Have you ever woken up only to find out you can't move at all? Well, I have on a couple of occasions, and it was absolutely terrifying. This experience is called sleep paralysis, and it is described as the inability to move right after falling asleep or right after waking up. It may be related to narcolepsy. If you haven't experienced sleep paralysis yet, there's a good chance you will considering up to one-half of college students will experience it at least once.
After experiencing sleep paralysis personally, I was left wondering what just happened and why. It wasn't until I took psychology my senior year in high school that I even knew the condition had a name. Sleep paralysis is a result of an interruption to the sleep cycle. To my surprise, it also has meaning in many different cultures. In Fiji, sleepy paralysis is interpreted as being eaten by a demon. In Swedish folklore, it is interpreted as being caused by a werewolf-like creature who causes nightmares by sitting on villagers while they sleep. In Turkish culture, sleep paralysis is called Karabasan and is interpreted as a demon known as Cin strangling its' victim. In Europe, in the nineteenth century, many believed sleep paralysis was caused by a change in diet. Sleep paralysis is even mentioned in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, when Ebenezer Scrooge sees a ghost, supposedly because of undigested food. Also, a Swedish movie, Marianne, was just released, and explores the phenomena surrounding sleep paralysis.
Though there are many different types of sleeping disorders, sleep paralysis can be quite common, though it is less known. Sleeping is a very important part of our lives, so learning about sleeping disorders is also very important. Though sleep paralysis can be very terrifying, it is nice to know that many people experience it at some time or another, and that is usually isn't dangerous.