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Sleep paralysis/horrible dreams.. Anyone else?

(15 Posts)
Frillsandspills Thu 18-Jun-15 22:35:59

Just wondering if anyone has experience sleep paralysis before and had any idea how to prevent it?

I've suffered from sleep paralysis since I was a child, though I only had it a couple of times when really young but once I turned 18 I got it a lot more frequently.
I find the whole thing terrifying as the hallucinations are so scary. I've seen black shadows, old women, strange men and had the sensation of being pulled down my bed and I just cannot move a muscle. I know the episodes only last a few seconds but it really feels a lot longer when you're petrified.

Since being pregnant I've had sleep paralysis every time I've slept alone and I can get it multiple times per night. My OH works in another city while he waits for a transfer so there are quite a few nights I'm alone which is when it happens (doesn't really happen if I'm with someone).

I'm aware being pregnant gives you weird dreams and I've had some pretty bad ones, like children throwing themselves off the grand canyon (i won't go into the rest).

Weird dreams I can handle but the sleep paralysis I can not, I'm not sure if many people have experienced it as among people I know in rl not many people have. I've done some research and according to the NHS website to prevent it you must not be sleep deprived, which I'm not I get plenty of sleep and exercise, eat just before bed which I also don't do, or drink alcohol before sleeping which of course is ruled out whilst pregnant.

I tend to wake up really early in the morning with it so I've found that if I go back to sleep with the TV on, when I wake up again I wake up fully due to the noise and I don't wake up at that weird stage that causes sleep paralysis.

Sorry this is really long winded it was somewhat of a rant too.
Just wondering if anyone had any tips on how to get rid of it? I've been tempted to visit my GP but really don't fancy wasting time.

HarrietSchulenberg Thu 18-Jun-15 22:56:09

I didn't realise sleep paralysis was an actual, recognised "thing", with a proper name. I've had something similar to what you describe twice in my life, once about 15 years ago and once last month.

The first time I'd been having a vivid and happy dream and woke suddenly. I was convinced someone had got into my ground floor flat, even though I could hear nothing. I couldn't move my head or any part of me to check so I lay there listening. After a while I convinced my Atheist self that the Angel of Death had come for the elderly man upstairs but got the wrong flat blush.

As I've only had it twice I have no real solution to offer, but the second time it happened I recognised it after a few minutes of utter terror. I decided to try to go back into deeper layers of sleep but couldn't, so then decided to concentrate on moving my leg to wake myself. It took what felt like a very long time but I managed to twist my leaden right leg onto its side, which helped to wake up more, and then I managed to move my head, which woke me far enough to move my hand, and then I could wake properly.

Your experience sounds much more terrifying than mine but I think it helps if you ate able to recognise the paralysis for what it is at the time, as it takes the fear factor away and allows you to concentrate on moving.

Frillsandspills Thu 18-Jun-15 23:18:25

Thank you for your reply Harriet.
Your experience sounds exactly like some of mine.

When I have it I do recognise what it is and does help slightly, hallucinations don't occur as much or as bad when Ive recognised what's happening and it is less terrifying, but not enough for me to not seek some other prevention, if you get me?

I think it's now at the point where I get it so much I just dread going to sleep, which of course causes some anxiety which I can't imagine to be any good for anyone who gets sleep paralysis so I could be going in a vicious circle here..

At least there's other people who have experienced it, it's comforting to know! I've been thinking I'm going crazy!

TigerFeat Thu 18-Jun-15 23:26:08

I've had sleep paralysis on and off throughout my life, but I don't remember it in pregnancy. My trigger is extreme tiredness.

There was a great thread on here about it about a year ago. It may have been in chat, but I'll link if I can find it.

TigerFeat Thu 18-Jun-15 23:28:20

I've just searched MN Frills and there are lots of threads about it. Have a look.

Mamamia321 Fri 19-Jun-15 00:14:44

Hi,

I have had this at numerous times in my life and it is utterly terrifying I agree. Also very freaky dreams and hallucinations too. It has been a while now since I have had one- knock wood.Are you on any medication as this can be linked?

