Sleep paralysis is a strange thing, as I understand it the scientific explanation of it is that essentially; it’s the exact opposite of sleep walking. Whilst you sleep the brain releases certain enzymes that paralyze the body, this is to prevent the sleeper from moving around and harming themselves whilst they sleep, in sleep walkers the body does not produce enough of these enzymes, and as such the sleeper is able to act out their dreams. In the case of sleep paralysis the brain at times produces too many of these body paralysing enzymes and as such the mind sometimes wakes whilst the body remains asleep.
That’s as I understand it (in short), and it’s a good explanation, and on many levels I can buy it. If only I hadn’t experienced it myself.
I remember waking (sort of) and being gripped by terror from the get go, not by something I saw or by something I heard, but from the minute I opened my eyes (if indeed I did) I was enveloped, entirely, by all encompassing fear. I had no idea what I was scared of, but I had the strangest sensation of being invaded, somehow, and the unnerving suspicion that somewhere, something lurked in the darkness, and that I wasn’t alone.
And that was my first experience with sleep paralysis, but it wasn’t to be my last. For awhile I believed that my sleep paralysis was linked with a specific place I worked, I did sleep-ins every other week and my first three episodes of sleep paralysis all occurred within that building, within a space of six weeks.
As a man I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was terrified, I’ve seen far bigger guys than me recounting their sleep paralysis experiences (on YouTube),shaking and almost holding back tears as they do so. Sleep paralysis is a very scary thing, but as you’re here reading this, perhaps you know that already.
In Vietnam it is known as 'Ma De - held down by a ghost', in China it is known as 'Pinyin - body pressured by a ghost', in Iceland it is known as 'Mara - Devil sitting on your chest trying to suffocate you', the first few times I’d been so gripped by terror that I’d been unaware of anything except that terror, I had been literally paralysed by my own overwhelming fear, but during subsequent episodes of sleep paralysis that’s exactly what it felt like, being held down by a ghost, or something else.
The Old Hag, Shadow People and Demons
Sleep paralysis is also often referred to as ‘Old Hag Syndrome’ or the ‘Night Hag’ which is one name given to the creature that sufferers of sleep paralysis sometimes feel to have been visited by. Shadow people is another name given to the being often associated with attacks of sleep paralysis, due to the fact that this entity rarely makes its appearance clear, invisible but not invisible, it has no mass but it has form, and lurks at the corner of your eye. And demons, well because they’re demons, and attacks of sleep paralysis can feel very demonic in nature.
Sleep paralysis is actually very common, it is believed that 25-30% of the general population will experience sleep paralysis in some form at some point, and that 95% of those that experience it will perceive it to be a horrifying event.
But why do all suffers of sleep paralysis visualise approximately the same entity, it isn’t like having seen a horror movie and then going to sleep and having a nightmare that the creature in the movie was now after you. Because most sufferers of sleep paralysis have never heard of it before they’d experienced it.
25-30% of the population experiences sleep paralysis, but like most people who experience attacks of sleep paralysis, I’d never heard of it. It seemed that people just weren’t talking about it (except for on the internet), and I had to ask myself why, perhaps the fear of being thought crazy; or the fear that your sleep paralysis might be an underlying symptom of something much worse.
But why the old hag, the shadow people and the demons, some people associate sleep paralysis as being a waking dream, the body is still asleep but the mind has woken, although still in a semi-dream state (known as REM sleep). Why don’t I have nice dreams whilst in sleep paralysis, you might ask, why always nightmares? Why this shared hallucination with millions of people I’ve never met and never will? One explanation could be this:
The fear and terror, the nightmares experienced during attacks of sleep paralysis are caused by the very condition in which you wake. You awake paralysed, immobilized, you feel as if you’re being pinned down by something you can’t see, and you may well be suffering hallucinations. The brains natural reaction under these circumstances is to panic, to go into fight or flight mode, only there is no flight option. Waking in this terrifying condition leaves little room for pleasant dreams, and the mind still hallucinating conjures up the perceived threat, of something evil attacking us.
This video doesn’t do a bad job of demonstrating the sensations experienced during an attack of sleep paralysis, although personally I’ve never felt like I was up and moving around, and it does get a little crazy towards the end.
Sleep Paralysis Video
What causes sleep paralysis and can it be treated?
Well, it’s hard to say for sure, although it is thought by some to be associated with stress. Stress it has been known for a long time can be a cause of lack of sleep or altered sleep patterns, both of which can inevitably lead to attacks of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis can then in turn lead to more stress and may lead the sleep paralysis sufferer to avoid sleeping, through fear of experiencing more episodes, which may in turn lead to increased episodes of sleep paralysis when sleep finally comes. Essentially meaning that trying to avoid attacks of sleep paralysis by not sleeping, increases your chances of an attack, so it's believed that obtaining a good nights sleep as frequently as possible can reduce attacks of sleep paralysis.
