Tag Archives: Night Terrors

Night Terrors : Sleep Paralysis

sleep_paralysis

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

Perhaps three of four dozen times in my life, a very unnerving thing has happened to me whilst in bed : I have awoken to find myself completely and utterly paralyzed. Mercifully, however, it never lasted for more than about a minute.

The first time it occurred, this transient quality, though, did not stop me worrying. Did I have a tumour pressing against my spine? Was it incipient Parkinson’s disease? Did I have some terrifying and irreversible brain disease? Would I be dead within a month?

Imagine my relief when I discovered from my doctor that this condition was, in fact, not all that uncommon and was, apart from the psychological distress it causes, completely harmless.

The condition is a type of parasomnia (sleep disorder) that sometimes occurs when we wake directly from REM sleep (rapid eye movement sleep – the stage of sleep in which we dream) and is called sleep  paralysis; it is also frequently accompanied by night terrors / sleep terrors (a feeling of intense anxiety, sometimes involving an irrational fear that one is under the control of some dark, malevolent, evil, omnipotent force).

During REM sleep the brain stem blocks bodily movement in order to prevent us from physically acting out our dreams. Also, during REM sleep, the brain produces images (the visual content of our dreams).

 

sleep_paralysis

Above : During REM sleep we enter a state of atonia (paralysis). Sometimes, this persists for a short time on awakening abruptly from REM sleep, rendering us temporarily incapable of either movement or speech.

Sometimes, when we wake up abruptly from REM sleep, these processes are still operating (i.e. they have not switched themselves off). This results in us being awake and yet unable to move or, indeed, to speak. And, because the brain may still also be producing images, we may, as if being paralyzed and rendered temporarily mute were not enough to contend with, have also to endure frightening hallucinations, for good measure

Most unpleasant, you will agree.

A Simple Cure:

Fortunately, however, this distressing state is short lived – perhaps lasting a minute or less. Indeed, one can escape its grip by, if possible, initiating tiny bodily movements such as wiggling a toe, finger or, even, by just blinking.

Why Are Those Who Suffered Childhood Trauma At An Elevated Risk Of Experiencing Sleep Paralysis?

Because those of us who have experienced significant childhood trauma are more likely than the average person to suffer from sleep problems, it follows that we are, too, at an elevated risk of suffering from night terrors/sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is also sometimes referred to as hynagogic or predormital sleep paralysis.

 

Resources:

For night terrors treatment, you may be interested in the resources below :

Insomnia Beater Pack l Self Hypnosis Downloads

Night Panic Attacks | Self Hypnosis Downloads

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Afraid Of Going To Sleep?

Are You Afraid Of Going To Sleep?

My so-called ‘sleep’ (it’s stretching things to dignify it with that word, actually, even in inverted commas), in the past, has been appalling : it would take me at least three hours to lose consciousness, and, even then, I would wake, with a violent, shuddering start, ridiculously frequently throughout the night, sometimes shouting, or even screaming, and, not infrequently, drenched in sweat, making my pillow so damp that it would be necessary to turn it over (then, as the night progressed tortuously slowly, use the second pillow, then have to turn that one over…)

My intensely vivid nightmares would be filled with the most horrific violence, of which I was invariably the recipient – I would be sawn in half, chopped up with a machete, or otherwise maimed and mutilated.

Insomnia_nightmares_afraid to go to sleep

I still get up at about 4.30 am as by then I am fully awake and there is no hope of even lightly dozing (as you may well know, early morning waking, coupled with the inability to fall back to sleep, is a classic hallmark of depression).

Once I’m up, I feel I need to take a long rest in order to recover from my nocturnal ordeal : in other words, my ‘sleep’ necessitates a (tormentingly elusive) sleep.

When things were at their worst, in fact, I would dread going to bed, almost to the point of physical nausea.

If we have developed post traumatic stress disorder as a result of our painful childhood experiences it is very likely that we will, without effective therapy, suffer insomnia and nightmares as adults, similar to that described above.

This is because PTSD leads to a feeling of constantly being on ‘red alert’ / on the look out for danger. Clearly, this is hardly a state of mind conducive to a blissful night’s sleep.

If we have terrifying nightmares, as alluded to above, we may become very fearful of going to sleep and try to stay awake for as long as possible, in a pitiful attempt to postpone our descent into our night-time Hades.

Of course, this can only work in the very short term.

If we constantly put off going to bed and, when we finally do go to bed, our sleep is disrupted by our nightmares and, perhaps, too, frequent waking, we will quickly become chronically exhausted (mentally, physically and emotionally) and, essentially, sleep deprived.

This can lead to:

– an exacerbation of existing depression

– high levels of irritability / proneness to outbursts of rage in response to even (objectively speaking) minor frustrations

– an increase in anxiety levels

If the sleep deprivation becomes severe, then, in addition to the above, we may:

– hallucinate

– become increasingly irrational / develop impaired judgment

 

The internet is awash with information about action to take to reduce insomnia and nightmares and to repeat it all here would be superfluous. However, two tips that I found useful were :

1) Imagine self in a safe and secure place when intending to fall asleep

2) If really can’t fall asleep try to relax in a different room for as long as necessary

Afraid Of Going To Sleep Because Of Nightmares?

These can imitate past traumas we have suffered or symbolically represent them. When waking from a nightmare and feeling frightened, it is useful for us to try to ‘self-sooth’ by, for example, telling ourselves:

– ‘I am safe now’

– ‘It’s over – it’s not happening now, it’s in the past.’

– ‘It’s just my imagination – it’s not real.’

Finally, of course, ‘trying hard’ to fall asleep and getting angry and frustrated about our inability to do so is counter-productive. Paradoxically, trying hard to stay awake when tired is more likely to induce sleep.

Resources:

‘Stop recurring nightmares’ hypnosis download : click here

Get back to sleep quickly’ hypnosis download : click here

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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