Sleep Paralysis Stories – Intruder, Demon Or Delusion?

Sleep paralysis stories typically involve unusual and often extremely frightening or disturbing experiences. Perhaps you have one or two of these tales to tell of your own.

If not, I’ll first share one of mine to give you an understanding of what it can be like. Then we’ll have a closer look at whether sleep paralysis demons really exist, or if science can provide a logical and comforting explanation.

 

sleeping man seeing a sleep paralysis demon

 

Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: you’ve fallen asleep as usual after a long day. You hoped to have pleasant dreams and wake up the next morning feeling refreshed. But instead of waking up peacefully in the morning ready to groggily hit the snooze button, you awaken at an unknown time in the middle of the night.

Two things immediately spring to mind: you can’t move – at all; and you’re not alone.

You feel a weight on your chest, pressing you down and preventing you from sitting up. But it’s worse than that – you can’t move your arms or legs. You can’t even move your lips to call out for help.

You’re not sure who or what is pushing on your chest. It’s too dark to see. But you just know there’s a presence there. Something strange. Something uninvited. Something frightening…

This happened to me last year, and was a very unsettling experience. Fortunately there was no demon, ghost or lost burglar. After a brief period of panic the feeling passed, and I was able to stumble to the bathroom to make sure my face wasn’t decorated with demonic symbols.

It was a classic case of sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis stories like this one are in fact surprisingly common – A study in 2011 found that 7.6% of people will experience sleep paralysis in their lifetime. And the figure is even higher amongst people who have narcolepsy (around 40%).

You may well then have experienced this phenomenon yourself, but until now not known what it was you were going through. So now we have a name for it, we need to know what causes it, and what can be done about it.

And accepting the cause is where I now know that many readers encounter a problem: although sleep paralysis has a solid scientific explanation (as you’ll see in a minute), the feeling of those weird events can be so real that you may find it difficult to accept the scientific explanation.

Cultural, religious, esoteric and personal beliefs all play a key role in how you end up viewing sleep paralysis. And with that, how they you go about dealing with it in the future.

So in a moment we’ll take a look at the scientific explanation, and also consider some of the alternative viewpoints.

 

Polls – what’s your experience of sleep paralysis?

Poll 1 – open for votes

What is your experience of sleep paralysis?

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 Poll 2 results

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not scared and 10 being terrified, how does sleep paralysis make you feel?

  • 10 (absolutely terrified) (53%, 2,806 Votes)
  • 8 (13%, 710 Votes)
  • 9 (11%, 559 Votes)
  • 7 (8%, 438 Votes)
  • 5 (4%, 211 Votes)
  • 6 (4%, 197 Votes)
  • 1 (not scared at all) (2%, 113 Votes)
  • 4 (2%, 98 Votes)
  • 3 (1%, 76 Votes)
  • 2 (1%, 69 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,277

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Poll 3 results

How often do you experience sleep paralysis?

  • 2-10 times in my life (24%, 1,229 Votes)
  • A small number of times in a short period, then a long gap before it happens again (16%, 833 Votes)
  • Once in my life (15%, 756 Votes)
  • A few times a year (11%, 563 Votes)
  • A few times a month on a regular basis for years (11%, 552 Votes)
  • Never (6%, 282 Votes)
  • Never before until recently when I've experienced it a few times (5%, 267 Votes)
  • A few times a week on a regular basis for years (5%, 251 Votes)
  • I'm not sure how often it happens (5%, 237 Votes)
  • Every night on a regular basis (2%, 114 Votes)

Total Voters: 5,084

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Poll 4 – open for votes

How old were you when you first experienced sleep paralysis?

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Poll 5 – open for votes

What helps you stop an episode of sleep paralysis?

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What causes sleep paralysis? – The scientific explanation

The causes of the physical aspect of sleep paralysis are slightly different depending on the stage of sleep you experience it:

  • Some people experience sleep paralysis at the start of the night. While falling asleep, the body naturally relaxes and you would normally lose consciousness. But if you remain aware that you are falling asleep, your mind can remain alert while the body shuts down.
  • Alternatively, it can happen after you have already been asleep. During the night you cycle through several different stages of sleep. During what’s called the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage you tend to dream more vividly, and the brain ‘switches off’ your muscles to prevent you from acting out your dreams, which could of course be dangerous. Sometimes you might wake up mentally in the middle of this stage, but the body may take a while to catch up and remain ‘frozen’, leading to the awake experience of sleep paralysis.

 

How does science explain the weird things you see, hear or feel?

The explanation for why you feel physically paralyzed but awake is one thing, but how does science explain 3 of the main sleep paralysis stories that people report?

 

  1. That there is an intruder or other ‘presence’ in the room.
  2. That there is some kind of sleep paralysis demon pushing down on your chest, strangling or doing other unpleasant things to you.
  3. Having an out-of-body experience.

 

The first two are usually explained by a combination of three occurrences:

  • During the REM stage of sleep, and the muscle paralysis that comes with it, your breathing is affected. It becomes shallower, you might feel a blockage in the airway, and when you try to breathe deeply you may feel that you can’t. This can then lead to either the feeling of being strangled, or a presence pushing down on the chest. This then feeds into your ‘threat vigilance system':
  • When you’re in a vulnerable and threatened state, the body naturally reacts with its fight or flight defense mechanism. For example, when you suddenly feel that someone wants to attack you and you get that surge of adrenalin that makes your heart beat much faster. So when waking up but feeling paralyzed, and in a hyper-vigilant state where everything you sense seems much more than it is, you may react to the sensation of paralysis and breathing difficulty by thinking that something bad is happening, or about to happen to you.
  • In addition to the above two processes, several brain structures might interact to create a hypnagogic hallucination. For example, the common sleep paralysis stories of an intruder or a demonic entity. The hallucination may not initially take on any particular form. But when the threat system comes into play, you might misinterpret the feeling that you are not alone as being that the additional presence is something bad – thus creating a hallucination which is demonic or malevolent in some way.

