprised to see me in a sordid state, like a vegetable with unruly hair and pale disposition. I shared with them my experience this morning and some were bothered when I really wasn’t because it’s been happening ever since.

This is called Sleep Paralysis or Hypnopompic or Postdormital form to be scientific. The sufferers usually feel that they are awake, but have difficulty moving. The experience can produce great anxiety and fear, as the sufferer will struggle to wake up.

Sleep Paralysis, according to, is a normal condition. The body secretes hormones which relax certain muscles and prevent you from acting out your dreams. If it goes on reverse (in my case), the hormone doesn’t wear off fast enough as you wake up. Thus, sufferer would remain paralyzed though conscious.

It isn’t harmful in vast majority of cases. The after effects may include a period of fright followed by a period of restlessness. Regular sufferers will find it easier to cope with episodes of Sleep Paralysis, as deep down they know that it causes no lasting effects and does not pass in time.

If you want to break an episode of sleep paralysis, move your eyelids, extremities or whatever small body parts first. You can change your sleeping partner if they’re useless in waking you up whenever they hear muffled cries. Changing sleeping positions is also advised.

So if this thing happens, trust me and just sleep. I may not be an expert in sleep disorders, but I’m still here aren’t I?

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