Reading Passage 2
Waking numbness or sleep paralysis
Imagine yourself waking up and not being able to move, not even your finger. The room is pitch black, but you can sense somebody — somebody malicious standing next to your bed or even sitting on your chest, stopping you from breathing.
Such a bizarre phenomenon is commonly referred to as waking numbness, or more ominously, “sleep paralysis” (SP). Unlike today, people of the past thought of it as something supernatural, thus spawning many superstitions around it. In older times, the cause was believed to be demons, or incubi—an evil spirit with the physical appearance of a human male. Some cultures believed the reason for that to be malicious magical rituals or curses aimed at the person suffering from this state.
According to official data, at least five percent of people experienced this state at some point in their lives. Some go through it only once, whereas there are individuals who face the symptoms fairly regularly. Whether you belong to one group or the other, there is good news for you: this state poses no danger to either your life or your health.
This state is very similar to the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, the one during which you have dreams. The biological purpose of this state is to prevent you from making any abrupt movements, thus ensuring a long, uninterrupted rest. In cases of sleep paralysis, the brain wakes up while the body is still sleeping. Until the body wakes up, you are left motionless. Alternatively, you might experience being able to move your body, but the delay between your impulse to move it and the actual movement feels unbearably long.
The symptoms are not limited to numbness of the body. One can feel imminent danger, fear, or stifling pressure; it can also be difficult to breathe or even have a sensation like being choked. Palpitation, or accelerated heart rate, is also rather common. Some report having an illusion of involuntary body movement, like turning over to one side or to one’s stomach or back, even though in reality the person lies still. Voices, unnatural sounds and noises like approaching footsteps are often reported by patients suffering from sleep paralysis. Hallucinations are not unheard of either—silhouettes of ghosts or people. The latter can be held accountable for the popular evil spirit myth.
Sleep paralysis can often be caused by sleeping on one’s back. Sleeping on your body side drastically lowers your chances of experiencing most of the symptoms. It can also be a symptom of various sleep disturbances (such as insomnia or narcolepsy). It can only be triggered by waking up naturally. If the person is woken up abruptly, whether it is a bright light or an alarm clock ringing, then sleep paralysis does not take place.
There is no surefire way to battle this condition. A common recommendation is to establish a sleeping routine and follow it religiously. Some break sleep paralysis by rolling their eyes, moving their tongue or thumb on their right hand (or their left hand for lefties). Others are more successful with relaxing completely and remaining calm; this reduces the negative emotional impact, and the state gradually recedes. Brain activity has also been reported to help—thinking about something complex or running calculations in your head seems to aid in overcoming the numbness. Using your pharynx to pronounce something is a good way to break the state too; since you can’t open your mouth, it will come out as incomprehensible moaning, but it is likely to help.
Research has shown that analytically minded people are less susceptible to the negative effects of the state. When they happen to suffer from it, they feel less depressed after the occurrence because they are usually not superstitious—they do not allow negative emotions stemming from beliefs connected with evil spirits. As the scientists explained, the type of people mentioned above tend to explain everything from a scientific point of view, whereas people who rely on intuition are more likely to base their conclusions on a less rational basis.
Do the following statements agree with the information in Reading Passage 2?
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this
14. People nowadays believe sleep paralysis to be caused by the supernatural
15. Five percent of people suffer from sleep paralysis symptoms regularly
16. Sleep paralysis can make people see things
17. Avoiding sleeping on your back helps reduce sleep paralysis occurrence
Questions 18 and 19
Choose the correct letter A-D
18. Symptoms of waking numbness do not include
B Pounding heart
19. According to the passage
A SP can be dangerous
B SP is biologically redundant
C There are ways to dispel the state
D Smarter people do not suffer from SP
Complete the summary using words from the box below
Sleep paralysis is a 20 ________ of not being able to move or 21 ________ right after one wakes up. It has certain 22 ________ surrounding it — most of them dating back to the ancient times. Biologically, this phenomenon is to 23 ________ you from waking caused by involuntary body movements. Other typical symptoms of sleep paralysis include 24 ________ and struggling for 25 ________. Despite this, a person with sleep paralysis faces no 26 ________ from it.
|HALLUCINATIONS DANGER BREATH|
SPEAK STOP HELP DISEASE HARM EXPERIENCE
SUPERSTITIONS THINK STATE FEAR