The third kind of happening – the out-of-body experience – isn’t explained by the activation of the threat system. It’s explained by the parts of the brain involved in coordinating movement and also working out where the body physically is in space. When you’re not actually moving, there is a confusion in understanding where your body is, with the result that you feel like you are floating.

 

Dreams and nightmares overlapping with reality

In addition to the above, there is also the confusion which can occur as your dreams or nightmares overlap with reality. If you wake up from a dream, but remain paralyzed, sometimes your dream imagery can over-map into your physical senses.

So you may have your eyes open, but still see, hear or feel some of the weird or frightening things which you were just dreaming about, even if you aren’t aware that you were just dreaming about those things.

So for example, you could be dreaming about some strange creature, then wake up paralyzed and continue to feel that the the same creature is close to you, though it’s now in your bedroom instead of the dream-scape you were just experiencing.

Then you add the physiological elements that come with finding yourself paralyzed, and you have all the ingredients for being very scared!

 

Sleep paralysis causes – the not so scientific explanation

 

astral projection - one of the rarer sleep paralysis stories

 

If you don’t believe that the scientific explanation is sufficient, then what else remains? Let’s look at each of the 3 main types of sleep paralysis stories in turn:

1. The Intruder

If you wake up in the middle of the night and you have a sudden feeling that there’s a human intruder in the room, then the possible explanation is simple. There really is a human intruder in the room.

If you weren’t paralyzed, then there would be an obvious way to find way out if this were the case: turn on the light and have a look, or prod your partner and tell them to do something about it. But you’re paralyzed though, so that doesn’t work.

In all seriousness, this does actually happen to some unfortunate people. But rarely, thankfully. And it’s unlikely a common burglar would have been able to paralyze you and somehow choke you whilst helping himself to your jewelry.

So if you wake up paralyzed and struggling to breathe, and then notice a presence on the other side of the room, it’s probably safe to assume there’s no intruder. Unless you are incredibly unlucky and experiencing both an episode of sleep paralysis and a burglary at exactly the same time. That does seem particularly unlikely though.

 

2. The Demon

If you believe in supernatural entities, then there’s probably not a great deal of science that could convince you otherwise. It’s a personal choice to believe in such things, and I respect your choice even if I don’t personally believe in such things.

What I would like to suggest though is this thought: if you experience sleep paralysis, wouldn’t it be more comforting for you to stop believing that you’re being tormented by demons? The scientific explanation would make sleep paralysis demon encounters so much easier to shrug off and go back to sleep. And shrug off the experience is what many people do manage to successfully do.

Interestingly though, around the world there are many cultural interpretations of the forces at work in this particular kind of sleep paralysis event.

For example, in Fiji the demon is often seen as a deceased relative come back for some unfinished business or to tell the person something important. In Chinese folklore it’s also seen as a ghost rather than a demon or intruder.

Some countries such as Iran and Pakistan interpret it as being demons or spirits who have taken over a person’s body, often due to black magic performed by an enemy. In Turkish culture the entity is literally seen as sitting on your chest and stealing away your breath.

Most countries and cultures appear to have their own explanations for the sleep paralysis demon – some very similar, and others quite different. The common theme being though that the entity is up to no good and something to be feared. I’m yet to find a culture which believes it’s an angel or fairy spending some quality time with you in the night.

I know from the readers comments that some people do fully believe that demons or other evil entities exist. A few people talk about them in a religious framework, others just in terms that there are some weird and bad things out there which science can’t explain.

Amongst all of the comments from people who do believe these things there is one common theme: nothing bad actually happened to them. This then raises another question: if there are evil beings, why is it that they simply bother you in the night, and don’t do anything beyond scaring you?

 

3. The out-of-body experience

When I was a teenager I once picked up a book in a library which claimed to be a training manual for Astral Projection. The idea being that there is a separate part of you that is able to leave the body and venture into other planes of existence. The manual mostly involved visualization practice which I played around with for a couple of days before deciding it wasn’t for me.

There seems to be some overlap between the concepts of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences, lucid dreaming and astral projection. Many people report having experienced one or more of these, and the internet and bookstores abound with writers who claim to have techniques to consciously leave the body and have an amazing adventure in the spirit, dream or astral realm.

There is no dispute that people do experience the sensation of an out-of-body experience during sleep paralysis. The point is whether it’s best explained in biological terms, or whether there really are other realms which a part of you is capable of accessing.

Again it’s a question of belief and I am not here to tell you either way what you should think. You may even feel that both explanations can co-exist.

There are many websites claiming that Sleep Paralysis has a biological cause, but can then be used as a springboard to try to attempt astral projection. An online search will turn up many, though I won’t reference any in particular.

I also recently came across what’s actually quite a sensible book explaining how to do this. It’s called ‘Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night’.

It provides a detailed background to sleep paralysis, but also aims to help you find a way to convert sleep paralysis into a lucid dream. The point being that you can then take control of the experience and turn it into something positive.

And if you think that’s a ridiculous and impossible idea (especially if your personal experience has been downright terrifying!), you’ll find several detailed comments below from readers who report trying to do exactly that. They have some inspiring stories of viewing sleep paralysis as a positive thing which they enjoy because of the unique and fascinating experiences it brings them.

