August 1, 2005

Hypnopompia and other disturbances

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at August 1, 2005 11:25 PM

So: sleep paralysis. A condition in which, upon waking, a person is aware of the surroundings but is unable to move. Anyone here experienced this?

I ask because I had an experience like this last night that has a lot of the characteristics of sleep paralysis. I (apparently) woke up, lying on my side, and realized that I couldn't move. I remember the sense of trying to move and being locked in place was very vivid and not dreamlike. I thought to myself, "Oh, this must be sleep paralysis." Then I remembered that sleep-paralyzed people usually feel another presence in the room, often a malevolent one, and I should expect this. At that point my experience got much more dreamlike. I had an awareness of my surroundings, but it wasn't my actual surroundings—instead I dreamed I was in a hotel room, and there was a dresser with a TV across from the bed. So I'm expecting a malevolent presence to show up, and, well, remember in Ghostbusters when Gozer is going to take the first form they think of? Yeah. Upon dreaming of the TV, I immediately think of Samara from The Ring, and right away I get the sense that Samara is indeed in the room with me (although I can't see her) and I get absolutely terrified—a wave of total mind-numbing fear that also wasn't very dreamlike. At some point thereafter all this dissipated and I realized that I wasn't in a hotel room, but in my own bedroom, and I could move again.

Going down the list in the Wikipedia entry it seems likely that this really was sleep paralysis. Apparently the dream can continue through the experience. Also, the mechanism where the dream generates explanations for what's happening, i.e. Samara and the TV, is similar to my experiences with hypnic jerks: when my leg undergoes a hypnic jerk, I almost always have a very short dream in which I am tripping over something or slipping on ice, in a way that explains the motion. (Annoyingly, the motion itself wakes me up.)

Something else that occurred to me while thinking about this is that, while I haven't experienced the paralysis before, it's not uncommon for me to get the fear and sense of presence without the paralysis: specifically I will wake up already out of bed and standing up, and filled with a sense of absolutely imminent doom, that I need to escape right now. It usually takes a few minutes before I realize that nothing's wrong, except that I'm standing in the middle of the bedroom at 4:30 in the morning with my heart running at 120 beats per minute. This seems to happen maybe once every few months (that I remember). (This happened the night before I left Caltech for Berkeley, and I actually jumped out of the loft, waking up approximately when I hit the ground. I'm amazed I didn't break anything.) I always figured I was waking up from some nightmare (that I never seem to recall) but now I wonder if it's related to sleep paralysis.

Tags: Dreams, Sleep
Comments

Stay Puffed!!!

I've never had sleep paralysis, but I have had the waking up in utter fear from a nightmare thing. (I usually wake up right when I am killed or hit violently or whatever.)

My brother once work up and couldn't move his neck muscles for a couple days. (He had to go around with his neck lurching out from an odd angle for a couple days and normal functioning was problematic. Not fun...)

Posted by: Mason | August 2, 2005 12:18 AM

Ever experienced that? Hell yeah. Frequently. Good to know that I'm not *entirely* a nut, only mostly. Sometimes there's a bit of a dreamscape superimposed on my perceptions, sometimes not. Usually, I can remember this sort of thing much more vividly than most dreams (except my nightmares, which have a way of etching themselves in a fearfully permanent manner upon my psyche), but I can't recall ever feeling any sort of "malevolent presence."

As far as being able to rationalize everything into a dream, I'm also pretty familiar with that.

You want to know what scares the hell out of me? Just the opposite of what you're describing. Sometimes, just after waking up, everything is working perfectly fine (memory, thought, motor control) EXCEPT someone forgot to flip the little KVM switch in my brain back to "reality" from "dreaming." What I see/feel/observe is usually somehow related to what's actually around me, but I'm fully mobile, thoughtful, and reacting to things that have little to do with (aside from just spatial perception) reality. It usually only lasts for a few seconds, sometimes as long as 10 seconds or so. As I slowly come to at the end of it, I'm always freaked out by what I might have done. I can think of one incident in particular where I came to right before I did something especially asinine. Kicking someone's legs out from under them, in particular.

On another note, I had a nightmare recently. This is sort of a big deal for me, for two reasons. First, I rarely have nightmares that I can remember. Second, when I do, I'm very good at it. I tend to remember at least the key parts in painfully vivid detail. I usually can't shake whatever unpleasant feeling they inspire for at least a day or so, and sometimes I'm stuck with it for over a week. This most recent one was just last week, and I managed to get over it after just a few days. Last one before that was somewhere between a year and two years ago, and the last one before that was while I was still an undergrad, my senior (not super-) year. Mega bleh.

Posted by: Lemming | August 2, 2005 10:58 AM

No nightmares to report from last night. But the dog is still feeling punk. He puked and farted all night long. I'm hoping to upgrade from that to nightmares tonight.

Posted by: Dad | August 2, 2005 1:22 PM

I don't normally police for off-topic posts, but you appear to have mistaken this for a Canine Emissions thread.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | August 2, 2005 1:33 PM

If the smell was strong enough, it may well have been able to induce a rather unfortunate bout of paralysis, so who knows, perhaps it is appropriate material for the thread.

And, since the subject has been brought up, the absolute worst gas I've ever had was when I ate a very large jar of peanuts in one sitting. Mmmm.

Posted by: Lemming | August 2, 2005 2:03 PM

I had no idea there was a name for hypnic jerks. I have them frequently, although I don't even rationalize them in dreams or semi-waking state. I just suddenly feel like I've tripped. Although it does wake me right up.

Golly.

Posted by: Wren | August 2, 2005 3:37 PM

And to think I quit commenting because I thought mine were inappropriate...

Posted by: mama-san | August 2, 2005 6:33 PM

I have that sensation when I am trying to go to sleep at times - I'm getting totally relaxed, and then I suddenly realize that I am incapable of moving anything. Sadly, this seems to snap me out of it almost immediately and I generally can't get back to sleep for at least an hour, but I do recognize the sensation. Never had the feeling of imminent doom, though.

I have heard an urban myth/rumor that you aren't legally responsible for your actions for something like 15 seconds after you wake up. We had a guy in ROTC who we'd wake up by poking with a broomstick because he would hit whoever was trying to wake him up. HARD. And he still wouldn't wake up. He was commissioned April 1st. April Fools on the Army...

Posted by: Chris LS | August 2, 2005 9:49 PM

Yeah when I was unfit I used to get hypnopompia all the time. I’d be in a dream walking around like normal and this overwhelming feeling would come over me and I’d collapse on the floor (still in the dream). If feel this ‘sleepy’ feeling build up until it was so extreme I would become really frightened - Then id be ‘awake’ in my bed paralyzed, the feeling itself was bad enough to scare the crap out of me! I also got it during the day once when I went to have a nap after taking some painkillers for a headache. I can induce the opposite [hypnogogia] if I get up really early (like 2am) stay awake for a few hours, then go back to bed. I get it upon falling asleep then.

Posted by: Dreamer | August 16, 2005 7:39 PM
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