Earlier today, 2 October, this SAYS writer came across a random discussion thread on Malaysia subReddit. There, a comment by a 27-year-old guy about him experiencing a temporary paralysis of sort pulled this SAYS writer's attention.
This is what he wrote on the /r/malaysia subReddit:
"Couldn't feel both of my legs while getting down from the bed and flopped to the floor for almost 10 mins. Was like paralysed waist down and I was just laying there unable to wake up for a while. Scary shit man."
Under it was a comment from another person, recalling how he too had experienced something similar in past, during which he freaked out thinking he was having a stroke.
So what's going on there?
Well, according to James Dyck, a neurology researcher at the Mayo Clinic, this phenomenon is really common, caused by a lack of blood flow to the nerves.
While it may sound scary, it's actually how our body protects itself during sleep paralysis. When we sleep, nerves are being pushed on and squashed, and that causes these symptoms.
There are several nerves in our individual body parts and each serves a vital function.
While the exact physiology isn't completely understood, James says that as the effect of compressing any of the several nerves during sleep, the information that flows from our extremities back to your brain is temporarily disrupted.
Which in turn causes temporary paralysis upon waking
According to Ana Krieger, medical director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine, our bodies need to recharge.
However, to do this, Dr Krieger says, our bodies go into energy-saving mode where both metabolism and muscle activity downshift. And during a particular stage called REM sleep, which is when people usually dream, our body protects us from acting out whatever dreams we are having by interfering with muscle activity even further.
While compressing of nerves can cause damage, the good thing, however, is that the body will naturally wake up as a protection mechanism when a nerve has been compressed for too long
So the next time you wake up with a numb arm or leg, don't freak out.
It's your body trying to do keep itself safe by keeping your muscles relaxed.