Sleep paralysis and why it may mean more than we thought

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Sleep paralysis affects millions every year, and studies estimate that more than half of the global population will experience at least one episode in their lifetimes. Despite the prevalence, however, the disorder is poorly understood.

Now, though, neuroscientists like [Baland] Jalal are diving in and discovering that there may be more to sleep paralysis and its opposite—known as REM sleep disorder—than we thought. What for many years has been brushed off as no more than a bad dream or perhaps a trick of the moonlight might help us unlock what happens in our brains during sleep.

By measuring the electrical activity in facial muscles of rats experiencing sleep paralysis, they identified the neurotransmitter and receptor mechanisms responsible. The team found that two brain chemical systems, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glycine, were working together to cause muscle paralysis during REM.

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[A]ccording to [researcher John] Peever, the team found that “80% of people who have [REM sleep disorder] eventually develop a neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s disease.” Studying GABA and glycine could give scientists windows into understanding and eventually treating these diseases.

“The first time you kind of hear about it, it doesn’t really sound like a real thing,” says [Dan] Denis, [a] sleep and cognition postdoc. “It sounds like something crazy, like horror movie kind of story.”

Read full, original post: The Nightmare of Sleep Paralysis

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