Creepy hallucinations, feeling of choking, paralysis… According to the latest estimate, about 10 percent of people experience sleep paralysis at some point in their lives. Sleep paralysis is not dangerous or a sign of any serious illness, although the seizure may seem really scary.
Sleep paralysis is a common sleep disorder. You wake up in the middle of the night and there is a dark figure in the corner of the room. You can’t move or call for help. Is there a demon in the room, are you going crazy or can you still explain the sleep paralysis with reason?
Sleep paralysis can be a frightening, distressing and strange experience if you do not know what it is. Over time, hallucinations of sleep paralysis have led people to believe that aliens or demons are visiting their bedrooms.
Abducted by aliens or sleep paralysis?
In the 1990s, 3.7 million Americans swore that UFOs had come to abduct them during the night from bed. The typical abduction experience went something like this: It was at the moment of falling asleep that evil beings invaded the victim’s room. The victim was unable to move, but saw big-headed, gray characters in the corner of his room. Some kind of a beam lifted the helpless victim to a spaceship where aliens made experiments on him.
Similar experiences of the unspeakable evil being invading the bedroom can be found in many others – even today. “I was in bed and I felt someone was next to me and was going to do something bad. I tried to call for help, but I could not hear my voice. I saw the character and even felt a strong grip, but I was completely paralyzed! ”Says one of his experiences.
What is it all about? Do aliens really visit us and are devils among us? No matter how one would believe in the supernatural, these experiences are explained by psychology. The experience is based on sleep paralysis caused by a malfunction in alertness control center of the brain.
What is sleep paralysis?
In sleep paralysis sleep and awake state are mixed and the dream world reflects elements into reality.
“When we fall asleep or wake up from sleep, we are half asleep and half awake. In sleep paralysis a person is unable to move their limbs and lying as if paralyzed. Sleep mode causes paralysis and being awake allows a person to see where they are actually sleeping, such as the bedroom”, says a researcher in perceptual psychology.
In many cases, sleep paralysis is associated with the nightmarish hallucinations. They are usually related to hearing, sight and sensation. For example, a person may feel that someone is tearing the blanket off or grasping his ankle.
Does everyone get sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis can strike virtually anyone. Still, there are many factors that predispose to sleep paralysis.
“People who work shifts, such as nurses, air traffic controllers, and soldiers who stay awake for long periods of time and also often shift their sleep patterns, get far more often sleep paralysis than other people,” says the researcher.
Students also experience Sleep paralysis more often than others. This may be due to stressful life stages, caffeine drinks, alcohol and incoherent sleep patterns. Up to 30 percent of students have told that they had experienced sleep paralysis.
“It has also been noticed that sleep paralysis is associated with some mental health problems. However, sleep paralysis in itself is not a sign of a mental health problem, but rather a sign of stress and insomnia. ”
Sleep paralysis has several different types of hallucinations
Hallucinations related to sleep paralysis can be classified into three different categories.
- In an intruder experience, a person senses that there is an alien or person in the room. The character may be misty and blurry, or it may take the form of a witch, an alien creature, a snake or some other scary creature.
- In the Incubus experience, one feels something heavy on his chest. Breathing seems difficult and the person may think, for example, that the devil is sitting on his chest. Here’s how one reader describes what he experienced: “I was lying on my back in bed, and I couldn’t move myself at all. On top of my chest was a dog-sized devil who attacked and scratched my face and I couldn’t defend myself in any way.
- A less common experience is the sensation of floating outside his own body, for example, in the ceiling of his room.
The researcher himself had a sleep paralysis
The interviewed researcher also experienced a sleep paralysis himself last fall.
“One weekend I went upstairs to sleep in the early evening. When I woke up, it was dark. I heard someone walking up the stairs and thought it must be my wife coming to bed. At the same moment, however, I realized that my spouse was already sleeping beside me, I heard her breathing. There should not have been others besides us in the apartment.
In a confused state of mind, I was wondering if this was now a sleep paralysis. At the end of the bed stood a dark figure. I couldn’t see who was there, but I knew it was some bad guy. Panic was striking. When I tried to breathe, there was an electric crackle. Then I woke up. The situation was over in about five seconds”, the researcher recalls.
“I had thought beforehand that if I ever had a sleep paralysis, I would observe the situation scientifically. However, it was not possible. Although I cognitively knew what it was about, I couldn’t control the situation.”
What affects sleep paralysis hallucinations?
In the 1990s, many Americans felt the similar kind of sleep paralysis, hallucinating that they had been abducted by aliens. Over the years, creatures seen in sleep paralysis have also been interpreted as demons, devils, vampires and witches.
“Culture influences the interpretation of the characters seen in a dream. For example, the space and science fiction television programs contributed to the sleep paralysis experienced in the United States in the 1990s. When you see gray, vague characters in the corner of a room, dreams begin to be guided and shaped by the human cultural background. ”
Hence, people with sleep paralysis saw humanoids as the movies about alien attacks were popular. In medieval times, the characters were interpreted as demons, and in Islamic countries the cause of sleep paralysis was thought to be djinni, or evil spirit.
“However, there are also some culture-independent observations associated with sleep paralysis. For example, you can see geometric patterns, self-luminous objects, or floating faces. Also, the sensation of someone grasping an ankle or pulling the blanket off is common. You can also hear a voice that speaks crazy stuff or you can hear or feel something like an electric crackle. ”
How to protect yourself from sleep paralysis?
There are many factors behind a sleep paralysis, and sleep paralysis may not be completely prevented by any precautions. Approximately 7 to 10 percent of the population experiences sleep paralysis at least once in their lives.
“Many people have only one sleep paralysis in their lifetime. I think it’s quite rare for us to have sleep paralysis on a regular basis throughout life, but some may have such a tendency.”
However, it has been noticed that sleeping on your back is a clear unifying factor in those who have had a sleep paralysis. If you are able to sleep on your side or on your stomach, it can reduce the likelihood of having a sleep paralysis. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your sleep hygiene can also help.
People who have had repeated sleep paralysis have developed various techniques that can quickly resolve a sleep paralysis. If you have sleep paralysis you may try moving your fingertip or toes. When you try to focus on moving a part of your body, the paralysis can go away from it.
What is the difference between nightmares and sleep paralysis?
The difference between a sleep paralysis and a nightmare is that the nightmare happens entirely in the dream world, and you may not realize that you are dreaming. Instead, in sleep paralysis, one realizes that he is in the room where he is sleeping and that something strange is happening.
While the nightmare is a holistic experience, sleep paralysis criss-crosses between sleep and reality. Nightmares are a mystery for researchers. It is not yet known why some dreams turn into nightmares. However, studies have found that stress and traumatic experiences cause nightmares.