FreckledLeopard Fri 19-Jun-15 00:20:27

I had this for a period of several months. The most terrifying time was when giant spiders and crabs were scuttling down the walls and on to bed. I dived under the duvet and stayed there trembling for what seemed like hours. Randomly the night hallucinations stopped almost as quickly as they'd started.

Mypubesarestraight Fri 19-Jun-15 00:23:27

Me! I suffer from it horrendously sometimes.

It affects my life and made me frightened of my bedroom.

Rosenwyn1985 Fri 19-Jun-15 10:07:48

I've had it on and off for years so know how you feel. Sadly there is nothing you can do. What I will say is I had a great explanation from my doctor. The reason they are so terrifying is that because you're body is paralysed in rem sleep (everyone's is, it's just your eyes are open and you're more aware), your body goes into fight or flight. The chemicals released fuel the hallucinations and the terror. They're designed to illicit this response, to make you run. Unfortunately you can't because of the fact you're asleep. Once I understood exactly what it was I felt better. Do you have someone you can call in the night? If you get desperate that is. My hubby is home but is used to me waking him just for comfort when it's bad. I also get up and read, try to distract myself. Not sure if this helps?

Skiptonlass Fri 19-Jun-15 10:37:13

Yes, I have this and I sympathise - it is deeply unpleasant, frightening and something I wouldn't wish on anyone.

I also have very disturbing dreams, in fact I'd say all my dreams were negative in emotional tone, with 90% being nightmares. Again, not nice.

firstly, go and try to get a proper sleep assessment. In this they will hook you up to various monitors and record your brainwaves and certain muscle actions overnight. This can rule out some physical causes of what you're experiencing. I'd also suggest keeping your bedroom cold.

Secondly, this may sound odd, but you can train yourself to realise when you're dreaming. Do you have any recurring imagery in your dreams? If you do, make yourself visualise that several times a day, then link that with a 'reality test.' This is where you stop what you're doing, look around you and think, am I dreaming? For me, I try to concentrate hard on written text. If it shifts, I know I'm dreaming. This isn't easy to do and it takes a long time - it took me a couple of years to get good at it, but it does work. Once you know you're dreaming you can either wake yourself up or control the dream. Google lucid dreaming - I've never managed to turn a bad dream into a long fun one, but just being able to wake was my aim.

Onto the sleep paralysis. This is slightly different, but they think it's basically that you're dreaming, paralysed, but partially awake, so I think of it as the dream overlaid on the real environment. Something to do with the reticular formation in the brain acting up. Anyway, again, if you get good at the knowing you're dreaming technique, you CAN interrupt these episodes.

Mine have ranged from being asleep, and feeling something sitting either on me or on the bed next to me. Not nice when you're in the house alone, or to things stood by the bed, the bed filled with spiders etc. it's absolutely a real feeling.

I read up about this phenomenon, and it occurs in all cultures around the world. It's responsible for many cultural ideas, from night hags who sit on your chest and throttle you, to bad spirits, to alien abduction. Actually it's pretty fascinating!

I've now got mine mainly under control. This wasn't an easy or fast process, but I'd say nine times out of ten, I can now realise I'm dreaming and wake myself. The first thing is to get good at the knowing you're dreaming technique, and the second is to break the paralysis. Weird as it sounds, when I realise this is happening, I try to tell myself it's not real and wiggle my toes. For some reason, I can't move the rest of me but I can often move a toe - this wakes me and breaks it.

Good luck to you. This is a very frightening thing to have happen to you.

Frillsandspills Fri 19-Jun-15 11:39:01

Thank you all for your responses.
I'm new to mumsnet so I wasn't aware there were any other threads about this but I will have a look!

I'm not on any medication at all and I never have been when this started.

