Sleep paralysis is a pretty common condition where people wake up in the night and feel like they can’t move. Strangely, a lot of people interpret this experience as feeling like they have a demon sitting on their chest. Besides just being uncomfortable and/or frightening depending on the circumstances, it turns out this can also be dangerous. In rare circumstances people who experience sleep paralysis may stop someone from waking up if something goes wrong when other people would naturally wake and do something about it.
One of the best ways to deal with sleep paralysis is to understand what causes it, since it appears that people who believe its caused by something supernatural have higher levels of stress around the incident when it occurs. (Understandably.)
Basically what happens during sleep paralysis is that the body and the brain are not totally working right together. When we enter the REM cycle during sleep it appears as though our muscles go into a state where they are relaxed so that they wouldn’t flail around as we dream as they might if we were really experiencing what we were dreaming about. Glycine and GABA are the chemicals found in the brain that cause this mild paralysis to come over the muscles in the deep dream states. As long as your brain remains in the sleep zone, this is not an issue.
When it becomes an uncomfortable experience is when you wake up and have a mental awareness of being awake before your body has. Then you would feel the state of paralysis that your body is going through and sometimes people feel like they are having trouble and experience hallucination type experiences that could be them coming out of their dream. This is why many people have the experience that some sort of demon is responsible for the experience.
Research has found that people who are more analytical and don’t believe in the supernatural tend to have an easier time moving past a sleep paralysis experience, but those that do can be very frightened by it.
Despite the occasionally issue, sleep paralysis is general not considered an issue, and it usually isn’t linked to any sort of psychiatric issues. It is simple your body moving at a jagged pace through the sleep cycles. Causes of sleep paralysis might be a change to your sleep schedule, not getting enough sleep, stress, some medications, or using too much of certain substances like alcohol. If you sleep on your back when you experience this phenomenon you may want to try switching to another position. In most cases there is no treatment to be had, but making sure to get enough sleep on a regular sleep schedule can help prevent the likelihood of it occurring.