A Of those who have dealt with death, the stories are often similar: dark tunnels with bright lights, conversations with dead relatives, and spiritual sensations that resemble the soul that leaves the body are far away common. Oddly enough, new research presented on Friday suggests that near-death experiences are far more common than you might think, and, interestingly, share some universal issues.
I saw angels and they sang the most beautiful music I have ever heard.
Based on a survey of 1
Kondziella's work will be presented on Saturday at the Fifth Congress of the European Academy of Neurology. Although not yet peer-reviewed, it contains surprisingly detailed reports of near-death experiences. When Kondziella's team reviewed these reports, they found that some common patterns occurred among them.
What are near-death experiences?
The following experiences received NTE scores above seven on the previously defined Greyson near-death scale, indicating whether an experience is a true encounter with death or another psychological experience.
Here are some highlights:
Male, 28: While I was struggling, my life in my head began to flash in front of me. […] I felt like my soul was being pulled out of my body. I floated and was [lifted in the air]. After a few moments, I felt like I was in a huge tunnel of darkness and in the end was the brightest white light I've ever seen. I remember that my dead relatives, including my maternal grandmother, were standing at the gate.
Female, 57: I was very young when I was almost drowned. I saw angels and they sang the most beautiful music I have ever heard.
Male, 46: I encountered a truly out-of-body experience in which my eyesight and vision became incredibly abstract. For about an hour, I had no feeling for myself or my surroundings.
Of all the documented near-death experiences, 87 percent included the feeling that time had become faster or slower, and 65 percent felt that thoughts came and came quickly. More than half of the people said they had exceptionally vivid senses or an out-of-body experience.
Most who had "true" near-death experiences (more than a 7 on the Grayson scale) said they were comfortable, but this was not always the case.
Why do some people have near-death experiences?
One explanation for this mystical sensation is the controversial notion that the brain naturally produces the psychedelic compound DMT during these episodes. People who use DMT as a psychedelic drug often have near-death experiences, although the reasons are unknown.
Kondziella's work did not want to explain why people had these experiences, only to show that they had them. However, he found a health-related pattern that could pave the way for a new hypothesis.
His work highlighted an association between near-death experiences and reports of invasion of REM sleep. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) is the stage of sleep in which people tend to dream. As she sleeps, her eyes flicker quickly under her eyelids and her body enters into a form of paralysis known as "muscle atony." In people who enter REM sleep, typical REM sleep experiences become alert. Sometimes this can lead to strong hallucinations or paralysis.
In Kondziella's study, people who had reported symptoms of REM had more than 2.8 times more likely to have a near-death experience.
Our central finding is that we have confirmed the association of near-death experiences with the onset of REM sleep.
The idea that REM sleep disorders may be related to the near-death experience is not just Kondziella's own. In a article in Neurology 2006 found a correlation between sleep paralysis or sleep-related hallucinations and NDE, but this article was also criticized for its methods. Specifically, critics pointed out that a sample of people willing to share their experiences on the Internet may be "atypical" compared to most people who have had such transformative experiences.
Kondziella points out that his study attempted to address some of these concerns by collecting random participants through a scientific research crowdsourcing platform, Prolific Academic. With his findings in hand, he believes that there is a link between REM sleep intrusion and near-death experiences.
"Our key finding is that we have confirmed the link between near-death experiences with REM sleep intrusion, he said Friday. "Although association is not causality, the identification of the physiological mechanisms underlying the onset of REM sleep in wakefulness may enhance our understanding of near-death experiences."
The sleep connection remains speculative for the time being. But in the future, there might be clues as to why one out of ten people in an emergency is dealing with the mystic and why some people do not.
Methods: Using a crowd-sourcing platform, we recruited 1,034 laypersons from 35 countries to investigate the prevalence of near-death and self-reported REM sleep disorders. The reports were validated using the Greyson Near-Death Experience Scale (GNDES) with ≥7 points as the near-death threshold.
Results Near death rates were recorded by 106 out of 1034 participants (10%; CI 95% 8.5-12%). REM intrusion was more common in people with near-death experience (n = 50/106, 47%) than in those with experience with 6 or fewer GNDES points (n = 47/183, 26%) or in those with no experience (n = 107/744; 14%; p = <0.0001). Following a multivariate regression analysis to adjust for age, gender, place of residence, employment and perceived risk, this relationship remained highly significant. People with REM intrusion were more likely to have near-death experiences than people without (OR 2.85, CI 95% 1.68-4.88, p = 0.0001).
Discussion Using a crowd-sourcing approach, we found a prevalence of near-death experiences of 10%. While age, gender, place of residence, employment status and perceived threat seem to have no impact on the prevalence of near-death experiences, we have confirmed a significant association with the onset of REM sleep.