Sleep paral­y­sis

How It Works - - SCIENCE -

Wak­ing to the aw­ful feel­ing that you’ve lost con­trol of your limbs can be ter­ri­fy­ing, but sleep paral­y­sis is es­sen­tial to keep you safe at night. When we dream dur­ing rapid eye move­ment (REM) sleep, our brains run through vivid sim­u­la­tions and try to send mes­sages to our mus­cles. But two sig­nalling chem­i­cals, gam­maaminobu­tyric acid (GABA) and glycine, stop mes­sages reach­ing the mo­tor neu­rons. This pre­vents us from act­ing out our dreams and harm­ing our­selves and oth­ers, but some­times the sys­tem can mal­func­tion. The fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of sleep paral­y­sis hap­pens when our brains en­ter this dream-like state when we’re still awake. It’s rare, but oc­curs more of­ten if we’re over tired, have jet lag or work ir­reg­u­lar shifts that mess with our body clocks.

The brain stops send­ing sig­nals to the mus­cles when we dream

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