Choosing to believe in astral worlds that you can access and fly around in doing whatever you please sounds harmless and fun. If I’m honest I’d like to believe this is possible – even though I’m not convinced. But choosing to believe you are having the life sucked out of you by a sleep paralysis demon doesn’t sound like such a healthy belief to hold.

 

How to stop sleep paralysis

What medical treatment is available?

Fortunately, sleep paralysis is something which most people experience just a few times and so no treatment is required. However, if it persists and you find it highly disturbing and disruptive to your sleep and daily life, then you may find speaking to a doctor about it helpful. These are the main options they typically consider:

  • They may refer you to a sleep specialist to rule out the possibility of Narcolepsy.
  • They may prescribe an anti-depressant medication for a short period such as Clomipramine which is known to alter your REM sleep, and therefore help with reducing the paralysis and hallucinations.
  • They might consider whether there is an underlying mental illness if you’re experiencing hallucinations outside of the sleeping environment.
  • They would explain the biological processes involved in sleep paralysis, as outlined above, in the hope that educating you about sleep will help you accept it as a normal occurrence.
  • They might talk to you about having healthy sleep habits, which is known to help reduce many sleep problems. You can find these practical techniques covered extensively in the section here on sleep hygiene.

 

How to stop sleep paralysis – tips and techniques provided by readers

In the comments below, many readers have explained how they either deal with or stop sleep paralysis. Firstly, I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone for the ideas.

Secondly, you should know that I am simply going to list the ideas which might help; for many of these there is no evidence that they work beyond the fact that some people say they do. Remember that what works for one person may not for you.

  • Stay calm and try not to panic. Panic and fighting it often makes it worse.
  • Try to wiggle just one finger or a toe. Some say this is more achievable than trying to move your whole body. Then you can try to move the hand or foot and slowly wake up the whole body.
  • Tell yourself that you are actually in control. You can ‘order’ the experience to stop, or whatever you are seeing to go away.
  • If you feel a weight on your chest, try to imagine there is something friendly causing it, such as a big happy dog (or cat if you don’t like dogs).
  • If it is happening repeatedly, why not film yourself sleeping? This may be especially useful for people who have experiences where they feel that they have been physically ‘moved’ in their bed by some being, or their furniture has been moved. You would be able to reassure yourself that you weren’t actually dragged out of bed.
  • Try not to think about what it ‘could’ be that you are experiencing, seeing, hearing or feeling. Your imagination will probably just go and make up something scary in the darkness.
  • Try to relax and ‘go with it’. Some readers actually enjoy sleep paralysis, and they welcome the opportunity to have out-of-body experiences or see what strange experiences they can have.
  • Don’t sleep on your back. Many people say they only have it in this position.
  • Don’t read in bed as this can encourage you to fall asleep on your back.
  • Sleep with a night-light on, or with music or the radio so that if you do wake up you are not in silent darkness.
  • Remind yourself that nothing bad will happen.
  • Imagine your body rolling from side to side in your mind and count each roll. Eventually you might notice you re-gain control of a body part. Focus on this part and try to grow the capacity for movement from there.
  • Count numbers to focus your mind on something other than the hallucinations.
  • Don’t let yourself become sleep deprived or too tired as it often happens more then.
  • Try to deal with stress in your life, as periods of stress and change can make it worse.
  • Don’t sleep with a high pillow – some suggest that this effects the supply of blood to the brain.
  • Keep your eyes shut and try to clear your mind instead of focusing on the things you can see.
  • Try squeezing your eyes tightly shut if you are able to control the muscles around your eyes.
  • Keep well hydrated – drink water before going to bed.
  • Talk about it to family or friends – they may have experienced it too.
  • Write about it here. Some people find it helpful to describe their experience in the comments below.
  • If you have it once, change sleeping position before trying to sleep again. Perhaps also keep a light or music on.
  • Many people who have a faith say they find prayer can be helpful. Some also say that calling on their religious beliefs and ‘commanding’ what they see to leave helps them.
  • Don’t take recreational drugs.
  • Check if any sleeping pills or herbal remedies you’re taking are causing it – either by discussing it with your doctor, or stopping taking them for a while.
  • Once the episode has passed, it’s good to take a moment to remind yourself that you overcame it again. Tell yourself that you overcame it, are not afraid and will always overcome it.

 

 How I recently stopped an episode of sleep paralysis

Since writing this article, I hadn’t had a single episode of sleep paralysis, until recently in March 2015. And I’m happy to be able to report that I used two of the techniques in the above list to successfully stop it.

I woke up in the middle of the night, to find myself in a strange position with my arms crossed on top of my body, almost like you see with medieval carvings of knights on tombs. And I could literally feel strong hands pinning me down by my wrists.

I have to admit I was immediately scared. The whole event was very blurry, and I think I was having some dream-overlap, but can’t remember exactly what now.

Anyway, luckily two things sprung to mind after a brief moment of panic: ‘stay calm’, I said to myself, and ‘wiggle a finger’.

The calmness I managed with moderate success, perhaps because this was the first episode in a long time, so I was caught out by it. But I did manage to focus my efforts on wiggling a finger. For some reason, despite trying to wiggle just one finger, it seemed like my body wanted to try and wiggle all of them.

In the haze of the night and the moment, it felt pretty odd, like my fingers were wiggling in different directions. But I guess that’s possibly due to the disconnect between by body and brain with the paralysis.

Eventually I felt my arms loosen as well, and then pretty soon afterwards I was able to shake the whole sensation away as I regained full control.

What I then did I still think is a little strange. Despite having the overwhelming feeling that something had physcially held me down, I decided not to turn a light on to reassure myself.

I spend so much of my time reading and replying to comments on this article, that I believe the scientific explanation is so firmly engrained in my mind, that I didn’t feel the need to ‘double-check’ that were wasn’t somebody or something in the room with me.

