What is Sleep Paralysis/Exploding Head Syndrome

Karina Castanon, News Editor

Sleep paralysis is a sleeping disorder that is often misunderstood. By definition, it is a condition in which an individual loses the ability to move or speak temporarily after waking up or falling asleep.

In extreme cases, people have experienced hallucinations of dark figures lingering in their room while being conscious but unable to move or speak adding to the terror of this disorder (WebMD). Historically, sleep paralysis was a sign that there was an evil spirit in the presence of the affected.

“In my experience with sleep paralysis it was really dark, I felt like something was pushing my eyes down. I tried to lift my arm but I felt like someone was holding me down.” said Bella Amar, senior.

The main cause of this disorder is not accurate for everyone who experiences sleep paralysis because it can come from so many different things including lack of sleep, some medication, substance abuse, and irregular sleep schedules. The list goes on and on. Most researchers concluded that the common cause is that the body is not moving smoothly through the stages of sleep. The person experiencing sleep paralysis may have trouble drifting into a deep sleep that leads into the rapid eye movement (REM) stage.

“It is intended to keep the body motionless during sleep/dreams, so the body does not move,” said Mr. Pitner, psychology teacher. “Some do not experience it regularly, leading to sleepwalking; some have conscious awareness before the paralysis wears off which can be terrifying.”

Unfortunately, studies have shown that students are at a greater risk than most people to experience sleep paralysis in their lifetime. It could be from the stress of school and all the other commitments a student has to deal with on a day to day basis but only 8% of the general population experiences it (A’ndrea Elyse Messer-Penn State).

“It affects all, but students have a different impression of what it means,” said Pitner. “I know adolescent brains are not fully developed which can cause more variation in the sleep/wake cycle.”

There is a broad spectrum of sleep disorders including conditions as rare as Exploding Head Syndrome, which symptoms include the false awareness of loud sounds that are not physically real. Both sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome symptoms include the perception of things that are not there. Sleep paralysis is visual while exploding head syndrome is auditory.

Being diagnosed with either of these sleep disorders does not necessarily mean that there is no possibility of treatment. Treatment options include supportive care, improving self-care, and seeing a specialist if symptoms worsen or do not seem to get better.

“I just wait for it to pass over, it’s mind over matter,” said Bella Amar, senior. “Try to force and convince your mind to wake up.”