Thursday, January 7, 2010

There's a demon on my chest.. or maybe not.

I thought I might need to hurry up and describe my experience at the Lakeshore Sleep Disorder clinic fast - before I forget the horrific, if not traumatic experience.

I do not want to confuse anyone - so let me start from the beginning.

If you have been following my blog, or if you are a new reader - I have been trying to get my Blood Pressure under control. I was doing really well back in November. I have to admit - I am failing miserably in January. But I am hoping to get a grip back on this condition.

One of the many tests needed to "fix" or get a handle on my situation involves a sleep study. Why? Well - sleep apnea is a contributing factor to elevated blood pressure. At the very least, it is not helping.

I believe I have sleep apnea and sleep paralysis. No - I am not hypochondriac. This is real. My own mother saw me have an episode right on the couch in her living room over Christmas Break.

What is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep 3 or more nights each week. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow.

This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can't detect the condition during routine office visits. Also, there are no blood tests for the condition.

Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member and/or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This most often means that the airway has collapsed or is blocked during sleep. The blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses.

When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea happens more often in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone.

Untreated sleep apnea can:

-Increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
-Increase the risk for or worsen heart failure
-Make irregular heartbeats more likely
-Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents

(my source comes from: )

As you can see - it basically is not only disruptive, it can - long term - cause some scary problems.

One other symptom I have, and oooooh how it scares the crap out of me - sleep paralysis. It happens from time to time and I HATE IT. What is sleep paralysis? According to it is a frightening form of paralysis that occurs when a person suddenly finds himself or herself unable to move for a few minutes, most often upon falling asleep or waking up. Sleep paralysis is due to an ill-timed disconnection between the brain and the body.

Physiologically, sleep paralysis 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 body paralysis persists. This leaves the person fully conscious, but unable to move. The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes "after which the individual may experience panic symptoms and the realization that the distorted perceptions were false". As the correlation with REM sleep suggests, the paralysis is not entirely complete; use of EOG traces shows that eye movement can be instigated during such episodes. When there is an absence of narcolepsy, sleep paralysis is referred to as isolated sleep paralysis.

In addition, the paralysis state may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger.

Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations. 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 an explanation for alien abductions and ghostly encounters. A study by Susan Blackmore and Marcus Cox (the Blackmore-Cox study) of the University of the West of England supports the suggestion that reports of alien abductions are related to sleep paralysis rather than to temporal lobe lability.

Now - I have never experienced an alien abduction. hahahahaa. I am sorry, I don't mean to laugh. But what I have experienced is a little different. My mind wakes up - but my body will not move. At all.. I push and push.. but nothing. I shallow breathe, and feel that if I do not wake myself up - I will quit breathing and die.

Dramatic - I know.

Add this to the waking up and gasping from air and you have one young lady who hardly ever gets a good night sleep.

Just think what is going on? All of this "panic" in my sleep causes my adrenal gland to kick into over drive and the blood pressure rises and rises. I awake with a racing pulse and elevated bp.

Sooo.. the sleep study.

But before I get into the sleep story - I have to share the "folklore" around sleep paralysis. Fascinating stuff!

The original definition of sleep paralysis was codified by Dr Johnson in his A Dictionary of the English Language as "nightmare," a term that evolved into our modern definition.

Such sleep paralysis was widely considered to be the work of demons and more specifically incubi, which were thought to sit on the chests of sleepers. In Old English the name for these beings was mare or mære (from a proto-Germanic *marōn, cf. Old Norse mara), hence comes the mare part in nightmare. The word might be etymologically cognate to Hellenic Marōn (in the Odyssey) and Sanskrit Māra.

Folk belief in Newfoundland, South Carolina and Georgia describe the negative figure of the Hag who leaves her physical body at night, and sits on the chest of her victim. I remember my granny talking about her.

What is supposed to happen is the "victim" usually wakes with a feeling of terror, has difficulty breathing because of a perceived heavy invisible weight on his or her chest, and is unable to move i.e., experiences sleep paralysis.

This nightmare experience is described as being "hag-ridden" in the Gullah lore.

The "Old Hag" was a nightmare spirit in British and also Anglophone North American folklore.

In Nigeria, "ISP appears to be far more common and recurrent among people of African descent than among whites or Nigerian Africans", and is often referred to within African communities as "the Devil on your back."

Various forms of magic and spiritual possession were also advanced as causes.

In nineteenth century Europe, the vagaries of diet were thought to be responsible. For example, in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge attributes the ghost he sees to "... an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato..."

And so it goes... it is well documented across the world!

Look at what I found - FASCINATING:

-In African culture, isolated sleep paralysis is commonly referred to as "the witch riding your back".