Instead I spent a few minutes doing some breathing exercises to ground myself and calm down. And then fell asleep again.

The mere fact that I knew about the finger wiggling technique was enough for my brain to remember to do it when the sleep paralysis occurred.

So my recommendation, from personal experience, is to plant that thought in your mind too!

 

Further Reading

During 2013, a British team of film-makers, researchers and academics worked on an exciting project exploring sleep paralysis. They produced an interesting, if slightly scary, documentary and also have an excellent website with detailed information about sleep paralysis. You can visit the sleep paralysis project website for more information.

You might find some useful ideas in my article discussing how to stop nightmares and night terrors. I think you can definitely put some of those tips into practice and see if they help at all.

 

Poll 6  – open to votes

What do you think about the scientific explanation for sleep paralysis?

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Your views

It’s always fascinating to hear reader’s sleep paralysis stories, and I know that many people find it helpful to have a place to describe what happened to them. Moreover, other readers find it helpful to know they’re not alone and perhaps find someone who’s had similar experiences.

So feel free to talk about your experience of sleep paralysis, and if you have any tips or techniques for dealing with it, I may add them to the growing list of practical solutions.

If you look below you’ll see that there are a lot of comments, and it can take several hours to read through them. Feel free to read through, but to help you find the right place to leave your own comment rather than replying to others, you can click below:
Leave A Comment >>

 


768 Responses to “Sleep Paralysis Stories – Intruder, Demon Or Delusion?”

  1. Orlando says:

    I’ve had terrible experiences with sleep paralysis.In 2010,when I was about 12 (in the 6th grade), I moved from my hometown and lived farther from my school. So every morning around 4:00 am, I would be dropped off at my former neighbor’s house (before I moved) and i would sleep until around six and would walk to the bus stop where i’d catch the bus to school. Well, anyway long story short the mother (elderly lady) of my former neighbor had passed away in Mexico. Apparently my whole neighbor’s family found this out through a phone call at like 4:30 am whilst I was trying to sleep on the living room couch. It was a sad morning, everyone was crying and it got to me too. I had met the lady who died month’s earlier and spent the rest of the day thinking of her. The next morning i was dropped off and walked in the living room looking at the couch I was about to sleep on, realizing just a couple months earlier she was sitting on that couch. Well, I ended up lying on the couch, thinking of the lady. I feel asleep for five minutes when the paralysis hit me. I woke unable to move, when this hooded figure (exactly like the one in the first image) with glowing red eyes put his hand over my face. I was terrified, I was absolutely sure it was reality, I couldn’t move. Then I woke up. It was terrible and it felt so real. I think the fact that I had death on my mind that whole morning lead to that sighting.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Orlando

      Than you for your comment and for sharing your story. I think you’re right in that thinking about or seeing scary, unpleasant or morbid things can have an effect on our sleep. For people who are susceptible to sleep paralysis, nightmares or hallucinations etc, then an event like the one you experienced can definitely have an effect.
      Hopefully it won’t happen again. But if it does, try to remember one or two of the tips here which can help you deal with it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  2. Jay says:

    This is a reply to an older post by Meg in 2014, not sure if reply will attach to it or not. I’ve been experiencing this since I was 4 years old. The images you described are the same. But, what caught my eye and pushed me to reply is what you said about someone stroking your hair, it felt nice and was overall calming…this happened to me too. I stil remember the dream I was having when it took place in exact detail, 30 years later.

    I was having a very peaceful dream, and was overcomed with a feeling a love and well being, and as it went on I began to detect someone rubbing their fingers through my hair, which made me slowly wake up, but like you, my eyes were still closed. I assumed it was my mom, maybe she had come in the room to check on me, so I smiled and said, mom, as I opened my eyes. But, what was stroking my hair didn’t disappear, I saw it and I screamed louder than I ever did before that night. Enough to where my Dad came stumbling in the room not 30 seconds later, and what I saw, he caught a glimpse of too before it vanished.

    I never forgot that night, and recently chose to do some research, so I put in the select key words of what I saw that night, “old witch,” and it brought me to this web page. I still remember what she looked like in epic detail, the tattered clothes, white hair, with a bristled shaw that pulled over her head. When I first laid eyes on her she was shaking her head, answering my question I had asked when I opened my eyes, and she was smiling, but not in a sadistic way, in a gentle way. But, she was hideous and I was 4 years old so yeah, I screamed like a school girl, which seemed to startle her like I insulted her feelings, which was odd.

    Me and my Dad spoke about it recently. He couldn’t sleep over a week after it happened and was always checking in on me to make sure I was okay for awhile after that. He said it have him the worst chill down his spine he ever had in his life and would never forget it. But, in this instance, SP was not present. But, other times it was…. Roughly a year later, similar episodes began to occur again, but this time I would feel rough tugging on my feet and legs. We had a dog that sometimes did this so I disregarded, even when it became more forceful in its tugging, I would kick it off, until the cover were ripped from me in the direction of the tugging at lightning speed. At that point my eyes jerked open but the rest of my body was frozen, I couldn’t move and was in fear, cold shock, and adrenaline went through the roof. After a few minutes I was able to will my self out of it by slowing my breathing. Once, I was able to move enough to get out of my bed, I stumbled and fell to the floor due to my legs not being fully functional, and dragged myself to the hallway and started banging on the wall and door, because I couldn’t make my voice work, until my both of my parents came to my rescue.

    I was able to point in to my room, my face was filled with panic and soaked with tears. My mom picked me up while my Dad turned on my light and went into my room. My covers were completely pulled under my bed under where my head was resting, scruntched up agaisnt the wall, upside down. I slept in my parents bed for over a month after that, and they took me to a Christian counselor. Every once in awhile it still happens, though it seems the gap inbetween keeps getting larger.

