Did you ever wake up and found you were unable to move?

  • Thread starter Linda
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  • #26
hypnagogue
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Linda said:
I don't see how the purpose of sleep paralysis is to stop you from acting out your dreams, because you are basically awake (not dreaming) in your mind, only your body hasn't followed. Rather, stopping you from acting out your dreams, is the purpose of the hormones and the parasympathetic nervous system, as they make your muscles not react to what's going on in your dreams. Sleep paralysis and its purpose, if it has one, is a phenomenon that I don't thind science has quite explained yet.
Sleep paralysis is most probably the same mechanism that keeps you immobile while you are actually sleeping and dreaming. In the majority of cases, the paralysis wears off before one wakes up, but in some instances it continues briefly even after the dreamer has awoken. Or at least, that's the explanation that seems to make the most sense.

The purpose of this paralysis, as stated already, is just to keep the dreamer from acting out his dream. Even under the influence of paralysis, motor signals are sent out to the actual body in accordance with what the dreamer does in his dream. This has been proven pretty conclusively via lucid dreaming, which is a type of dream where the dreamer becomes aware that he's dreaming and can consciously act in his dream world just as he would in the real one. From http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/si91ld.html :

Dream Actions

As we watch sleeping animals it is often tempting to conclude that they are moving their eyes in response to watching a dream, or twitching their legs as they dream of chasing prey. But do physical movements actually relate to the dream events?

Early sleep researchers occasionally reported examples like a long series of left-right eye movements when a dreamer had been dreaming of watching a ping-pong game, but they could do no more than wait until the right sort of dream came along.

Lucid dreaming made proper experimentation possible, for the subjects could be asked to perform a whole range of tasks in their dreams. In one experiment with researchers Morton Schatzman and Peter Fenwick, in London, Worsley planned to draw large triangles and to signal with flicks of his eyes every time he did so. While he dreamed, the electromyogram, recording small muscle movements, showed not only the eye signals but spikes of electrical activity in the right forearm just afterward. This showed that the preplanned actions in the dream produced corresponding muscle movements (Schatzman, Worsley, and Fenwick 1988).

Further experiments, with Worsley kicking dream objects, writing with umbrellas, and snapping his fingers, all confirmed that the muscles of the body show small movements corresponding to the body’s actions in the dream. The question about eye movements was also answered. The eyes do track dream objects. Worsley could even produce slow scanning movements, which are very difficult to produce in the absence of a "real" stimulus (Schatzman, Worsley, and Fenwick 1g88).

LaBerge was especially interested in breathing during dreams. This stemmed from his experiences at age five when he had dreamed of being an undersea pirate who could stay under water for very long periods without drowning. Thirty years later he wanted to find out whether dreamers holding their breath in dreams do so physically as well. The answer was yes. He and other lucid dreamers were able to signal from the dream and then hold their breath. They could also breathe rapidly in their dreams, as revealed on the monitors. Studying breathing during dreamed speech, he found that the person begins to breathe out at the start of an utterance just as in real speech (LaBerge and Dement 1982a).
 
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  • #27
Nim
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I don't think people are paralyzed when their asleep, because then, you would wake up in the same position that you fell asleep in. And some people move around in bed a lot. Like the sort of people whose foot sometimes ends up in your mouth.
 
  • #28
hypnagogue
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Nim said:
I don't think people are paralyzed when their asleep, because then, you would wake up in the same position that you fell asleep in. And some people move around in bed a lot. Like the sort of people whose foot sometimes ends up in your mouth.
You're not completely paralyzed-- otherwise you wouldn't be able to breathe. :wink: The point is just that motoric signals sent to the muscles are inhibited. As the study I mentioned above shows, even 'normal' dreamers literally act out their dreams, albeit much more subtly than sleepwalkers.

It is a bit curious to consider how tossing and turning during sleep fits into all of this. My guess is that the majority of such activity occurs outside of REM sleep, where presumably the paralysis is relaxed since there aren't any dreams to act out. Or, perhaps such movements are closer in nature to automatic motion (such as unattended breathing) as opposed to volitional motion (such as planning to raise an arm).
 
  • #29
Nim
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hypnagogue said:
In the majority of cases, the paralysis wears off before one wakes up, but in some instances it continues briefly even after the dreamer has awoken.
The paralysis that you say "continues" is the kind that doesn't allow you to move at all. That statement suggests that you can't move when you sleep, since you said sleep paralysis is a continuation of the paralysis that occurs during sleep.

I don't doubt that "motoric signals sent to the muscles are inhibited", but I don't think that sleep paralysis is the continuation of the paralysis that we experience when we fall asleep.
 
  • #30
LURCH
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Math Is Hard said:
Ancestral ghosts - Southeast Asians
Hag - Irish and Scottish
Cats - Chinese
Spectral foxes - Japanese
Djinn - Arabs
Guilt - Romans and the Egyptians
Witchcraft - Mexicans
Vampires - Europeans
Demons - Medieval Europe
And in the modern world, a lot of these instances are probably the cause of "alien abduction" experiences. Most abductees report a sense of an evil presence in the room, accompanied total paralysis.

Owl, it is my understanding that most animals which "fake death" to confuse a predator are not making a conscious decision to lie still, but become paralyzed when threatened. A form of "fainting".
 
  • #31
Monique
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LURCH said:
Owl, it is my understanding that most animals which "fake death" to confuse a predator are not making a conscious decision to lie still, but become paralyzed when threatened. A form of "fainting".
Ah really, I didn't know that :)
 
  • #32
Nim
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The possum does it. Im not sure what else does.

From: A Moment of Science
"Possums are famous for "playing dead" when threatened, but this isn't quite accurate. They are not "playing" dead at all: the possum goes into shock when particularly stressed. While not dead, it can be found lying on its side with its legs extended and is, in fact, limp and unconscious during this time, like a person who has fainted."

From: America Zoo
"It is thought that the opossum actually goes into a deep sleep, so that even if an animal bites it, the opossum does not react at all. A great many predators do not eat dead animals, so they just walk away."
 
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  • #33
Math Is Hard
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Nim said:
The possum does it. Im not sure what else does.
I've done it to get out of an exam once or twice. :rofl:
 
  • #34
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Linda said:
That happened to me once, I was definetely awake but unable to move arms, legs, anything. It only lasted ever so briefly, but it was kind of scary. I've read that this happens to most people, but rarely.

Can anyone explain to me why this happens? Does it have something to do with why you twich a little sometimes when falling asleep (sometimes waking yourself up - very annoying)?
Maybe they are more, but this is by far the funniest thread I have ever read on this physics forum! Every posting just cracked me up........please keep it coming, guys! You've just made my day!
 
  • #35
Omg I Just Did That Today!!

i was on here looking up why that happened. i guess thats what i did was woke up to fast i walk in this dark room and i knew someone was gonna hurt me but i went in anyway.(lol) and someone yelled from the back don't turn the lights on (too late) and i just woke up my eyes were fixed on the wall and i couldn't move and i couldn't talk, i got scared and then couldn't really catch my breath. it weirded me out so much. i need to get more sleep i guess.
 

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