- In the Muslim culture of South Asia (Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian Muslims), sleep paralysis is considered to be an encounter with evil jinns and demons who have taken over ones body.
In northwestern Pakistan, this ghoul is known as 'bakhtak' (Urdu بختک). It is also assumed that it is caused by the black magic performed by enemies and jealous persons.
Spells, incantations and curses could also result in ghouls haunting a person. Some homes and places are also haunted by evil ghosts, satanic or other supernatural beings and they could haunt people living there. Sufis, Mullahs, Faqirs or Imams perform exorcism on individuals who are possessed.
Talismans and AmuletS are worn by people to keep them safe especially the young children. The homes, houses, buildings and grounds are blessed and consecrated by Sufis, Mullahs or Imams by reciting Qur'an and Adhan (Urdu أَذَان), the Islamic call to prayer, recited by the muezzin.

-In Cambodian, Laotian, and Thai culture, sleep paralysis is called pee umm and khmout sukkhot. It is described as an event in which the person is sleeping and dreams that one or more ghostly figures are nearby or even holding him or her down. The sufferer usually thinks that he or she is awake but unable to move or make any noises. This is not to be confused with pee khao and khmout jool, ghost possession.

-In Hmong culture, sleep paralysis describes an experience called "dab tsog" or "crushing demon." Often 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 have died in their sleep, prompting the Centers for Disease Control to create the term "Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome" (see Sudden unexplained death syndrome) or "SUNDS" for short; this is now theorized to be a form of Brugada syndrome.

- In Korean culture, sleep paralysis is called gawee nulim (Hangul: 가위눌림), literally meaning "being pressed down by scissors". It is often associated with a superstitious belief that a ghost or spirit is laying on top of or pressing down on the sufferer.

- In Philippine culture, "bangungut", or sudden unexplained death syndrome, has traditionally been attributed to nightmares. People who have claimed to survive such nightmares have reported experiencing the symptoms of sleep paralysis.

-During the Salem witch trials several people reported nighttime attacks by various alleged witches including Bridget Bishop that may have been the result of sleep paralysis.

- In Malta, folk culture attributes a sleep paralysis incident to an attack by the "Haddiela" who is the wife of the "Hares", the entity in Maltese folk culture which haunts the individual in similar ways as to those of a poltergeist. As believed in folk culture, to rid oneself of the Haddiela, one must place a piece of silverware or a knife under the pillow prior to sleep.

-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 Turkish culture, sleep paralysis is often referred to as "karabasan" ("The dark presser/assailer"). It is believed to be a creature which attacks people in their sleep, pressing on their chest and stealing their breath.

- In Mexico, it is believed that this is caused by the spirit of a dead person. This ghost lies down upon the body of the sleeper, rendering him unable to move. People refers to this as "Subirse el Muerto" (Dead Person on you).

- 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.

- In Greece and Cyprus, it is believed that sleep paralysis occurs when a ghost-like creature or Demon named Mora, Vrachnas or Varypnas (Greek: Μόρα, Βραχνάς, Βαρυπνάς) tries to steal the victim's speech or sits on the victim's chest causing asphyxiation.

- In Zimbabwean Shona culture the word Madzikirira is used to refer something really pressing one down. This mostly refers to the spiritual world in which some spirit—especially an evil one—tries to use its victim for some evil purpose. The people believe that witches can only be people of close relations to be effective, and hence a witches often try to use one's spirit to bewitch one's relatives.

And I could go on and on.. and on..

Just love the superstitions.

But.. are they?


I had the study - and basically what happened was I had a polysomnogram. It is a test which measures bodily functions during sleep. Each test varies depending on the individual case.

Some of the measurements taken include:
-Brain waves (skin surface electrodes on the head)
-Heart rhythms (skin surface electrodes on the chest)
-Eye movement (skin surface electrodes above and below the eyes)
-Leg movements (skin surface electrodes on the lower legs)
-Breathing effort and movement (small elastic guages placed around the chest and/or stomach)
-Blood oxygen levels (small sensor attached to the ear or finger, and not taken from actual blood samples)

No it is not comfortable. No - I was not able to sleep well. No - I do not hope to have to go thru that again.

Do I have an answer yet? Nope.

But stay tuned.. until, perhaps I should douse myself in holy water to keep the old hag and demons off my chest! ;-)


Tere said...

That was fascinating! Though it sucks that you're going through this.... :-(

Steven Rosenbaum said...

That would scare the CRAP out of me to wake up but not be able to move! Geez Louise, Nicole! Bless your little heart... I'll keep you in my thoughts. And when you come to visit, you better not start any sleepwalking stuff! LOL

tnv said...

Basement has never been the same for me...had this "(dab) tsog," a dark figure hovering over me just when I lay down on my bed in the basement. I jumped up and never slept there or any other basement bed again...a true/personal story.

-Tzianeng, Hmong-American, TC, MN

ohdani said...

I have sleep paralysis from time to time. I 'wake up' unable to move, and there's an indistinct figure of a man in my room. Sometimes on the opposite of the room so I can see an entire figure, sometimes standing next to my bed. It's horrifying, and I've woken up screaming on more than one occasion. If this happens often, sleeping with a light on really helps.

Anonymous said...

A number of pretty good concepts. Really well considered


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