Of all the creepy scary things that can happen to you in your bed, this has to be one of the most terrifying. Please universe, keep your haunting sleep disorder away from me.
By Nicole Buckler
So what is sleep paralysis I hear you ask? If you don’t know what it is, you can consider yourself damn lucky, because it sounds as creepy as all hell.
It is a phenomenon in which a person temporarily experiences an inability to move, speak, or react while either waking up or falling asleep. It is this “transitional” state between wakefulness and sleep that has fascinated scientists for centuries. And they STILL don’t understand it. But it’s not just being “frozen” that’s the problem. Not only is the subject paralysed, they also have hallucinations too, and these are mostly creepy, dark, haunting ones.
These visions can be anything from an intruder in the room, to a horrible rotting goblin sitting on them. Other people report seeing a shadow of a man or an old woman, or a sense of someone being present in their room. Sometimes the figure sits on their chest, or just simply moves towards them. Others report their bed clothes being moved or their body being touched. In some cases, the person reports that they feel as if they are looking down on themselves whilst being unable to scream or move. Some people also experience other phenomena such as a strong current running through the upper body.
Rarely, some people will report nice hallucinations, like their dead relatives tucking them into bed, or just standing watch over them. One sufferer reported that she recalled the Easter Bunny jumping up on her bed! But these are rarer, mostly it is a peek into the first level of hell.
During REM sleep (the deepest sleep where your brain files away all the good stuff from the day), your body shuts down your ability to move. This is so you don’t act out your dreams, and kill the person next to you, or the dog, or the new TV. This is good. We like this. We don’t want to kill our TV with the hairbrush.
But sleep often goes wrong. Sometimes people sleepwalk, including one of my friends who sleepwalked down his street in his red undies. He was woken up in someone’s front garden, while being hit with a broom by an old lady. Good times. This is a great example of how imperfect the sleeping process is in humans. We are such a faulty bunch, it’s hard to believe we have survived this far.
For the people who have a problem with the “transition” from waking to sleep and vice versa, the paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes. In some rare cases, it can be hours, and the person can be terrified pretty much the whole time. Studies have shown that eye movement is still possible during such episodes; however, the victim is unable to speak. People also report hearing a demonic voice when resistance or a “breakout” is attempted.
Sleep paralysis is a lot more complicated than a normal nightmare. Sometimes, horrifyingly, there is a sensation of chest pressure, which is why many people wake up from sleep paralysis gasping to take a deep breath. But you just can’t wake yourself up. Sufferers in the thick of it just have to wait for it to be over.
While it’s not as scary when it’s someone ELSE suffering from it, here’s the uneasy bit: It can happen to anyone. Some people are more prone to it (it’s most common among young adults and people with a history of mental illness, for example). But every time you go to sleep, there is some risk of you waking up in sleep paralysis. On the upside, no one has ever died in their bed of sleep paralysis, that anyone knows of. It just seems to exist to scare the living bejesus out of us. Thanks, sleep paralysis, mission accomplished, we are all terrified.
If you do suffer from it, you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone: this craic has been going on for centuries. In fact, many great artworks depict all sorts of sleep paralysis scenes, and how nightmarish they are.
It’s not just art that mentions the phenomenon. Accounts of sleep paralysis can be found in Persian medical texts dating back to the 10th century. And, a Dutch physician’s notes were found dating to 1664, and in them he mentions the perplexing case of a woman suffering from what he called the “Night-Mare.” Around this time, the general theory was that sleep paralysis was caused by demons or spiritual possession. But now we know better. Well, we sort of do. Which is why it needs further investigation.
Please sleep paralysis, miss me with your creepiness.