Is Stress a Risk Factor?
Yes. Stress can generate a REM Sleep Deficit which can increase the frequency of Awareness during Sleep Paralysis.
How does stress generate a REM Sleep Deficit?
Stress can reduce the amount of REM sleep we get.
Under stress people sleep less.
Stress may actually cause insomnia in some people, while other people simply stay up late dealing with or worrying about the the stress-inducing problem. In any event, because we get most of our REM sleep toward the end of a sleep period, any reduction in the total time spent sleeping disproportionately decreases the amount of REM sleep we get!
Taking sleeping pills (or using alcohol) to deal with insomnia can create a vicious cycle for someone trying to avoid Awareness during Sleep Paralysis: Many sleeping pills have the side effect of suppressing REM sleep.
Stress increases our need for REM Sleep
Researchers found that in humans REM sleep increased several days after the subjects had been exposed to intensely demanding and stressful events. Researchers also found that subjects who were deprived of REM sleep had trouble learning. It's clear that if we don't get enough of it we may experience serious negative physical and psychological changes. [1, 185]
Stress reducing techniques can be counterproductive
One common way of dealing with stress, unwinding with an alcoholic beverage, is like shooting yourself in the REM. Alcohol suppresses REM sleep.
Stress can promote anxiety and responses to anxiety can be counterproductive
The third major force in the anxiety disease is stress. [2, 98]
It would seem logical to treat anxiety with anti-anxiety drugs. But the evidence of medical research suggests that there is a strong correlation between the use of anti-anxiety drugs and the frequency of ASP experiences.
Why is REM Sleep so Important?
This is unclear. Maybe we work thru the emotional issues of the day, maybe we flush useless data and file the important information, maybe we use REM state dreams for problem solving or maybe the real reason has not yet been uncovered.
What Happens to Someone with a REM Sleep Deficit?
This may be considered the body's "Yellow Alert" response to REM Sleep Deficit. It is a compensatory increase in the percentage of sleep time devoted to REM sleep. After a period of deprivation REM sleep can go up by 40% for several days before returning to a normal level.
Since Awareness during Sleep Paralysis is a function of REM sleep, ASP events may increase.
Sleep Onset REM Periods, SOREMP
This may be considered the body's "Red Alert" response to REM Sleep Deficit. The body bypasses the first sleep cycle and drops right into REM sleep. The experiencer will often retain conscious awareness and may notice the sudden onset of sleep paralysis. Each such case would, of course, be an instance of Awareness during Sleep Paralysis.
What is a Good Way to Deal with Stress?
Stress hormones can injure every organ system in our body, from our hearts to our brains. Melatonin can blunt the negative effects of stress hormones, and by doing so can prevent a myriad of common diseases. [1, 174]
- The Melatonin Miracle. Walter Pierpaoli, MD, and William Regelson, MD. (1995). New York: Simon & Schuster.
- The Anxiety Disease. David V. Sheehan, MD. (1986). New York: Bantam Books.