Near-death experiences

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 18th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

People who have had near-death experiences commonly recall gazing down on themselves in operating rooms or traveling through dark, narrow tunnels toward bright lights.

But not much is known about what actually happens during the classic “near-death experience,” defined as a life-threatening episode when people leave their bodies, are unusually alert or see an intense light. Often they feel a great sense of peace.

When University of Kentucky neuroscientists decided to investigate, they discovered that people who have had near-death experiences are often very good REM sleepers. The rapid eye movement… or REM [rem]… state of sleep, which is full of intense dreaming, may actually be intruding upon normal wakefulness.

Comparing fifty-five people who had near-death experiences with fifty-five who had not, scientists found sixty percent of those who had been near death could enter a sleep state where they weren’t quite sure if they were asleep or awake.

They may have woken up unable to move, or heard sounds just before falling asleep that others did not hear.

Fewer than twenty-five percent of the control subjects had ever had this feeling.

Researchers think it may be that boundaries between sleep and wakefulness are not as clearly regulated in people who’ve had near-death experiences.

This theory does not rule out a spiritual dimension to near-death experiences, researchers say.

How they occur may indeed be a dim light that’s coming into focus at the end of the passage. But why they occur remains shrouded in mystery.