    The last time it happened was exactly the same scenario with the tugging and the blanket getting ripped off me, but at this time, I am married and my wife was in the bed when it happened, so she got to experience it too…. My family jokes with me all the time about how I am “haunted.” It was horrible for me as a kid, but the times it has happened over over the past 15 years, I shrug it off, I’ve gotten so use to it. I will even get mad and cranky at it and say, knock it off, I have an early day tomorrow, go haunt someone else for a change stalker, etc…. But, yeah….

    I have done lots of research on it and it’s been occurring for over a thousand years, but still no real reason or meaning behind it. Some of my research has led me to references to it such as Lillith or The Morrigan. Sometimes SP happens with it, sometimes it doesn’t, as I’ve gotten older it has been mostly the “doesn’t” type, but still some on rare occurrences. I am not convinced this is psychological. I went to shrinks throughout the worst part of the ordeal when I was a kid and even been evaluated as an adult just for kicks and they all say the same, I’m completely mentally healthy, with the exception of my high moral standards I place on myself and others.

    One thing bothers me about it to this day…whenever it happens, my life utterly sucks for awhile. I’m talking obscenely wicked bad luck…literally everytime. When my wife was with me the last time she got the bad luck and overall grim feeling of the world with it too. What’s up with that? If anyone has any real idea what this is, instead of the usual, scientific copouts, which equal they can’t explain it because they weren’t there, shoot me a reply on this board, I have it set for notifications.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Jay

      Thank you for your comment. You didn’t reply specifically to Meg, but either way she would only read it if she chose to follow either her comment thread or the main thread. In my experience a lot of readers are still following these comments, so you never know.
      Since you have asked for replies from other readers, I will refrain from commenting, as my reply would surely be a scientific copout as you put it;-)
      All the best
      Ethan

  3. Devery says:

    Okay, so this happened to me for the first time last night. It was probably one of the most frightening things that I have experienced… I have anxiety attacks almost daily, and USED to think they were the most frightening thing. This tops it.

    First, ill start off with me getting into bed after a long day and exhausted (as I normally am) … I didn’t even lay there and think about things like I normally do- I was that tired. And all of a sudden when I would be falling asleep it was as if I’d lose my breath, so I’d gasp for air, wake up and try and get my breathing back on track…(this happeNed about 3 times before I actually fell asleep). Then the scary part happened… I was asleep… and out of nowhere I wake up to find myself on my side, my whole body tingling(like my whole body was asleep like when your arm or leg falls asleep) and I couldn’t move at all…I was in the fetal position pretty much. I was so scared, I tried yelling for my mom but there was Nothing coming out…. I did have some weird visions dreams or whatever it is and it was like a bunch of dreams mixed together into one like in a fast forward pace….this may seem dumb but what I remember most from the dream was a cat that looked nice and it made me happy and then it turned into an evil cat like it was going to kill me and I was so so scared. Sounds dumb, cause it was a cat….but it’s just mind boggling and scary and I’d really love for it to never happen again!!

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Devery

      Thanks for your comment, and I can understand why you felt so scared! It does sounds like you probably woke up with sleep paralysis, judging from what you describe about waking up unable to move and tingling.
      Can I ask about the breathing difficulty though? Does this happen to you regularly? I think if you ever wake up gasping for air, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor. There are sleep breathing disorders which many people have, and should be treated. I don’t want to make you feel any more anxious, but it’s better safe than sorry. Hopefully it was just an unpleasant one-off, but if you think you may have this more often, best to get checked out.
      Regards
      Ethan

  4. Dylan Moore says:

    Hello everyone I’m 13 years old and i used to experience this every 2 nights and then it just stopped! How it felt for me was when i was just laying there. Then i just felt really cold and i couldn’t breathe i couldn’t move and i heard something whisper in my ear ( i couldn’t really make out what i heard.) and said “____ _____ Sleep ______ _____” It may seem a little cheesy\corny but i just wanna get this out there. I hope I have believers out there. And next time it occurs i now know what to do!
    ( My apologies if i misspelled some words.)

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Dylan

      Thank you for your comment. And don’t worry about the spelling – I usually correct spelling mistakes:-)

      Your story doesn’t sounds cheesy or corny at all. In all the comments here there are so many stories, it would be impossible to decide which are cheesy or not! They are all perfectly valid experiences.

      I’m glad you’ve got some ideas about what you can do if it happens again. That’s an important thing which can help you relax and sleep at night.

      Regards
      Ethan

  5. Ruby says:

    hi! 22 years old, female, experienced SP for the first time last year, was in bed next to my now ex- boyfriend and it felt like something was trying to drag me from the foot of the bed, I knew I was dreaming so tried speaking, my boyfriend woke up due to me making strange movements, however, had a very scary encounter of SP the other day.
    I was asleep in a nightmare I was driving my car and couldn’t change gear, I crashed my car and woke up, or so I thought I had. I had a ‘dull’ ringing in my ears, that’s the only way I can describe it, and couldn’t move at all, felt like I had something holding me down, I could hardly breathe and I felt a presence in the room, this presence kept trying to enter my body and Everytime it did I gasped for breathe, I kept saying ‘leave me alone, please stop’ but it took my breathe away around 3/4 times. I attempted to move and thought I fell out of bed and opened my door, I crawled to my mums room for help, this was all very difficult to do and I still couldn’t speak or breathe properly. I then tried to pinch myself as I knew if I was dreaming I wouldn’t be able to feel pain, and if this was real life I would feel pain, but I couldn’t feel pain so I kept pinching myself until I woke up. I woke up with tears down my face, sweating and not being able to breathe. It was so scary and i don’t know whether it was SP or a ghost or something similar. I’ve been very unsettled since then and was hoping you could put my mind at rest. That night I had eaten a toast with cheese on before going to sleep so i’m putting two and two together and hoping that eating that close to falling asleep had an impact. A reply back would be very beneficial if possible! Thanks, Ruby

