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Paralyzed in sleep

In My Eyes: By Edward Antonio

This really happened to me, fellas.

I woke up after 10 minutes of sleeping with my eyes focused on what seemed to be a human face on top of our cabinet. There’s this silhouette figure of a woman’s head, with its hair flowing back and forth. I presumed she was staring at me.

I tried to get up. I was able to, but with much effort, only to find out later I did not get up at all from bed! I was still lying down. I was half-sleep.

I panicked for a while. I really could not move! Did I suffer an attack and now paralyzed?

My father, now 83, called it batibat. In English, it’s called the Old Hag Syndrome. He once said that when this thing would occur on me (he always had it), I must focus on moving my toes and my fingers and must try to kick my legs as hard as I could.

Which I did, fellas.

I finally woke up with my ears still ringing and my mind still half-closed. My legs were heavy, but I managed to go to the kitchen I gulped a glass of water. When I went back to our room, I found out that the figure on top of the cabinet is my DSLR camera bag with its strap dangling down.

Since then, I knew what to do. I never had it again after I drank a glass of water before lying down at night.

Stephen Wagner calls it the Old Hag Syndrome or sleep paralysis.

The name of the phenomenon comes from the superstitious belief that a witch – or an old hag – sits or “rides” the chest of the victims, rendering them immobile. Although that explanation isn’t taken very seriously nowadays, the perplexing and often very frightening nature of the phenomenon leads many people to believe that there are supernatural forces at work – ghosts or demons.

The experience is so frightening because the victims, although paralyzed, seem to have full use of their senses.

In fact, it is often accompanied by strange smells, the sound of approaching footsteps, apparitions of weird shadows or glowing eyes, and the oppressive weight on the chest, making breathing difficult if not impossible. All of the body’s senses are telling the victims that something real and unusual is happening to them. The spell is broken and the victims recover often on the point of losing consciousness.

Confronted with such a bizarre and irrational experience, it’s no wonder that many victims fear that they have been attacked in their beds by some malevolent spirit, demon or, perhaps, an alien visitor.

The phenomenon occurs to both men and women of various ages and seems to happen to about 15 percent of the population at least once in a lifetime. It can occur while the victim is sleeping during the day or night, and it is a worldwide phenomenon that has been documented since ancient times.

“In the 2nd century, the Greek physician Galen attributed it to indigestion,” according toThe Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley. “Some individuals suffer repeated attacks over a limited period of time; others have repeated attacks for years.”

Here’s a narration of a fellow Old Hag victim like me:

“About a year and a half ago, I was awoken in the night by a strong, warm breeze. I could not move and could not scream. It lasted about 30 seconds and was gone. I saw nothing. Last week it happened again. I was lying in bed and again was awoken. I felt a very strong force holding me down. I could not sit up. I tried to scream for my daughter and could not get any noise to come out. I tried to hit the wall with my arm and this force would not let me. It again lasted about 30 seconds and was over. I really don’t believe in ghosts and didn’t see anything at all. I am just really scared and confused.”

The medical world calls it SP or sleep paralysis, fellas.

So what causes it? Dr. Max Hirshkowitz, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Houston, says that sleep paralysis occurs when the brain is in the transition state between deep, dreaming sleep (known as REM sleep for its rapid eye movement) and waking up.

During REM dreaming sleep, the brain has turned off most of the body’s muscle function so we cannot act out our dreams – we are temporarily paralyzed.

“Sometimes your brain doesn’t fully switch off those dreams – or the paralysis – when you wake up,” Hirshkowitz says. “That would explain the ‘frozen’ feeling and hallucinations associated with sleep paralysis.”

According to his research, the effect only really lasts from a few seconds to as long as a minute, but in this half-dream half-awake state, to the victim it can seem much longer.

In her article, “Help! I Can’t Move!,”Florence Cardinal writes: “Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by vivid hallucinations. There may be a sense someone is in the room, or even hovering over you. At other times, there seems to be pressure on the chest, as though someone or something perched there. There may even be sexual attacks associated with the hallucinations. The sound of footsteps, doors opening and closing, voices, all can be a very frightening part of sleep paralysis.

For some, sleep paralysis is often brought about by not getting enough sleep or being overtired. Likewise, disrupted sleep schedules can produce an episode of sleep paralysis. It is more common in people who suffer from severe anxiety or bipolar disorder. Some research shows that sleep paralysis is five times more likely to occur with people who are taking anti-anxiety drugs.
How can you prevent sleep paralysis, fellas?

According to clinical research, you may be able to minimize the episodes by following good sleep hygiene:get enough sleep, reduce stress, exercise regularly (but not too close to bedtime) and keep a regular sleep schedule.

“For some people this may not be possible, however,” says Florence Cardinal, “so instead let’s look at ways to escape from the grip of sleep paralysis. The best remedy is to will yourself to move, even if it’s only the wiggling of your little finger. This is often sufficient to break the spell. If you can manage it, scream! Your roommate may not appreciate it, but it’s better than suffering through a long and fear-filled episode. If all else fails, seek professional help.”#