Eternal Nightmare: Sleep Paralysis Found to be Linked to Traumatic Experiences and Stress

Fuseli - The Nightmare

Sleep paralysis is a well-known syndrome where, usually during the the transition into and out of sleep, the muscles of the body become paralysed, and in many cases terrifying hallucinations occur. But there has been little understanding so far of what might cause these scary events, and as such clinicians are not very well advised on how both recognize, and treat, sufferers.

Researchers involved in a new study have attempted to shed a bit more light on the subject, by conducting a systematic review of 42 previous published studies that have investigated variables "associated with both the frequency and intensity of sleep paralysis episodes". They found that, although many of the most obvious categories - such as age, gender, and ethnicity - showed little evidence of difference in frequency and intensity of sleep paralysis experiences, there were a few areas that seemed to be related. One of those areas was a history of trauma or stress:

A confirmed or unconfirmed history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) was found to be significantly related to frequency of sleep paralysis episodes... The frequency and intensity of intruder and incubus hallucinations were significantly greater in both CSA groups as compared to those who did not report sexual abuse... Sleep paralysis prevalence was significantly higher in both CSA groups compared to a control group who reported not having experienced CSA.

Other experiences of threatening/traumatic events also appear to be related to sleep paralysis. In a sample of Hmong immigrants living in the USA, stressful experiences during the Vietnam war (e.g., “I was exposed to chemical warfare”, “I lost family, close relatives or friends”) were related to increased odds of experiencing sleep paralysis. General experiences with potentially traumatic events (such as assault, death of a loved one, disasters, etc.) were found to be related to sleep paralysis in terms of the occurrence of a traumatic event. Also a link was found between increasing numbers of traumatic events experienced and sleep paralysis. Relatedly, self-report levels of life-stress showed similar associations with sleep paralysis.

The survey also found some evidence of a hereditary link to likelihood of suffering sleep paralysis, a higher level of sleep paralysis in those with narcolepsy, and also a higher frequency and intensity of the experience in individuals with higher “imaginativeness” - a composite measure "that comprised scales of absorption, fantasy proneness, magical thinking, imagery vividness, paranormal and mystic beliefs, perceptual aberration, and unusual sensory experiences". (Though it's possible there might be some correlation between "higher imaginativeness" and being a victim of trauma or stress.)

The study finishes by offering some 'practice points' for clinicians in identifying and treating likely sufferers of sleep paralysis, as well as a research agenda for future studies to continue improving our understanding of the phenomenon. And, the researchers note, the review suggests a couple of areas where potential interventions could be targeted at helping sufferers: "As factors such as anxiety and stress appear to be linked with sleep paralysis, techniques aiming to reduce levels of these factors [such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)] may also help in alleviating sleep paralysis episodes."

For non-sufferers of sleep paralysis, you can get a real feel for how horrible it can be by checking out Rodney Ascher's documentary The Nightmare, which is available on Netflix (trailer below):

Link: "A systematic review of variables associated with sleep paralysis (full-text)

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News Briefs 10-08-2017

Welcome to Fire&Furyland. Population: ALL

Thanks to Rius and Calzonzin.

"Quote of the Day:

"Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled."

~Kurt Andersen, How America Lost Its Mind

News Briefs 09-08-2017

Good luck!

Thanks Chris and Jason M.

Quote of the Day:

[After the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima] there was a very considerable elation and excitement [in the U.S.], and there were parties and people got drunk. It would make a tremendously interesting contrast as what was going on at Los Alamos at the same time as people were dying and struggling at Hiroshima.

Richard Feynman

News Briefs 08-08-2017

Things that keep me awake at night: Is 8th of August celebrated by white supremacists like 20th of April is by stoners?

Thanks @djp1974.

Quote of the Day:

Evil tends to triumph over good because nasty people are more assertive than nice ones; that's our essential design flaw.

Robyn Hitchcock

Secret Room Discovered in the Great Pyramid?

Great Pyramid of Giza. Image by Nina-no, Creative Commons licence

A number of major media outlets are this week running a story about 'secret rooms' discovered in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. For example, Newsweek's article, with the mildly hyperbolic title "Secret Room Discovered in Great Pyramid by Archaeologists Armed with Lasers", says that...

...An international team of archaeologists believes it is on the cusp of pinpointing the location of a secret room hidden within the Great Pyramid of Giza as it uses cutting-edge laser technology to map the 4,500-year-old ancient Egyptian wonder.

