Open another browser tab and search Google forNightmare Henry Fuseli“.
This 18th century painting is disturbing. It depicts a woman passing out in a deep sleep and a chimpanzee-like demon crouching on her torso.
This creature is an incubus, a type of demon in folklore around the world (also commonly known as a succubus) that visits its victims at night to immobilize them and fill their minds with terror. Famous.
What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
The modern scientific explanation for incubus is sleep paralysis. This is a condition in which you are unable to move or speak when you fall asleep or wake up, and are often accompanied by dream-like hallucinations and strong emotions.
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Rapid Eye Movement (REM) During sleep, the body naturally ‘paralyzes’ to prevent you from doing what you’re dreaming about. When this system malfunctions, it is believed that sleep paralysis occurs.
“REM sleep paralysis is a normal phenomenon, but you’re aware of it because it happens before your brain actually falls asleep.” Woolcock Medical Institute
“Some people wake up when they’re dreaming, but they can’t move, but they’re still in the dream. It can be very disconcerting and a completely hallucinatory kind of experience. .”
Sleep paralysis is understandably frightening, especially when it happens for the first time, but Professor Grunstein says it’s usually short-lived and those who experience it regularly “get used to it.”
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People may experience sleep paralysis due to genetic reasons, conditions such as narcolepsy, periods of stress, or irregular sleep patterns.
“High interest rates [of sleep paralysis] In shift workers and people on waiting lists, their brains are a little more active,” says Professor Grunstein. sleep schedule. ”
What are night terrors?
Sleep paralysis is on the same continuum as night terrors, a similarly disturbing condition characterized by intense feelings of fear and panic, usually in the first few hours of sleep. You may not have been able to comfort them… and chances are they didn’t even remember what happened the next day.
“They wake up screaming, and the entire fear-flight system is activated,” says Granstein, a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Sydney.
Night terrors are a different beast than nightmares.
He added that while night terrors are unlikely in adults, they are “very common” in children and can have a disastrous impact on the quality of life of both children and their parents. .
“When my youngest son was five or six, his friends’ parents were very eager for him to come over for a sleepover,” says Professor Grunstein. “In the middle of the night, this child had terrible night terrors and seemed inconsolable. In the morning the parents came and I said, ‘Do you know your child has night terrors?’ They said, ‘No, I wasn’t sure, but I thought you could diagnose him.'”
What causes night terrors?
Like sleep paralysis, night terrors often have genetic or psychological causes.
“In adults who have it, they may not have it for years, and then something stressful happens to them and it reactivates,” says Professor Grunstein. I had a patient who was sick and for the first time in 20 years the night terrors started coming back.”
Some sleep experts believe alcohol is a trigger for night terrors. And, brutally, night terrors themselves can cause even more night terrors, as they deprive their victims of sleep.
“Their sleep is disturbed by night terrors … presumably impairing their ability to fall asleep again,” says Professor Grunstein. “Sleep deprivation is something that people with night terrors need to avoid… You sometimes anecdotally see people say that I’ve caught up on my sleep. [they’re] Better now. “
What is the difference between night terrors and nightmares?
Note that night terrors are a different beast than nightmares. The former is more likely to occur early in the night during slow-wave “deep” sleep (children experience a lot of this type of sleep, which is why they are more prone to night terrors), the latter usually Occurs during sleep. REM sleep late at night.
Professor Granstein says the main difference between night terrors and mare lies in the “narrative content”.
“[Nightmares] Can be very thematic – the story can be long and have a terrifying ending [whereas] Night terrors are often images of swords suddenly appearing or such frightening images. Night terrors are not strongly associated with post-traumatic stress. On the other hand, there are nightmares. ”
Cruelly, night terrors and related sleep disturbances are often not taken seriously. As if it were a bad dream that the patient should forget.
“This is no joke… [it’s] It’s a serious problem for those who suffer from it and their families,” warns Granstein. [to treat it].”
Medications can be used to treat sleep disorders such as night terrors, but one of the best defenses against them is proper “sleep hygiene,” or good sleep habits.
“Encourage regular sleep, avoid sleep deprivation, avoid drinking too much water before bed, and avoid alcohol,” suggests Professor Granstein. “Don’t let your sleep be disturbed.”
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