Jacob's Ladder staircase

Have you ever woken up suddenly, perhaps from a nightmare or some such, only to find that you can’t move? If you’ve never had it happen before, I don’t recommend it: it’s terribly unpleasant, especially the first time.

Basically, your body paralyzes itself while you sleep, lest you act out everything that you’re doing in your dream (or so I understand it). And you can wake up and find yourself still paralyzed. It’s thought to be the source of people thinking they’ve been abducted by aliens. When this happened for the first time when I was a kid, it scared the shit out of me. Especially coming out of a nightmare you find yourself in a waking nightmare of being unable to move. And I’m slightly claustrophobic and don’t like being unable to move, so that just exacerbated the situation.

But after that first time I found out what had happened and was able to quickly ascertain my situation upon waking up paralyzed then deal with it. I say “deal with it” because normally I’m coming into it having had a seriously fucked up nightmare and knowing if I can’t move, I will more than likely fall back asleep and right back into the nightmare. So I have to remain calm, focus on moving just my extremities, like a foot or my fingers, until they come back “online” and eventually my body will “wake up” like the rest of me.

And according to this article, it’s called REM intrusion. “It is found in people with narcolepsy, or excessive sleepiness, and it can be accompanied by hallucinations or delusional experiences that are unusually vivid and often frightening.” Excessive sleepiness. That would be me all over.

Why do I bring this up? Because the article also states I’m more prone to having a near-death experience when the situation calls for it. “[O]ut of 55 people who have had near-death experiences, 60 per cent had at least one prior occasion where REM sleep state intruded into wakefulness, compared to only 24 per cent in a control group.” Now not only do I get to freak out about waking up too quickly but if I ever find myself on an operating table I might get to hallucinate about a tunnel with white blinding light and crap like that. Fantastic.

You know what else is fun? Incubus attacks. That’s when you wake up and you feel like something heavy is sitting on your chest. I’ve had at least a couple of those.

And people wonder why I’m not a big fan of sleeping…

Found via Cliff Pickover’s Reality Carnival.