You wake from a peaceful, deep sleep.
You are so comfortable and warm, lying on your back, the soft pillow under your head.
You decide to roll over onto your right side.
You try to move your shoulders, but they won’t budge.
You try again, to no avail.
You try to move your arms and legs, but they are like lead weights in bed.
You open your eyes, or think you open your eyes, and see the room around you, somewhat distorted.
It’s the same, but there is something very wrong.
You start to panic as you are still unable to move any of your limbs. Suddenly, you realize that you are being tied down, held captive, by intruders in your room. Sometimes you just feel a heaviness over your body. You can’t move and you are unable to scream. The most you can do is breathe, but even that feels like you have an anvil on your chest. You know that whoever is in your room is there to do you harm, and there is nothing you can do but struggle. So you struggle as hard as you can, hopeless, stuck. Your entire body jerks and you sit straight up in bed, gulping down air like water to a person dying of thirst.
Sleep paralysis is no joke. It is terrifying. You hear voices, whispers, murmurs, roars.
Scientifically speaking, when you are in the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle of sleep, your body paralyzes itself to keep you from doing yourself or anyone around you harm. Sleep paralysis happens when your mind wakes up, but your body is still in paralysis mode of the REM cycle. When you first wake up, your mind is still a little bit in a dream state, so many people start to hallucinate when they can’t move. They often imagine their room to intruded upon by harmful people, aliens, or strange paranormal entities. It’s terrifying.
Folklore tells a different story.
In Scandinavian folklore, they talk of a hag, a damned woman whose spirit leaves her body to sit on the chests of her victims while they sleep. Many cultures think of it as a demonic visitation. In Thailand, it is a ghost who can even cause bruises. Charlesgate Hall at Emerson College in Boston has had many witnesses who tell of a strange mist hovering over people as they sleep, preventing them from moving.
Many stories of alien abductions are blamed on sleep paralysis.
For people who experience sleep paralysis chronically and hallucinate being abducted by aliens night after night, they start to believe that it’s really happening.
It’s the same thing with ghost sightings and other supernatural events. This brings the topic to the surface: are these merely hallucinations, or real visitations?
There is no cure or treatment for sleep paralysis.
For those who get it every so often, it usually does not last for longer than a minute. However, for those with acute or chronic sleep paralysis, it can last for much longer. There are some individuals who have exercised mastery over the condition and are able to turn it into lucid dreaming, which is where you are conscious of the fact you are sleeping when you are sleeping, and are then able to control your dreams. It seems that the best way to get out of sleep paralysis is to begin by wiggling your fingers and toes, and the rest of your body will start to come to.
Sleep paralysis most often happens upon awakening as opposed to falling asleep. It also commonly happens when the individual has fallen asleep on his or her back. So, exercise caution the next time you decide to sleep on your back, because you may get some quality time with an unwanted visitor.
My name is Andrea and I live in Los Angeles, California. By day, I am an actor and by night I am working towards a degree in nutritional science.