Another point of note is that sufferers of sleep paralysis are often those who sleep on their backs (this is the case for me), and that through changing the position in which you sleep, attacks of sleep paralysis can be reduced or eliminated.
The Science of Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis experiences as told by fellow sleep paralysis sufferers:
* 'I hate not being able to move and seeing those figures, and you try to scream, but the only sound I can only manage is a low moan erupting from my chest, but I'm starting to think that is in my head too, because my parents said they never heard me. It’s such an uneasy feeling. I hate it.'
* 'I have it, and it is an entity that tries to discourage me from continuing on. Tries to scare me into making it stop faster. They never do anything but I feel like they're evil and trying to guide me into a dimension I'm not welcome to. It's very odd feeling. And scary. But so far, I come out of it before I have an O.B.E.'
* 'I have sleep paralysis & I always feel the sensation of someone sitting on my stomach trying to suffocate me & many many times I've seen a dark figure at the end of my bed, and everything sounds weird. best way I can explain it, is the sound of an industrial fan on full speed blowing next to your ear....it's very scary & demonic though so I have sympathy for those who have it too!!! '
* 'I’ve been a sufferer for about 20 years and have it severely!! im not a believer in ghosts but it's very unexplained to me iv had it so many times that their is not enough room to write-down all of my experiences all i no is that im scared to sleep i have to breath heavy to wake my partner !!! And sometimes iv looked at the back of her head and eyes appear and stare at me!!! I’m very interested to no more as it's far from nice!!!'
* 'You know I’ve seen some scary shit while in this sleep paralysis or out of body experience, cuz there's a time when I’m afraid, and times when I’m not afraid, like almost two years ago, I had sleep paralysis right, and then I looked at my door and i noticed a dark figure standing in front of my door, and he was just staring at me, and then i finally woke up closing my eyes and that was it, I was afraid to go back to sleep, i had no idea who he was but it looked to disturbing'
Sleep Paralysis, Religion and Prayer.
I’ve never been a religious man, I went to Church school on a Sunday as a child, and my sister was married in a church, but that's about as religious as my life has been. I don’t believe that I’d given my thought to a ‘God’ in a long time, but strangely during episodes of sleep paralysis I felt compelled to pray. It was instinctive, odd, unexpected, but what was even more unexpected than that; was the fact that it seemed to work.
I hadn’t even known that I knew any prayers, and I’m not even sure that what I was saying (or thinking) was actually a real prayer, as such, but I do remember reaching out for help from ‘God’, and weirder still was the fact that as I sought this help, I had the utmost faith that I would receive it, and all I’d ever had to do was ask.
I’ve heard that sleep paralysis has caused people to become extremely religious, believing that they have been visited by some kind of higher being, or touched by God, this hasn’t happened to me, but I will say that it has left me more than a little confused, and a little more open to certain thoughts and ideas.
Here’s what some others have to say about their experiences with sleep paralysis and prayer:
* ‘When the paralysis came on, I said out loud "Satan, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ." The paralysis and associated symptoms immediately disappeared.’
* What helps me while having the sleep paralysis is praying to Jesus. It seems to let off quickly when I pray.
* I have found it helps to say Jesus, Jesus,Jesus and it stops immediately (on 2 occasions, it took several tries) My grandfather told me when I was a child that if I ever felt scared to say his name three times and it would go s=away. Works for me.
* I have had it too and before I knew what sleep paralysis was it scared me half to death…I couldn’t move or talk and felt like I was being held down…I also would hear a steady growling that would get louder…I would just pray and it would go away...
Sleeper - Sleep Paralysis Video
Sleep Paralysis and Alien Abductions
Many scientists and Doctors these days believe that sleep paralysis is responsible for so called alien abductions, the effects of sleep paralysis and its related hallucinations are thought to be the cause of the experiences that some sufferers of sleep paralysis attribute to alien abductions.
The shadowy entities associated with attacks of sleep paralysis may become alien creatures instead of the Old Hag or shadow people in the mind of the sufferer depending upon what the sufferer personally perceives to be a more threatening enemy to them. Those with a strong belief in aliens and U.F.O’s are more likely to visualize these as the threat.
sleep Paralysis Treatment – Can Sleep Paralysis be cured?
There are many ways through which people are able to reduce their attacks of sleep paralysis or eliminate them altogether, as mentioned above sleep paralysis is often linked to episodes of stress and lack of sleep. By ensuring that they receive a minimum of eight hours sleep per night many sufferers of sleep paralysis have reduced their attacks or put a stop to them completely. In others simply changing sleeping position from sleeping on their backs was all that was needed.
Others claim that simply praying each evening before sleep works, and that they have never suffered an episode of sleep paralysis since they started this nightly prayer.
Medications such as Sodium Oxybate (Xyrem) may be prescribed as a cure for sleep paralysis in severe cases, but the best treatment for sleep paralysis is to reduce stress and get the proper amount of sleep. Sodium Oxybate is a central nervous system depressant. It is used to treat cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle strength) and reduce daytime sleepiness in patients with narcolepsy, amongst other things.