A Paralyzing Nightmare

Amanda Antonini

  Have you ever awoken to find that you are completely paralyzed? You look around and you feel wide awake, but your body won't move and you can't even speak. This is a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, and it's something I unfortunately have experienced on several occasions. Let me tell you, it is TERRIFYING.

Just last week I found myself tossing and turning and unable to fall asleep. This went on for about two hours. That's when the sleep paralysis reared its nasty head. I woke up startled to a heavy pressure pushing down on my back (I sleep on my stomach). My eyes were open, but I could not move any part of my body. I attempted to scream, but nothing came out of my mouth. If that wasn't terrifying enough, from the corner of my eye I saw a dark entity hovering over me. It was like something out of a Wes Craven horror movie expect I was seeing it with my own eyes. After what felt like several minutes, the dark entity seemed to burst into a bright light that filled my room with white, and I was released from my paralyzing nightmare.  All the while, my dog slept peacefully next to me knowing nothing of the terror I had just experienced. I’ve have experienced this before, but every time it feels 100% real, and it continues to be the most frightening sensation I have ever experienced. 
  Naturally, the next morning I shared my experience with my family and friends because I wanted to know if anyone could relate to what I had experienced. I was pleasantly surprised to find a handful of my loved ones had also experienced sleep paralysis. It's more common than I had originally expected. In fact, up to 4 in 10 people experience sleep paralysis, and it can happen at any age. Even Kendall Jenner has shared her experience with it. During one of these episodes, your brain has already told your body to relax and “go to sleep”, however the brain awakens and you become alert without any control of these “sleeping” muscles. These episodes last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, and can be accompanied with hallucinations that can be both visual and auditory. This means the black, ghostly entity I saw during my latest episode was fortunately not a ghost coming to haunt me, but rather a horrifying figment of my imagination. Many times, people experience the feeling of pressure on their chest. Much like the sensation I felt on my back.

However common it may be, what I really wanted to know was why this was happening? Is there something that can be done to prevent it?  
Sleep paralysis does not have a specific cause, but several factors play a role including: lack of sleep, increased stress, other mental health or sleep disorders, some types of medications, or substance abuse. For me, the factors that played a role were likely stress and lack of sleep. If you are experiencing sleep paralysis, typically no treatment is needed outside of changing some of those influencing factors.  You can work on changing your sleep habits or working on managing your stress levels as ways to prevent sleep paralysis from occurring. If it continues to be persistent and is having a significant impact on sleep, a doctor may decide a sleep study or treatment with medication may be appropriate. My experiences are very sporadic, about once a year. Fortunately, I don’t require any further treatment or evaluation. However, for some people this can occur every night, and even sometimes more than once per night (how PETRIFYING)!

I am making a big effort to get enough sleep at night and lower my stress levels before going to bed. I would hate to know what kind of scary entity my mind may create to visit me the next time I experience this phenomenon, and I do not want to find out. 

Amanda grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, IL but is now enjoying living in Louisville, KY. She received her bachelors degree at Northern Illinois University where she acted as a resident advisor and mentor to fellow students. This was where she found her passion for wellness and helping others. She went on to study community health and receive her Masters of Education at the University of Louisville. During her studies, she focused her graduate research on programming for mental health and youth wellness. She also acts as an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. She has always enjoyed using her voice and knowledge to educate and advocate about important health topics. Amanda spends much of her time employed as a nanny for three wonderful children.

When she is not busy promoting health education or chasing around the kids, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing with her Pomeranian, Sulley, or indulging in a great book. Amanda thrives on helping to educate others about important health issues and effective health related behaviors so they can live happier and healthier lives!