Old Witch Syndrome: what is sleep paralysis, and how is it dangerous

You could have encountered him once, but not recognize the enemy in person. In our material we understand how not to miss it by attention.

Синдром старой ведьмы: что такое сонный паралич, и чем он опасен

In the dark ages, people believed that a witch came to young people at night, sat on their chest and fed on their vital energy. Hence the popular name of sleep paralysis — “old witch syndrome”. What is it really and how to identify it in yourself? We understand together with the candidate of medical sciences, psychiatrist, psychotherapist, somnologist Elena Vladimirovna Kolesnichenko.

What is it?

Sleep paralysis is a condition that occurs when incomplete awakening in the rem sleep phase, when the immobility characteristic of this phase persists. During it, people dream, and with incomplete awakening, that is, in the case of sleep paralysis, a person can dream in reality. Hallucinations are characteristic of this state: a person can see frightening phenomena, and the inability to move and speak at this moment causes a sense of horror and hopelessness in the awakened person.

The duration of sleep paralysis is small — from a few seconds to two minutes, after which consciousness is fully restored, and immobility passes. But what happened leaves an indelible mark on the memory, making you doubt your own mental health or believe in the existence of supernatural entities.

Синдром старой ведьмы: что такое сонный паралич, и чем он опасен

A little medicine

Sleep paralysis is a fairly common phenomenon. Especially often sleep paralysis occurs before the age of 30. Sometimes episodes of sleep paralysis occur in those whose relatives have reported the occurrence of sleep paralysis in them, that is, in the case of hereditary predisposition.

You can recognize sleep paralysis in yourself by the following characteristic signs:

  • Sleep paralysis occurs at the moment of spontaneous awakening;
  • Accompanied by the inability to move and speak;
  • It may be accompanied by feelings of suffocation, a feeling of heaviness on the body, chest compression;
  • The feeling of someone else’s presence in the room and creepy hallucinations are characteristic;
  • Causes intense fear and a sense of horror.

Is sleep paralysis dangerous, and how to deal with it?

Fortunately, sleep paralysis is not a mandatory sign of a mental disorder. But its occurrence can be triggered by stress, smoking, alcohol, fatigue and irregular sleep.

Синдром старой ведьмы: что такое сонный паралич, и чем он опасен

It is possible to prevent the recurrence of episodes of sleep paralysis if the provoking factors are eliminated. It is necessary to adjust the sleep regime, devote more time to healthy rest, give up bad habits, eliminate stress factors. It is important to keep in mind that sleep paralysis occurs in sleepers in the supine position and almost never happens to those who sleep on the right side.

Waking up with an alarm clock is another way that will help prevent the recurrence of sleep paralysis. In case of an intimidating episode, you need to remember that it will end soon, try to move your tongue, toes and hands.

Despite the fact that sleep paralysis is safe for life and health, some people may develop fears of darkness, sleeping and falling asleep due to the intensity of the horror experienced. In this case, it is better to seek help from a psychotherapist. The specialist will help to cope with such emotional problems as nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood, which are favorable grounds for the resumption of episodes of sleep paralysis.  

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