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Ruby

      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you had such a scary experience. I’m not sure from what you say whether you really had sleep paralysis or not though. Sometimes people dream that they are in their bedroom and something scary happens to them, but they then wake up from the nightmare. Sleep paralysis is when you have woken up, or are still awake, consciously but your body won’t move. So you know you are not dreaming (usually) and then hallucinate strange things in your room.
      From what you describe though, it seems like you were dreaming that you were in bed and then tried to crawl to your mum’s room. When you woke up, were you crawling or lying in bed? That would answer that question really.
      If it seems like you were dreaming, then perhaps look at this article about stopping nightmares and night terrors. You might find that helpful.
      Regards
      Ethan

  6. Niki says:

    I have had these type of experiences off and on since I was 18 years old. My first experience was my worst experience. This was before I even knew it was a type of sleep condition with a name and everything. I awoke to what seemed like a black shadow figure on top of me. The shadow figure spoke in demonic tongue in my ear while trying to possess me. I actually felt the being enter my body and my soul or whatever it was started to lift out of my body. With all my strength I tried to fight it and enter back into my body. Finally after saying something to me I could not understand it let me go and I could move again. This is my reasoning for believing in the beginning it was a demon or some type of entity. It started happening more and more after that except the next few experiences are just me laying paralyzed with a black shadow standing in my door way and this always happens in the middle of the night whether someone is sleeping in the room with me or not. The more I have the shadow starts to walk towards me. I then was so scared that I started doing research on possessions and what not trying to look up what demon was after me and why thinking I’m going completely insane when I found out I’m experiencing sleep paralysis!! Everyone’s stories made me feel so much better that I’m not alone in this and I’m not crazy lol so I tried to shrug off my experiences as scary as hell they were I tried thinking it’s just in my head until my recent experience. I got a dog and he sleeps with me in my room with my husband and I every night. He is a very loyal happy go-lucky dog that never barks or growls. We also joke that he would probably lick a burglar to death. I woke up in the middle of the night paralyzed again to see the black shadow figure standing in the hallway and my dog was growling at it with it’s hair standing up!! When I finally was able to move again it disappeared and my dog ran down the hallway then came back in the room and jumped up on the bed beside me and slept with me the rest of the night! Has anyone else experienced this!? I am completely terrified again I haven’t been sleeping well at all because of it but my dog helps me feel some kind of comfort.
    I hope to get a reply! Thank you!

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Niki

      Thanks for your comment and for telling your story. What a shame that just as you had decided to accept this as sleep paralysis, the incident with your dog happened! I can understand why that must have freaked you out.
      I guess it could be that if you have sleep paralysis so regularly, maybe your dog was startled by something and that triggered your sleep paralysis? Or perhaps you had an episode, and your dog sensed the fear and then went a bit loopy and started barking at shadows? They do say that dogs are very sensitive to people’s fear etc. If that is the case, then perhaps your dog would be a better guard than you previously thought:-)
      Anyway, this is just me speculating as usual when readers present another form of sleep disturbance which seems to be hard to explain with the basic explanation for sleep paralysis! It’s up to you to find the same strength you had before and try to shrug this off as well. Maybe believing in your dog’s potential to look after you while you sleep will provide some extra comfort:-)
      Regards
      Ethan

  7. Miguel Perez says:

    Hi, my name is Miguel.

    Over the past two years I’ve had about 20-30 times that I woke up without moving. But two weeks ago, it was different than all the other times. I was barely falling asleep and when I heard someone playing with the blinds in the window in my room, I said to myself how is that possible if I am inside, I ignored it.
    So then they knocked on my window in the room and in the sliding door and in my front door. So I checked and no one was there. 2 minutes later I went back to sleep and the same thing happened again so I got my pistol and rapidly went outside nothing was there, so I put the pistol back in the cabinet. Well I finally prayed and went back to sleep as I closed my eyes I felt someone crawling from my headboard. I have a 7 foot headboard and something was crawling down trying to get down to the mattress. I felt something fall and that’s when it happened I could move I felt it grabbed me, this time I had force and I was only able to move just a lil bit not a lot. I could talk but not like I normally would. I said ‘GET OFF ME” and out of all the other times this has never happened to me but it responded back and as he whispered in my ear, I felt the breeze and he said in a demonic voice ( I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU” and then in spanish I was trying to pray and first two words came out and I was able to move again after I said those two words. I woke up my Hand was folded and the pistol was in my had pointing towards my head. remember I said I had put it in the cabinet I couldn’t move or walk I had my eyes open the whole time. So my question is how can this be Sleep Paralysis? I don’t believe this at all. I think someone is on to you doing supernatural things or something is haunting you. I’ve talked to all my coworkers and they all experienced the same just one time. But mine is every single week or day.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Miguel

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your story. To be honest, I’m not sure whether sleep paralysis is the only possible explanation for what you have described there. But what worries me is the fact that you ended up with a pistol pointed at your head. It could be that you were sleep-walking, or were acting out a dream as happens in what is called REM behavior disorder (where your body doesn’t shut down and you physically act out your dream).
      Whatever the explanation, my advice would be to talk to your doctor about this, and also to make sure your gun isn’t kept loaded. It would be terrible if you had an accident one night, so I think it’s probably a good idea to get some professional advice and see if they can help stop anything bad happening to you.
      Regards
      Ethan

