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Question

 

Hi Gramps,

I’m wondering about something that happened to me on two different occasions; a couple of years ago, several months apart.  Both times I was laying in bed trying to sleep. On the first occasion, I laid down with my youngest child, trying to get him to go back to sleep, when my body, I guess was ‘paralyzed’ during this experience, I could hear footsteps coming from outside of my son’s room, I felt very frightened, and wanted to look towards his bedroom door, but I could not turn my head. I thought the footsteps were coming closer (and we had carpet in the house; the sounds of the footsteps were like on wood…loud, not like someone walking upon carpet). I felt panicked and I wanted to yell for my husband, but I couldn’t do anything! All of the sudden I felt myself, and it seemed like it took all of my strength, I heard myself scream “NO”…. then it was over… I wasn’t really afraid almost immediately after I heard myself say NO. The second instance was very similar, ending with me mustering the strength, it seemed, to yell “NO”…. what do you think happened? I know it wasn’t a dream…. I was totally awake, just unable to move.

Erv

 

Answer

 

Dear Erv,

You have experienced a temporary sleep paralysis.  I’m sorry that I cannot give you the clinical reasoning for the phenomenon.  I can only cite my own personal experience. The experience that you described has happened to me on several occasions during my teenage years. However, it would start with a paralysis of my feet and lower legs, and gradually creep up toward my head. In the early stages, when it had not progressed too far, with great mental effort, I could will it to descend and disappear. However, there was a certain stage at which I could not prevent it from continuing to cover my entire body. In those circumstances, I became completely paralyzed– could not move a muscle. And at this stage the phenomenon was accompanied by extreme fright. I would try to call out, but could not make a sound. After some time my body would relax and the paralysis would end. This happened frequently enough that I was able to experiment with it to try to control it, hence the mental efforts that I described above. From my experience, “there is nothing to fear except fear itself.”

 

Gramps

 

 

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