My dreams scare me. I am always in my bed, and I cannot move. Then I see someone. Sometimes they have a bright light behind them; sometimes it is black around them. I try to wake up, but it takes some time. I try to yell out, but that does not work either. This has long been a problem for me, and it’s getting worse. It has gotten to the point where I think I need help.
–Melissa, 30, Gordon, WI
Lauri: What you are experiencing are not dreams but rather episodes of sleep paralysis. You are getting stuck in the hypnagogic stage of sleep, which is the first stage we enter when we fall asleep and the last stage before we wake up. When we enter the dreaming state (REM), our brain releases a chemical that literally paralyzes our skeletal muscles so that we do not get up and act out our dreams. Sometimes, when we are having a fitful night of sleep, or aren’t getting enough good, solid sleep, we’ll get stuck in the hypnagogic stage and experience sleep paralysis. Some people feel like they are leaving their bodies. Why it almost always is frightening is uncertain. But there is nothing wrong with you. The best way to cure yourself is to make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep.
Melissa replies: Thank you so much! I do not get much sleep. I own a bar and have two kids, so by the time I get to bed I average only 4 to 5 hours of sleep. I will try my best to get more sleep.