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If you believe in the paranormal you might not be surprised if you hear stories of deceased loved ones appearing during the night, huge explosions heard just as someone is drifting off with no obvious cause, and other peculiar occurrences. reports citing Daily Mail.

Chris French told me stories of countless people who had recounted such events. These experiences tended to start while lying in bed.

Then something unusual would happen – perhaps a demon would appear or the environment would seem strange or there would be a sensed presence.

The person having this experience might also report being glued to their mattress, tarmacked into the bed, totally unable to move.

It's unsurprising that people who experience such things might interpret them as paranormal.

But certain phenomena such as sleep paralysis provide an alternative to paranormal explanations for such occurrences.

When we sleep, we cycle through different stages.

We start the night in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep – which gets progressively deeper.

We then cycle back until we hit rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

During REM sleep we are most likely to have vivid dreams. At this stage we are also paralysed, perhaps as a safety mechanism to stop us acting out our dreams so that we don't end up attempting to fly.

But during sleep paralysis, features of REM sleep continue into waking life. .

This experience is pretty common, occurring in around eight per cent of people (although estimates vary dramatically depending on who we are asking).

It's even possible to induce sleep paralysis in some people, by disrupting their sleep in specific ways.

Information about sleep paralysis is finally seeping into public awareness, but we now need to understand more about this common complaint.

People sometimes describe experiencing huge explosions during the night which simply can't be explained.

There is no sign that a shelf has fallen down or a car has backfired.

There is no one playing the electric guitar next to their head.

When we fall asleep, the reticular formation of the brainstem (a part of our brain involved in consciousness) typically starts to inhibit our ability to move, see and hear things.

When we experience a 'bang' in our sleep this might be because of a delay in this process. Instead of the reticular formation shutting down the auditory neurons, they might fire at once.

We might dream of a friend we haven't seen for years only to have them call us the very next day.

Having scientific explanations provided her with immense comfort and she no longer believes in paranormal explanations for the things that she experienced.

Our hope is that scientific explanations of paranormal experiences might help others by lowering anxiety.

Decreasing anxiety has also been hypothesised as a potential method by which to reduce sleep paralysis. So, perhaps providing more information about these unusual experiences might even mean that things are less likely to go bump in the night.

2018.06.22 / 12:43
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