By Yesenia Flores, Staff Writer
Sleep paralysis is when our brain is awake and our body is asleep, causing huge confusion and inability to move even when one tries to force themselves to move. When we begin to doze off, our brains tell our muscles to relax, which in turn causes our muscles to tense up and stay still while we fall asleep; this is referred to as atonia. According to SleepEducation.org, sleep paralysis occurs when our brains go through this process while we are waking up or just about to fall asleep.
It wasn’t up until a couple of months ago that I experienced sleep paralysis for the first time. Thankfully, it wasn’t firsthand. I woke up to loud groaning and whimpering, so I bravely went looking for the source. I walked to my sister’s bedroom and realized her fists and jaws clenched, while tears rolled down the sides of her temples as she laid facing the ceiling.
I assumed she was having a nightmare so I tried to comfort her by saying everything was okay for a couple of seconds until I decided to softly shake her arm in hopes that she would realize it was all a dream. That’s when she woke up fully, or as I thought, and burst out in tears thanking me.
She confessed she was experiencing sleep paralysis and had heard me get out of bed, walk over, and tell her everything would be okay but could not move until I physically shook her out of her state. She told me she woke up to a black figure standing in her doorway and slowly make its way next to her, hovering. She could not scream or move but was able to move her eyes to scan the room and the black figure’s movements.
So I did what every other concerned little sister does. I told my mom about it in hopes to scare her. Failure. I ended up being the one scared. She began telling me about sleep paralysis encounters in her family, some of which drove people to close to death experiences.
Although stress is a medical explanation for sleep paralysis, some people choose to believe otherwise. Some think it is associated with extraterrestrial encounters and paranormal phenomenons.
In the Mexican culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as, “cuando se te sube el muerto.” In other words, when the dead come to visit you. Some Mexican urban myths associated sleep paralysis with demons pushing down on one’s chest. The reason as to why some people experience demons on their chest while they sleep is unknown, but many believe it is due to cultural backgrounds and their strong beliefs in religion.