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Sleep Paralysis [Jul. 13th, 2005|01:21 am]
I read a really interesting article in this week's Science News about sleep paralysis.

This is when you regain consciousness, but the circuits that keep you from moving around while you dream are still engaged, and you can't move. Many times, it's accompanied by the sensation of an evil presence nearby, and/or a feeling of not being able to breathe. People report that it feels like something evil has climbed on their chest and is crushing them. This is probably the source of legends about night hags or witches, and is reflected in the word roots of "nightmare", merran being Anglo-Saxon for "to crush".

I've had this experience a couple times, though I didn't have any of the "evil presence" -- just total paralysis, plus an inability to breathe properly. Scary enough on its own, even when you kind of know that it's just a brain glitch!

Anyway, there's a really interesting page about it, plus a survey for people who have experienced it, here: http://watarts.uwaterloo.ca/~acheyne/S_P.html. There are a lot of unfortunate formatting issues, but some really interesting information, along with the survey.

The stuff I thought was really interesting is the hypothesis that this might be related to the reflexes that most mammals have that make them freeze up when a predator is nearby (because it makes you harder to see) and the cataplexy response that makes a creature go totally limp when it's been grabbed by a predator -- because often that will result in it momentarily relaxing its grip, as the prey goes "dead". That's where the "evil presence" comes from -- a piece of legacy code in the lower levels of your mind that interprets signals from the still-dreaming parts of your brain as indicating a big, dangerous predator that's going to pick you up in its mouth and try to eat you. Neat stuff.

From: nosato
2005-07-13 12:52 am (UTC)
I read about sleep paralysis and people studying about it last week on Yahoo! JAPAN site. Yes, a brain glitch. I have had that experience...at least once or twice. A very unnerving, helpless, scary experience, I remember. And it is almost 3:00 AM now. I cannot sleep...what a timely topic you have chosen! (Now I try harder to fall asleep...)
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From: denvsport
2005-07-13 06:43 am (UTC)
I've suffered from this on many occasions. Along with "night terrors" both of which can be extreamly unnerving.
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[User Picture]From: da_lj
2005-07-13 07:49 am (UTC)
Hey, that's darn cool.

As it turns out, I've been having some really bad "waking up unable to breathe" moments over the last week and a half. What a neat irony that the researcher you quoted works less than a kilometer from me right now.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2005-07-13 08:05 am (UTC)
I actually had one this morning, too...
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[User Picture]From: da_lj
2005-07-13 08:09 am (UTC)
odd. I didn't this morning, but I did yesterday. Maybe we should compare notes later. :)
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-07-14 04:18 pm (UTC)
Even more ironic/peculiar: the visiting researcher in the office next to mine is from U. Waterloo, too.
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[User Picture]From: da_lj
2005-07-14 08:06 pm (UTC)
Hm. One might theorize about a conspiracy, if one were conspiracy-inclined.

I wonder if he has waking up unable to breathe moments, too...
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[User Picture]From: goobermunch
2005-07-13 08:54 am (UTC)
I've experienced this quite a few times. The first time, I didn't know what was going on and thought that I had somehow rolled over on a live wire, because the sensation (for me) is not unlike getting an electric shock. It really freaked me out. I suppose that my mild electrophobia explains why I thought it was a live wire.

Since that first time, I've learned to calmly deal with it when it happens.

It's still pretty disconcerting.

*Yes, it's true. I have an unreasonable (though not incapactitating--thankfully) fear of electricity. Or maybe it's reasonable--it's all around me all the time, it can kill me, and I can't see it.

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[User Picture]From: bryree
2005-07-13 07:41 pm (UTC)
And now we know your answer to KF Monkey's meme...

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From: thetarnishedowl
2005-07-13 09:40 am (UTC)
I've experienced this, too. In recent memory, I've been roused from sleep by my dog, and while in the paralysis I try to call to him - "Morgan" - but it's difficult to speak and the sound that comes out is more like "Mmmm... Mmmm... Mmmmaaryyy". But it's only in hearing myself that I realize it's not coming out right.
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-07-13 12:48 pm (UTC)
I have never experienced this, though i know others who have. I think it's a neat phenomonom, if a likely panic-inducing one.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2005-07-13 03:16 pm (UTC)
Huh. I (apparently) get night terrors, where you start screaming in your sleep, then get woken up and know nothing about it. Real fun for Rob.

Of course, you're supposed to grow out of night terrors when you hit puberty. What joy.
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