I can call my OH for some comfort as he's a night owl so always awake thankfully. I had an episode the other night and I fell asleep with my arms by my head so my armpits were out and I felt like I was being tickled.. Then someone that resembled Jesus tucked me in bed. I must admit I laugh about that one but at the time feeling like I was being tickled was horrendous! It felt so real!

The worst was about a year or two ago when I had it and I seen this old woman in my bedroom. I thought to myself who the hell is she? And as soon as I wondered she turned her head to look at me and had the most decrepit scary face. I was petrified and suddenly she leaped on my chest, screamed in my face and I couldn't breathe!

Sometimes I can feel myself going into sleep paralysis and occasionally, but not very often, I can fully wake myself up before it happens but sadly not all the time!

Rosenwyn I wasn't sure what caused the hallucination but thank you for explaining! It's comforting to know it's not some sort of demon in the house lol!

I find it used to be triggered when I was really sleep deprived but it started becoming more common recently. In fact since I've had my bedroom done and rearranged everything to accommodate a cot and extra storage for the baby that's on the way it's got so much worse.

I think it might be stress related - my pregnancy wasn't planned and my OH does not want a child right now (we wanted to be married first and a bit older). We have spoken about other options though I love this child so much already there are no other options for me. With him working in a different city he wasn't able to come to any scans or appointments and I've not had a chance to speak to him properly about it as we've both had work commitments and it's something to be done in person, so I have a lot of fear he is going to walk away or go through a phase where things are just very stressful for us.

...sorry to go off topic there but hopefully once things with my OH are sorted perhaps I will have a better quality of sleep which will help.

sianihedgehog Fri 19-Jun-15 11:42:52

I get sleep paralysis , but usually after festivals or really heavy weekends - it's definitely related to sleep deprivation for me. I find that if I can consciously recognise it as sleep paralysis I can usually either fall back asleep or wait until I wake fully, even if there are tentacles coming out the walls. I also get sort of the opposite problem in that I sleepwalk under similar circumstances. I woke up midway through throwing all my other half's pillows out the window once... Much more disruptive!

deadwitchproject Fri 19-Jun-15 12:01:03

I've not had this but my Dad has had it a fair bit. Strangely his dream seems to be a recurrent one - his brain is boiling - and he's also linked it to sleep deprivation.

popalot Fri 19-Jun-15 16:55:50

One way to deal with it when it's happening I find is to calm down, not struggle against it and just close your eyes and go back to sleep. I haven't had one for years but went through a real bad patch until I learnt to control it this way. I could feel it happening as I could hear a sort of regular whoosh in my ear and felt like I was drugged. At that point I would start to calm myself down and relax. Once you start training yourself to do that bit by bit you regain control and the fear subsides and the hallucinations aren't half as bad...they calm down to just you thinking 'oh, not again' and then sort of controlling yourself back into sleep without much happening at all.

I also found that sleeping with a telly on made it worse - I think it kept me slightly awake. I now have a much better sleep routine where I have a bath, read a book and gently fall asleep and that has helped I think.

I've always felt like they were a sort of mini fit because of the whooshing sound in my ear like my brain was freezing up a bit...some sort of electrical activity that goes wrong in sleep. Recognising when it is beginning can help and if you have one after the other, I recommend you wake up and read for a while until you relax again.

FaFoutis Fri 19-Jun-15 17:09:58

I agree with popalot. I deal with mine by what feels like pulling myself back under, relaxing into a different phase of sleep. This isn't easy, I didn't master it until my 40s. Before that I found I could sometimes control the hallucinations somewhat by imagining other things which then felt real too. Quite magical whaen it worked - I levitated above my own body once.

I get most sleep paralysis early in the morning, when I had fallen back to sleep - as you say Frillsandspills. I don't go back to sleep once I have woken up now. One doctor told me that concentrating on moving a finger or a toe could break it, but it didn't work for me. They feel like they are moving when they are not.

In the past my sleep paralysis has lasted a long time, once I could see the clock and it was nearly half an hour. Absolutely terrifying. When I read about locked in syndrome I think I understand some of how that feels.

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