Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sleepless in Kalibo

You learn something new everyday. In my search for answers I came across these entries in Wikipedia:

Hypnagogia (also spelled hypnogogia) describes vivid dreamlike auditory, visual, or tactile sensations, which are often accompanied by sleep paralysis and experienced when falling asleep or waking up.

The hypnagogic experience occurs between being awake and asleep, while the hypnopompic experience occurs as one is waking up; both experiences occur within the time period between sleep and waking (or vice versa). Experienced qualities vary, and include fear, awareness of a "presence," chest or back pressure, and an inability to breathe (hence the folkloric notion of mara-like creatures tormenting sleepers), a falling sensation or a feeling of tripping, but sometimes also joy.

During the hypnagogic state, an individual may appear to be fully awake, but has brain waves indicating that the individual is technically sleeping. Also, the individual may be completely aware of their state, which enables lucid dreamers to enter the dream state consciously directly from the waking state (wake-initiated lucid dream technique).

The hypnagogic state is sometimes proposed as an explanation of experiences such as alien abduction, apparitions, or visions.

Johann Heinrich Füssli's Nachtmahr, "Nightmare," 1781.

Sleep paralysis is a condition characterized by temporary paralysis of the body shortly after waking up (known as hypnopompic paralysis) or, less often, shortly before falling asleep (known as hypnagogic paralysis).

Physiologically, it is closely related to the paralysis that occurs as a natural part of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is known as REM atonia. Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain awakes from a REM state, but the bodily paralysis persists. This leaves the person fully aware, but unable to move. In addition, the state may be accompanied by hypnagogic hallucinations.

More often than not, sleep paralysis is believed by the person affected by it to be no more than a dream. This explains many dream recountings which describe the person lying frozen and unable to move. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful, or dream-like, objects may appear in the room alongside one's normal vision. Some scientists have proposed this condition as a theory for alien abductions and ghostly encounters.

Some reports read that various factors increase the likelihood of both paralysis and hallucinations. These include:
  • Sleeping in an upwards supine position
  • Irregular sleeping schedules; naps, sleeping in, sleep deprivation
  • Increased stress
  • Sudden environmental/lifestyle changes
  • A lucid dream that immediately precedes the episode. Also conscious induction of sleep paralysis is a common technique to enter a state of lucid dreams, also known as WILD (wake-initiated lucid dreaming) .
  • Artificial sleeping aids, ADD medications and/or antihistamines
  • Recent use of hallucinogenic drugs
Treatment. During paralysis episodes, patients may be advised to try moving the facial muscles and moving eyes from one side to the other. This may hasten the termination of the attack.

Johann Heinrich Füssli's Nachtmahr, "Nightmare," 1802.

Cultural references [to sleep paralysis]:
  • In Hmong culture, sleep paralysis describes an experience called "dab tsog" or "crushing demon" from the compound phrase "dab" (demon) and "tsog" (crush). Often times the sufferer claims to be able to see a tiny figure, no larger than a child, sitting on his or her chest. What is alarming is that a vast number of American Hmong, mainly males, have died in their sleep prompting the Centers for Disease Control to create the term "Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome" or "SUNDS" for short.
  • In Vietnamese, sleep paralysis is referred to as "ma de", meaning "held down by a ghost". Most people in this culture believe that a ghost has entered your body, causing the paralysis state.
  • In Japanese, sleep paralysis is referred to as kanashibari (金縛り, literally "bound or fastened in metal," from kane "metal" and shibaru "to bind, to tie, to fasten"). This term is occasionally used by English speaking authors to refer to the phenomenon both in academic papers and in pop psych literature.
  • In Hungarian folk culture sleep paralysis is called "lidércnyomás" ("lidérc pressing") and can be attributed to a number of supernatural entities like "lidérc", "boszorkány" (witch), "tündér" (fairy) or "ördögszerető". The word "boszorkány" itself stems from the Turkish root "bas-", meaning "to press".
  • Kurdish people call this phenomenon a "mottaka", they believe that some one, in a form of a ghost or perhaps an evil spirit, turns up on top the of the person in the middle of the night and suffocates him/her. Apparently this happens usually when some one has done something bad.
  • In New Guinea, people refer to this phenomenon as "Suk Ninmyo", believed to originate from sacred trees that use human essence to sustain its life. The trees are said to feed on human essence during night as to not disturb the human's daily life, but sometimes people wake unnaturally during the feeding, resulting in the paralysis.
  • In Turkey this is called "karabasan" ("The dark presser/assailer"). It is believed that it is a creature which attacks people in their sleep.
  • In Mexico, it's believed that sleep paralysis is in fact the spirit of a dead person getting on the person and impeding movement, calling this "se me subió el muerto" (the dead person got on me).
  • In many parts of the Southern United States, the phenomenon is known as a "hag", and the event is said to often be a sign of an approaching tragedy or accident.
  • Parker Johnston, states after his encounter with sleep paralysis, "I can tell you right now, if I hadn't read about this type of thing earlier, mainly the part about the hallucinations, and known exactly what was going on, what was causing it and what to expect, this would've easily been one of the most nightmarish experiences of my life" and goes on to say that "knowing is half the battle"
Amen to that, Mr. Johnston!

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The Chronicler's Creed

Where there's water and sun, where there are friends to see or new people to meet, where there's something new to learn, experience, or do, where there's life, there I will be.


Y fue a esa edad... Llegó la poesía
a buscarme. No sé, no sé de dónde
salió, de invierno o río.
No sé cómo ni cuándo,
no, no eran voces, no eran
palabras, ni silencio,
pero desde una calle me llamaba,
desde las ramas de la noche,
de pronto entre los otros,
entre fuegos violentos
o regresando solo,
allí estaba sin rostro
y me tocaba.

And it was at that age... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I do not know, I do not know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I do not know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

- An excerpt from LA POESÍA (Poetry) by Pablo Neruda