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Early Medicine and the “Nightmare” 

Early Medicine and the “Nightmare”
Early Medicine and the “Nightmare”

Brian A. Sharpless

and Karl Doghramji

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date: 15 October 2019

Sleep paralysis, originally called the “Nightmare” and other terms, can be found in early works of medicine. Some of these writings date back to ancient times. Although there has been much speculation over which physician has historical primacy for the first accurate depiction of sleep paralysis, it is argued that Paulus Aegineta, a 7th century Byzantine Greek physician was the first. After evaluating various etiological theories for the Nightmare, the treatments derived from these early theories are catalogued. These approaches changed little over the course of 1500 years. Interestingly, a number of links between sleep paralysis/Nightmare and sexuality (especially female sexuality and pregnancy) can be found in these writings. Many considered Nightmare to be a contagious, potentially deadly affliction whereas others viewed it as an unpleasant prelude to more serious diseases (e.g., epilepsy; apoplexy). All of these speculations were consistent with the explanatory categories available to the authors.

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