Regular readers will know that this blog is mainly concerned with survival and self-defence. The blog does allow me to occasionally address more diverse topics that I like to think of as ways of surviving the rat race or defence against the perils of modern life.
The night before last was unpleasant. I awoke in the early hours and experienced an episode of sleep paralysis. (Somewhat misnamed I have to observe). As I awoke, I was disorientated and struggled to recognise where I was. I had a feeling that I might not be alone. I tried to make a noise but no sound came out and I was unable to move. The feeling passed and I regained movement. I tried to sleep again. As I lay there a wave of “immobility” affected my feet and began to move up my body. I felt myself dropping off into sleep but also had the feeling this was something being imposed upon me so fought against it. The rest of the night I had difficulty remaining sleeping.
The next day I read up a little on sleep paralysis. Very interesting stuff. Most people will experience a couple of episodes of sleep paralysis during their lives. It appears that as the body’s physical motion is inhibited one’s paranoia goes into overdrive and familiar surroundings and sounds will be interpreted as potential threats. Hence the feelings of fear and that there is another presence in the room. Nature of the threat varies with the experiencer's cultural icons. A friend told me he had an episode of sleep paralysis where he heard a demon whispering unintelligible words into his ear. The same friend is a long time sufferer of tinnitus so it seems likely this was his paranoia perceiving the usual background noise differently.
One of the things I learnt from the British NHS website was that if you are experiencing sleep paralysis you should attempt to wiggle your fingers or toes. I was also reading about related folklore Stories of supernatural creatures that sit on your chest during the night and stop you moving or make breathing hard are common to many cultures. Interestingly at least one tradition suggests you can drive the creature away by attempting to bite your thumb or wiggle your fingers! Or you should attempt to steal the creature's hat!
The NHS site yielded some useful information on improving sleep patterns. A useful tip was to tidy my bedroom to create a less chaotic and more relaxing environment. If nothing else I no longer trip over stuff as much when going to bed! Most of us are aware that drinking coffee close to bedtime is not a good idea but many of us will overlook the ingestion of other stimulants such as smoking or caffeinated soft drinks. Unusually for me I had drank a can of coke after dinner that night, so wonder if this might have contributed to my unpleasant night?
Strenuous exercise close to bedtime is to be avoided, the exception being sex, the one form of exercise that can be both vigorous and sleep-inducing. Not a particularly practical option for me currently so I looked at the second best option, relaxing using yoga. The yoga that I am most familiar with is the “Salute the Sun” sequence but it occurred to me a set of exercises intended to be performed in the morning might not be the best choice to relax me before bedtime. I came across this set of exercises which you can even do in bed! I didn’t do the full eight minutes for my first attempts but did find them quite effective. I had not expected to fall to sleep very quickly last night given how stressful the previous night had been but I did notice I did feel more relaxed and less restless while I was lying in bed. I will persist with the yoga and see how it goes.
Update: Since I first wrote this, I have had a couple of minor events. My half-awake mind tries to counter-attack, and making a palm-strike has much the same effect as wiggling fingers or making signs against evil. A similar reflex seems to wake me up if I dream of something particularly disturbing.
I hope that this information has been of some interest or help to some of you. Pleasant dreams!