  8. Raising Arizona says:

    March of 2014 was extremely hard for me. I was experiencing sleep paralysis only on the nights my husband was working. He is a police officer so we had a routine that we would talk before I went to bed. My evening would begin with hearing something walk around upstairs. Then at around 10-11 pm I would head to bed. I hated going to bed because around 2-3am I would be awoken by something sitting on my chest. I feel it holding my arms down. I have had it hold my hands behind my back while I was laying on my side. I feel it sucking the air out of me but it feels like its sucking the life out of me. I started not sleeping till late. I was afraid to go to my bedroom. After a couple weeks I was so tired and wouldn’t sleep in my room. I fell sleep with my knees at my chest and my head laying against the back of my couch, sort of sideways with my arms tucked up holding up my chin. I experienced an extremely detailed and disturbing dream (I hope it was just a dream) of a man in my living room. He was just wearing a dingy pair of underwear. He was a white guy that had yellowish skin, dirty blonde gross hair it was unkempt, stood about 5’5-5’6 very thin, He had brown eyes and they were yellowed as well. He was glaring at me from across my living room at one moment, the next he was next to me and then he was holding my head up with his forehead eye to eye with me he was breathing heavily through his teeth spit was being pushed through it. I couldn’t look down at what he was doing and he was doing it very aggressively, he wanted eye contact. When I woke up I felt the sweat on my forehead and there was dewy wetness between my toes and I was freezing. I called my husband crying. I was then overwhelmingly tired and slept for nearly 17 hours in addition to the 3 hours I slept during the incident. This was so vivid that I genuinely felt I was violated. Is there an explanation for this? I am afraid to report it out of fear that I will sound like a crazy person especially with my husbands occupation.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi there

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences. It sounds to be like you are describing two different types of sleep disorder. The first does sound like sleep paralysis, waking up with the feeling that something is sitting on your chest, the feeling of someone holding your arms etc. And I can understand not wanting to sleep in your bedroom after that. I think that’s a natural reaction if you repeatedly have scary experiences like that.

      The second though, as you say yourself, seems like it was entirely a very bad dream. You might like to look at the article about nightmares and night terrors to find out more about that. Sometimes we have incredibly vivid dreams, good or bad, which can leave us feeling like something actually happened the next day. I personally quite often have dreams which leave me with a particular emotion during the following day based on how the dream made me feel upon waking.
      It’s possible that because you were having the sleep paralysis, your mind has become preoccupied due to the fear it has created in you. And that has then manifested in a nightmare in which your worst fears are played out.
      I think that it’s important to somehow find a way to deal with this fear, and reclaim your bedroom as a peaceful, safe and happy space. How you go about doing that is of course not easy, and relies on you taking the decision to not be afraid, and perhaps do some relaxation exercises before going to bed. Maybe sleep with a light on or some music or the radio. Anything you can think of which will help you to feel safe and secure in the bedroom.
      All the best
      Ethan

  9. Mandy says:

    I have had a few experiences but one in particular really stands out as it scared me to death. I was sleeping over at my boyfriends house one night and he ended up falling asleep on the couch. I remember just being startled awake and seeing something floating above me. It had its ghostly hand wrapped around my neck and I felt like I was suffocating. I very distinctly remember my boyfriend had fallen asleep on the couch and I tried to scream and tried to yell his name but of course nothing was coming out. Then it was abruptly over and I woke up gasping and gasping for air. For a long time I thought it was something out to get me until I started reading up on sleep paralysis. There have been several other times I have woke up gasping for air. And again thinking something was just out to get me.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Mandy

      Thank you for your comment, and that does sound like a scary episode of sleep paralysis. Concerning the waking up gasping for air – have you ever had yourself checked out for any breathing disorder such as apnea? Even though it sounds like sleep paralysis, I think it’s always a good idea to get yourself checked out if you’re waking up gasping for air.
      Regards
      Ethan

  10. Bethany says:

    Hi Ethan,
    My experience started with what I thought was someone tapping me on the shoulder to get my attention in the middle of the night while asleep. I thought it was a dream. The experience got progressively worse, every couple of nights the same thing happened and the tapping progressed to pushing, then shoving. I still thought it was just a dream the next day. Still things progressed over time, when “it” came in the night the bed shook up and down, it was very hot (temperature-wise), “it” had very heavy breathing. As things got worse I realized I was paralyzed. One night I said to myself (while paralyzed) “the bed is really shaking up and down AND I am awake”. Whatever “it” was, it was very angry and did not want me in that bed. I sensed it was a man, but I never saw anything, I only felt it touching me, shaking the bed; I heard heavy breathing. I had at least 20-30 experiences, probably more as it started slowly and got worse every time, so I wasn’t counting at the start. My husband and I were staying at the in-laws house at the time of each occurrence (while they were away). The room had 2 twin beds, husband never even awoke, he thought I was crazy. The last night I slept in that room was more of the same but felt like “it” was trying to kill me, all the same phenomenon but 10X stronger. I refused to ever sleep there again (and I did not). Husband still thought I was crazy. The next morning I suggested that we do the “cat test”. He placed the cat on my bed, she reacted as if it was on fire. Then, placed the cat on his bed, she peacefully just walked around. We repeated twice, same exact results. My husband was spooked by this. Once I left this house, it never happened again, and it has been many years. I am trying to believe this was SP, as I’m sure you will say (as I have read many other stories and your comments), but so hard for me to believe since it only happened in that house over a period of 6 months. It had never happened to me before that, and has not happened since we left that house. If it matters I was about 32 at the time and drugs/alcohol were not involved.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Bethany,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your story. You’re right in that my natural temptation is to say that it was sleep paralysis! Sorry for being so predictable:-)

      I guess if you’ve read lots of previous comments, you will have noticed that there is a wide range of experiences people have, but there are some common themes. For example, being conscious but paralyzed, feeling or seeing a presence, feeling physical sensations, and of course doubting that it is sleep paralysis but must be real because it feels so real.

