I’ve talked about the good side of sleep: the fascinating dreams that make you want to spend your entire life sleeping and escaping reality. But is sleep really a relaxing, peaceful condition we all enjoy? Not always. Among many other things that can happen to you during the night and make you dread sleeping, nightmares and sleep paralysis happen to be the two most known, yet terrifying.
Do you remember a time you woke up at night after a terrifying nightmare and was afraid to go back to sleep? You’re definitely not the only one. Nightmares are a normal occurrence, but that doesn’t make them any less scary. A nightmare is a bad dream, but not all bad dreams are nightmares. Nightmares result in feelings of strong terror, fear, distress, or anxiety, usually involve a threat of danger, and most often wake the dreamer from their sleep. A bad dream, on the other hand, is simply a dream that involves an unpleasant plot.
Although it differs from person to person, most adults report having at least two nightmares a year. The number of nightmares a person has depends on their lifestyle and health. For example, a person that stresses a lot or has extreme anxiety may have double the number of nightmares the average person has. Also, some medications are reported to increase nightmares, like antidepressants and antihypertensives.
Sleep paralysis is one of the most terrifying sleep disorders one could experience. If you haven’t experienced it before, count yourself lucky. According to studies, up to four out of ten people may have sleep paralysis; it is most common among young adults, and those who are sleep deprived.
In case you don’t know what sleep paralysis is, it’s a sleep disorder where your mind wakes up, but your body is still asleep. It occurs either while you are falling asleep, or while you are waking up. Many accounts of sleep paralysis are something like this: you wake up from your sleep, and you know that you’re awake. But when you try to speak or move, you find that you are unable to. It feels as if your whole body is paralyzed, the only thing you can move being your eyes.
You are in a state of panic, and you feel as if something is sitting on your chest, preventing you from getting up. You desperately try to call for help or move but to no avail. After what seems like hours, you are finally able to gain control of your body and move normally.
It’s obviously scarier in real life, and it’s something that I definitely don’t want to experience. You can’t pull yourself out of it, you just have to wait it out. Most episodes of sleep paralysis last for less than a minute, but to the person, it feels much longer. There is no way to prevent sleep paralysis; however, there are a few things you can do to make it less likely to happen: avoid sleeping on your back, eating heavy meals before bed, and try to get a good amount of sleep every night.
How many nightmares do you usually have? Are your nightmares reoccurring? Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Do you know anyone who did? What was it like? Do you have anything else to add about nightmares and/or sleep paralysis? Let me know.