what actually happens to your body and mind when you experience sleep paralysis? why does it happen?

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recently had it after making the mistake of falling asleep on my back, and just wondering what the actual fuck happens??

i experienced tingling in my hands and feet, screaming but no noise, couldn’t move, felt like i was being pushed down and dragged around for hours.

In: Biology

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As you move through the stages of sleep, your brain has a mechanism in it that basically “disconnects” certain parts of itself from your body. This disconnection doesn’t just involve conscious control, but other semi-autonomic functions like breathing, and it attenuates how your senses connect to your mind, too. The purpose of the disconnection is so that you don’t act out your dreams, but also so that things like your sensory input is somewhat muted so you can sleep properly, and you don’t have to think about semi-autonomic things like breathing or holding your bladder.

When you have sleep paralysis, something – internal or external – causes you to start to wake back up, but because you’re either not waking up on your own normally – some stimulus is prodding you to awaken – or you’re in a very light stage of sleep and you’re waking from that stage, but still deep enough to engage the disconnect mechanism, you wake back up while still disconnected from your body and from having full control of your faculties. Some people, for example, can’t control their breathing with sleep paralysis. They don’t suffocate, but it is a panic inducing feeling because their breathing is still on “full autopilot” and that sensation of your body and brain taking control in this way from you causes the sensation of “someone else” being in control. Our perception of time while in a dream state is also highly distorted – dreams feel much, much longer than they are as a general rule. This is why a sleep paralysis attack can feel so frightening and so long – it isn’t actually that long, normally, but because you’re caught between dream states and consciousness, and thus time feels distorted, you do not perceive or remember that time correctly in regards to actual clock time.

That’s all that’s happening. You can kind of think of it like being in a house and having someone who, while you’re asleep or away, goes around the house and takes care of it for you, turning on and off lights, adjusting the thermostat, and opening and closing windows, but the person who’s doing these things arrives after you leave and leaves before you come back. That other person is just the autonomic parts of your nervous system taking over while you’re absent. It’s so distressing to experience because under normal circumstances, we are not supposed to encounter that “other person” in our “house.” Sleep paralysis is really common when you’re having light sleep, such as during a nap, and normally it occurs either at the very end of the night or at the very beginning of the night. It’s also somewhat interrelated to the lucid dreaming phenomenon. I have learned how to lucid dream, and it involves putting yourself in a similar light sleep state, to the point that the part of your mind that “dreams” – and thus shuts off your conscious control of your body – comes online, but you’re still in a light enough sleep state that your conscious mind is not yet fully in “dream world,” and so you can somewhat control the substance of those dreams. The risk I always run though in doing this is sleep paralysis, as I have to get the “dream engine” running, if you will, which involves that disconnect, but I have to maintain conscious awareness while the rest of my body does its thing, and that is very hard, as activity in your conscious mind will of course keep you fully awake. More than once I’ve tried to lucid dream and ended up with an attack of sleep paralysis because just thinking about the dream I’m making wakes me up. However, I’m still in the dream state, and thus I’m disconnected from my body. I’ve just “waited it out” before, as I’m conscious enough due to trying to lucid dream that I realize what’s happening instantly, and I’ve found that waiting it out calmly does one of two things – either the dream disconnect pushes me back into real sleep and I fall all the way into normal sleep, or I drift off quickly on my own. In either case, I fall into full sleep, and then just immediately wake myself up normally (I can end dreams and wake up if I want, such as if I’m having a nightmare; my brain is very weird) after a few seconds. It’s kind of like driving a stick with the motor revved way too high from a stop – you try to let the clutch out and it just squeals and grabs. That’s the sleep paralysis. I have to disengage the clutch all the way – putting it back in neutral, putting myself back into the dream state all the way – then start over and pull out from a full sleep state. Ultimately, when you’re stuck in that state, it will resolve, because eventually being conscious *will* trigger the rest of your brain to wake up and reconnect you with your senses and your body. It just takes time to do it.