      At the end of the day, I can tell readers it seems like sleep paralysis, but it’s up to you to believe it or not. I can try and explain every detail you mention, such as why it may have only happened in that house, and possible reasons why the cat reacted that way. But it’s your choice to read up on sleep paralysis and then choose to believe it or not.

      Luckily though it has stopped happening to you since moving, and hopefully it will stay that way. In which case me advice would be to try and put the whole unpleasant experience behind you and forget about it.

      All the best
      Ethan

  11. Simon says:

    After nearly 20 years of pretending my experience didn’t happen I’ve just found this page by chance and can finally tell people what happened to me without feeling crazy. Thank you so much for the detailed article! Just briefly..

    When I was 12/13 I was in the family room, late evening, and got up to go to the kitchen. Whether I was asleep or not prior to leaving the family room I couldn’t tell you for sure but given the time I’d say it was possible. When I was finished in the kitchen I turned the light off I made my way back to the family room (just a few metres down the dark hallway) and just as I got to the door handle I became paralysed both physically and mentally by an intense fear of another (dark/demonic) presence. I wanted to reach out to the door handle and walk in to the safety of the well-lit room where everything would be okay but physically couldn’t. In an instant I was forced up by an overwhelming force to the ceiling of the hallway, my back pinned to the ceiling, looking down towards the door. I couldn’t make a sound. I’ve never felt so scared before or since. And then it went, I was free, and walked back in to the family room.

    What happened to me was so bizarre and unbelievable that I never told anybody.

    Reading your article there were several times where I thought “yes, that’s exactly it” such as the force to the chest, the feeling of a demonic presence, the out of body experience and the poll answers all seem to fit my experience. The only thing I’m stuck on is the sleep aspect. Like I say, I couldn’t say for sure that I was sleeping prior to the experience (however, it was getting late.. maybe 8:30ish) but I certainly don’t think that the entire thing took place in a regular nightmare. Could I ask what your thoughts are on this before I settle on SP being the answer? Thanks again for the great article!

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Simon,

      Thank you for your comment, and also for the compliment. I’m glad you found the article helpful, even if it doesn’t answer all your questions.
      To be honest, I’m not totally sure what to make of your story. As far as I can remember, you’re the first to mention suddenly having something like this whilst standing up and moving about your house. I could hazard some guesses, but really that’s all they would be.
      I guess one explanation is that it’s possible that you were sleep walking, then woke up into a sleep paralysis episode. Another could be that you had only partially woken up, went to the kitchen, and then had the episode on your way back.
      Another of course is that the entire episode was a dream. But if you distinctly remember actually going to the kitchen and doing something, then it might negate that.
      What also seems possible is that it wasn’t sleep paralysis at all. Perhaps you just entered into a fear response for who knows what reason, and that led to you being frozen on the spot. And following that, the strange experience of being lifted up, in some kind of out-of-body experience.
      As I said, I’m just guessing here. The chances are you’ll never know exactly what was behind all this. Sometimes we have very bizarre experiences which don’t fit neatly into any one category. Many previous readers explain what happened to them, and it seems 100% classic sleep paralysis. Others say things which make me think it’s probably a combination of different sleep/dream/hallucinatory experiences, but it’s hard to say exactly.
      My advice would be to put it down to the amazingly mysterious human brain and body, and not worry about it too much:-)
      Regards
      Ethan

  12. Sarah says:

    Hi!
    I have also had a couple of experiences with sleep paralysis. So far they have not been as terrifying and severe. I usually am just paralyzed for 5 minutes or so and then I am able to get up and move around again, but last night was the worst experience I had with it. I was incredibly tired when I went to bed last night, I had stayed up the past two nights on my phone and the internet and didn’t get any sleep. It finally caught up to me last night and at night I immediately fell asleep. I had woken up in the middle of the night. There was no presence there, it felt like reality. So, I decided to just go back to bed, but when I went to turn my body I couldn’t move. I tried moving my hands and feet but nothing worked. I was getting really scared by then. That’s when I saw it. A tall, dark demonic figure had entered my room. I tried to scream but my mouth felt taped shut. It was so strange too because I felt really drowsy as well. I felt my eyes try to close, but for some reason I thought if I closed them something bad would happen to me so I kept them open. The figure moved all over my room. It went to my closet, up on the ceiling, and then next to me. I was so terrified because it looked right at me. That’s when I finally decided to close my eyes and hopefully it would go away. I opened them again and it was gone. I thought it was over, but then it came out again. I was horrified and the same thing happened one more time until finally I was able to get up and run to my parent’s room. I told them what happened and they reassured me that it wasn’t real. I then went to the living room and watched some cartoons until I fell asleep again, without any trouble this time. I’m pretty sure it was because of sleep deprivation though. That’s when I decided to look up some more info and found this article. It’s nice to be able to know that I am not the only person that has experienced these terrifying events though.

    • Ethan Green says:

      Hi Sarah

      Thanks for your comment, and I can understand why that experience of sleep paralysis must have been so scary. The worst ones always seem to be when you see some dark entity.
      Your story does seem to lend some anecdotal weight to the theory that sleep deprivation can trigger sleep paralysis. I guess you know now to try to keep a stable sleep pattern, and resist the temptation that the internet brings to stay up until the early hours.
      All the best
      Ethan

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