The topic of sleep paralysis and night terrors has recently been the main discussion between my blog and dreamstudies.org. I take great interest in this area because for a short time I experienced night terrors as well as sleep paralysis. Interesting enough I have found some helpful information into the field while I have been reading more of The New Science of Dreaming Volume 2.
I hope I don’t get into any copy write issues with posting this, but I found it important for others to know without reading an entire book:
“An acceleration of the firing rate of cholinergic arousal neurons in the brain stem leads to activation of the thalamus, and through the connectivity of the thalamus, to a further activation of perceptual and cognitive systems subserved by complex reciprocal thalamocrtical networks. Together with associated activity in the basal forebrain, this thalamic activation is akin to turning on the light in the cerebral cortex, allowing consciousness to emerge through the establishment of active and ready states of neural network functions.”
From my understanding , this is a good way of describing our conscious thought during the waking period of our lives. Our thalamus is very active during the waking periods of our lives and in results activates the cerebral cortex which in combo supports our consciousness allowing us to access our memories and other such functions.
It states later, “The thalamus shuts down very quickly at sleep onset and remains deactivated during the deeper states of NREM. It then is partially reactivated in stage 2 NREM and fully reactivated, in cholinergic terms, in REM, which we think may be an important clue as to why there can be dreaming in stage 2 NREM and REM.
This is pretty much self explanatory. So over all the thalamus allows for our conscious thought to materialize either in the dream world or the waking allowing us to either dream or perceive reality around us. In regards to sleep paralysis as well as night terrors, I would like to challenge that thought that these disorders are limited to only REM and stages 3, 4 of NREM. Since we know that during the NREM stage 2 of sleep it is possible to have conscious thought, if we had the ability to remember that dream, many aspects of that dream would seem out of place, since we are neither in REM. We may experience the onset of the paralysis induced by the pons (which many people that lucid dream experience), we may have vivid hallucinations that overcast reality and seem real (paralysis based hallucinations), and we may act out our dreams since in stage 2 of NREM the paralysis is not fully set as it is activated in the REM phase.
Based on the research available today, I think it’s imperative that we go back and conduct some of the older research that was done before with sleep paralysis and night terrors in order to confirm the stage or stages of sleep in which they exist and are experienced in large quintiles. I have a feeling we will find that these experiences tend to bleed over into other phases of sleep and that is why we have the standard (which may be wrong) today. For my personal opinion I believe that sleep paralysis is not limited to REM but is more apparent in the transition between NREM and REM when many of the different parts of the brain are modulating or demodulating. I also think that night terrors are not limited to NREM stage 3 and 4, but are more apparent in NREM stage 2 as the thalamus is active enough to produce hallucinations (dreams) unlike in stage 3, 4.