Occasionally, when I take a nap I will experience sleep paralysis. I’m told it happens when your body falls to sleep faster than your mind does and as a result your body goes into the paralyzed state of deep sleep while your mind stays active. While that doesn’t sound too bad, the experience can be very unsettling. This is how I feel during it…
Often times I feel like I am awake with my eyes closed shut, only slightly being able to see and sense what’s going on in the world around me. Often times i can sense people being in the room with me, but in reality this is the dream part because no one is actually there. Anyways, due to the paralysis, my breathing is very low so my mind feels like I’m suffocating, like I can’t get any oxygen into my lungs. My mind starts panicking, thinking I’ll surely die if I can’t get more oxygen, so i begin attempting to jolt myself awake; but how can you wake yourself if you can’t move any part of your body? Basically, in my mind, I’m lying there, slowing suffocating, my whole body rigid in an attempt to generate even the slightest movement that might wake myself from this awful state.
It sounds terrible, right? Well that isn’t even the most unsettling part. Today the paralysis was combined with a worrisome dream:
As my body grew rigid, I recognized myself lying in my bed at my parent’s home. I heard my sister outside my room, calling my name, and I attempted to call back to her but my words only came out a muffled whimper. Then she entered my room and said gleefully, “what are you doing?” as she noticed me asleep in my bed. But then she stopped cold in her tracks, recognizing the state I was in. Once again I tried to call out to her, begging her to wake me up, but my mouth offered no sound. She tapped me once on the head and I urged her on in my mind to continue, hoping it would free me from this awful state, but she didn’t try to wake me again. Instead she began to pray, she said the Hebrew Shema, the only prayer she knew by heart, and I could sense her voice shaking with fear. At first I thought she was praying for me to awaken, but then a more morbid thought crossed my mind. What if I wasn’t going to wake this time… what if she was praying because I had already gone?
I woke up shortly after, alone in my own bed back at college.