“I’m beginning to fall asleep at suddenly I become extremely afraid. I’m still aware of what’s going on around me but my body seems extremely heavy and hard to move. I can feel the paralysis setting in my extremities and slowly moving to my core. If I were a physician I would know that I am suffering from is, “complete muscle atonia.” This occurs as a routine part of the transition from being awake to being asleep where the muscles no longer respond.
What I remember of the terrifying visions of an intruder or something awful happening that I can get away from. This usually lasts for a few minutes in the initial spike of fear disintegrates as I become more and more a sleeping person. The scientific term for this is Isolated Sleep Paralysis (ISP) usually lasts for a minute but the emotional effects will be with you all day. It produces a nagging feeling of being trapped, unable to escape or even worse turned into stone as an unexpected threat begins to loom. But not many people know about is the second version of this which is called Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis (RISP) which can last for up to an hour or longer and can happen many times. Although I have never met someone who presented with these specific symptoms I have met many catatonic schizophrenics who described this as an aftereffect of not being able to move a single muscle or an extended period of time until they learned to move a tiny twitch in one extremity.
Although this is less common I have often seen people suddenly fall asleep in my office. Narcolepsy or a tendency to fall asleep at inappropriate times has a similar form of paralysis called cataplexy which is physiologically indistinguishable from sleep paralysis. The only difference is that narcolepsy attacks when you are falling asleep and sleep paralysis occurs when you are asleep as well as falling asleep and waking up. Often calling their name repeatedly brings them back to consciousness and the first thing they say is that they could move a muscle.
During the dream state or rapid eye movement stage of sleep (REM) there is a paralysis called REM atonia. This is when you realize while you are dreaming that you cannot move. This can last from several seconds to several minutes and is often accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of panic usually associated with panic attacks.
If it happens when you’re going to sleep it’s called hypnagogic and if it happens during sleep it’s called hypnopomic but the experience of unbounded terror the same. There is some research that suggests many of the feelings of being abducted by aliens may have a basis in this physiological response. A lot of this jargon may be reduced to the fact that there is a scientific adage, “you can’t figure out what it is then label it usually obscurely.”
Next article we’ll talk about how to deal with sleep paralysis and show that these distinctions may be helpful in determining your response. This follows my own scientific adage that, “the diagnosis is only so good as it can recommend a treatment.”
As you’ve seen in the last two articles I respond to any one suggestion and still continue to offer free dream interpretation. All you need to do is go back to the website for the appropriate form.