Medhi Tayoubi, president of the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute heading the ScanPyramids project, said that the team, which uses infrared thermography to map subatomic particles, had confirmed there was a hidden room inside the structure. Now the archaeologists need to find its exact location. We know there is a secret room, but not where it is," Tayoubi said.

These 'revelations' are sourced from an Italian newspaper, La Stampa, but there is little information there (at least using Google Translate) that suggests where the Tayoubi quote comes from. So I'm not sure if it was via an interview, or a press release, or just dredging up old information (Zahi Hawass is also quoted, saying "We can not yet think of a secret chamber. For now we are only saying that there have been anomalies, small gaps between one stone and the other.")

In any case, rather than news of 'the discovery of a secret room in the Great Pyramid', this story seems more to be a couple of quotes from an enthusiastic researcher, with little new information beyond the 'cavities' discovered late last year that we reported on here at the Grail.

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News Briefs 07-08-2017

The times, they are a changin'...

Thanks @djp1974.

Quote of the Day:

Imagine the outcry if bombs were falling on Florence or Venice; [but] because this is Sanaa in forgotten Yemen, nobody cares a damn.

Peter Oborn

The Grail is Being Updated

It's long overdue, but hopefully in the next month we'll be changing the look of the Daily Grail, to one that is more up to date, including being responsive to screen size changes (e.g. allowing for a better reading experience on mobile devices).

As I'm neck deep in working on this changeover currently, there will likely be a drop-off in the number of articles being posted to the Grail in August - though the daily news briefs will still be posted as per usual. But until then, please be patient while we work on making a better, shinier Grail.

As we get closer to the changeover, I'll post some information to help people understand the new layout better before it happens.

News Briefs 04-08-2017

“Poetry teaches the enormous force of a few words, and, in proportion to the inspiration, checks loquacity.”

Quote of the Day:

“The man who renounces himself, comes to himself.”

R.W. Emerson

Things Keep Getting Older: Archaeologists Find 'Forest Cities' that are at Least 45,000 Years Old

Temple in Cambodia

First we were told that the first human civilisations were Mesopotamia and Egypt, ca. 3000BCE. Then we found out about Göbekli Tepe, stretching the timeline back to 10,000BCE. And now, a new paper in Nature suggests that humans have been coming together in large numbers for a lot longer - but not in the now-arid regions of the Middle East. Instead, say researchers, "archaeological evidence now demonstrates that humans settled tropical forest regions "on previously unimagined scales", and have actively manipulated these ecologies for "at least 45,000 years" - and perhaps much longer:

In the last ten years, the archaeologically acknowledged human inhabitation of tropical forests has quadrupled in age. There is now clear evidence for the use of tropical forests by our species in Borneo and Melanesia by c.45 ka, in South Asia by c.36ka, and in South America by c.13ka. There are suggestions of earlier rainforest occupation c.125ka in Java, c.60ka in the Philippines, c.100ka in China, and in Africa, perhaps from the first appearance of Homo sapiens, c.200ka, though further research is required to verify these cases.

Why has it taken this long for us to notice these much older settlements? Firstly, assumptions about the inhospitability of tropical forests - you might say we couldn't see the settlements for the trees. Just three or four decades ago, the researchers point out, the learned opinion of anthropologists was that tropical forests were unattractive environments for human occupation. Archaeologists backed the anthropologists up, noting that tropical forests were incapable of supporting agricultural populations. And a key factor, especially in terms of archaeological interest, is the generally poor preservation of organic archaeological remains in tropical forest environments - old stuff doesn't last in the tropics.

However, "over the last two decades, archaeological data, including canopy-penetrating LiDAR (light detection and ranging) mapping, have revealed previously unimagined scales of human settlement in the Americas and Southeast Asia", say researchers.

The fact that humans have co-existed with - and manipulated - forest environents for tens of thousands of years offers some lessons, the authors of the paper note. Firstly, it is problematic for any environmental policy simply aimed at returning areas to their 'original' forest conditions. "If past human populations have in many cases altered tropical forests in ways that have rendered them more useable for human inhabitation",
they point out, "then perhaps restoration is a problematic goal, at least if such practices are aimed at restoring to some ‘original’ condition."

And furthermore, they say, these new findings suggest that we should study the ways of these 'primitive' people, as they seemed to learn very early on how to live in forest regions in large numbers, in a sustainable manner:

Indigenous and traditional peoples — whose ancestors’ systems of production and knowledge are slowly being decoded by archaeologists — should be seen as part of the solution and not one of the problems of sustainable tropical forest development.

Link: The deep human prehistory of global tropical forests and its relevance for modern conservation"

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