The Horrors of Sleep

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.

Nightmares:

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.

Photo Credit: kbetart Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Sleep Paralysis

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.

Advertisements

The Phenomena of Dreams

Have you ever been so exhausted that the only thing you wanted to do was sleep, just because dreams are better than reality? Honestly, same. The concept of dreaming is simply surreal. Why do we see these bizarre scenarios in our heads when we are sleeping? Shouldn’t our brains be asleep too? These questions all lead to the same main question: why do we dream?

Why Do We Dream?

There’s actually no definite answer to this question. There have been several theories put forward in an attempt to explain the reason behind why we dream, but none of them is 100% correct. One proposes that dreams work with sleep to help the brain sort through everything it collects during the day. That actually makes sense; sometimes when we face a difficult problem, we may be able to solve it once we get some sleep. While we sleep, our brain goes through all the information we absorbed and decides what’s relevant and what’s not.

Dreams typically reflect our emotions. Have you ever been really worried and stressed about something and decide to get some rest, only to dream about it during the night? That’s usually because your brain is focusing on that one thing during the day, and continues to focus on it during the night, too.

Some scientists think that dreaming doesn’t have a function and that dreams are just random meaningless images that occur because our brain is working during the night. Although there is some evidence to back up this theory, I personally think this is not the case. If there really was no purpose behind dreaming, would we spend a portion of every night doing it?

Photo Credit: nerdcoregirl Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: nerdcoregirl Flickr via Compfight cc

Interesting Facts About Dreams:

  • You forget 90% of your dreams within 10 minutes of waking up.
  • In your dreams, we only see faces we already know. It may seem that it was a complete stranger in your dream, but in fact, it’s a person that you met at some point in your life.
  • You can have four to seven dreams per night, and you spend an average of one to two hours dreaming each night.
  • Our mind takes external sounds while we are asleep, and makes them part of our dream. For example, if music is playing near you while you are sleeping, you may dream you are at a concert or party.
  • Dreams are symbolic, so it is usually difficult to interpret the real meaning behind a specific dream.
  • 4.4% of the dreams of under-25-year-olds are in black and white, while the remaining number of dreams is in full color.
  • The three most common emotions felt during dreaming are anger, anxiety, and fear. Therefore, dreams are more often negative than positive- I know, it sucks.

What are your thoughts on the function of dreams? Do you think they have a vital role, or do you think they are just meaningless images? Are you one to remember most of the dreams you had during the night?
~~Ola