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  • Imagine this:

  • You're fast asleep

  • when all of a sudden you're awoken!

  • And not by your alarm clock.

  • Your eyes open,

  • and there's a demon sitting on your chest,

  • pinning you down.

  • You try to open your mouth and scream,

  • but no sound comes out.

  • You try to get up and run away,

  • but you realize that you are completely immobilized.

  • The demon is trying to suffocate you,

  • but you can't fight back.

  • You've awoken into your dream,

  • and it's a nightmare.

  • It sounds like a Stephen King movie,

  • but it's actually a medical condition

  • called sleep paralysis,

  • and about half of the population

  • has experienced this strange phenomenon

  • at least once in their life.

  • This panic-inducing episode

  • of coming face-to-face with the creatures

  • from your nightmares

  • can last anywhere from seconds to minutes

  • and may involve visual or auditory hallucinations

  • of an evil spirit

  • or an out-of-body feeling like you're floating.

  • Some have even mistaken sleep paralysis

  • for an encounter with a ghost

  • or an alien abduction.

  • In 1867, Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell

  • was the first medical professional

  • to study sleep paralysis.

  • "The subject awakes to consciousness

  • of his environment

  • but is incapable of moving a muscle.

  • Lying to all appearance, still asleep.

  • He's really engaged for a struggle for movement,

  • fraught with acute mental distress.

  • Could he but manage to stir,

  • the spell would vanish instantly."

  • Even though Dr. Mitchell was the first

  • to observe patients in a state of sleep paralysis,

  • it's so common that nearly every culture

  • throughout time has had some kind

  • of paranormal explanation for it.

  • In medieval Europe, you might think that an incubus,

  • a sex-hungry demon in male form,

  • visited you in the night.

  • In Scandinavia, the mare,

  • a damned woman,

  • is responsible for visiting sleepers

  • and sitting on their rib cages.

  • In Turkey, a jinn holds you down

  • and tries to strangle you.

  • In Thailand, Phi Am bruises you while you sleep.

  • In the southern United States,

  • the hag comes for you.

  • In Mexico, you could blame

  • subirse el muerto, the dead person, on you.

  • In Greece, Mora sits upon your chest

  • and tries to asphyxiate you.

  • In Nepal, Khyaak the ghost

  • resides under the staircase.

  • It may be easier to blame

  • sleep paralysis on evil spirits

  • because what's actually happening in your brain

  • is much harder to explain.

  • Modern scientists believe that sleep paralysis

  • is caused by an abnormal overlap

  • of the REM, rapid eye movement,

  • and waking stages of sleep.

  • During a normal REM cycle,

  • you're experiencing a number of sensory stimuli

  • in the form of a dream,

  • and your brain is unconscious and fully asleep.

  • During your dream,

  • special neurotransmitters are released,

  • which paralyze almost all of your muscles.

  • That's called REM atonia.

  • It's what keeps you from running in your bed

  • when you're being chased in your dreams.

  • During an episode of sleep paralysis,

  • you're experiencing normal components of REM.

  • Your dreaming and your muscles are paralyzed,

  • only your brain is conscious and wide awake.

  • This is what causes you to imagine

  • that you're having an encounter

  • with a menacing presence.

  • So this explains the hallucinations,

  • but what about the feelings of panic,

  • strangling,

  • choking,

  • chest pressure

  • that so many people describe?

  • Well during REM,

  • the function that keeps you

  • from acting out your dreams,

  • REM atonia,

  • also removes voluntary control

  • of your breathing.

  • Your breath becomes more shallow

  • and rapid.

  • You take in more carbon dioxide

  • and experience a small blockage of your airway.

  • During a sleep paralysis episode,

  • a combination of your body's fear response

  • to a perceived attack by an evil creature

  • and your brain being wide awake

  • while your body is in an REM sleep state

  • triggers a response for you to take in more oxygen.

  • That makes you gasp

  • for air,

  • but you can't

  • because REM atonia

  • has removed control of your breath.

  • This struggle for air while your body sleeps

  • creates a perceived sensation

  • of pressure on the chest

  • or suffocation.

  • While a few people experience

  • sleep paralysis regularly

  • and it may be linked to sleep disorders

  • such as narcolepsy,

  • many who experience an episode of sleep paralysis

  • do so infrequently,

  • perhaps only once in a lifetime.

  • So you can rest easy,

  • knowing that an evil entity is not trying

  • to haunt,

  • possess,

  • strangle,

  • or suffocate you.

  • Save that for the horror films!

Imagine this:

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B2 TED-Ed sleep paralysis paralysis rem sleep chest

【TED-Ed】The terrors of sleep paralysis - Ami Angelowicz

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    VoiceTube posted on 2013/11/08
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