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 hope you’ll 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 among 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.

Accepting the cause is where I now know 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 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

What is your experience of sleep paralysis?

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 Poll 2

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

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Poll 3

How often do you experience sleep paralysis?

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Poll 4

How old were you when you first experienced sleep paralysis?

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Poll 5

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’ve 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 Rapid Eye Movement (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 your 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’re 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’s 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 map onto 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 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’re 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 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.

Among 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 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 it’s possible – even though I’m not convinced.

But choosing to believe you’re 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’m simply going to list the ideas which might help; for many of these there’s 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’re actually in control. You can ‘order’ the experience to stop, or whatever you’re seeing to go away.
  • If you feel a weight on your chest, try to imagine there’s something friendly causing it, such as a big happy dog (or cat if you don’t like dogs).
  • If it’s 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 wearing a sleep tracker and see if it records you as being awake or asleep. This can help you work out if it was actually a nightmare or not. It can also help check your heart rate and breathing during the night.
  • 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 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 only 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 physically held me down, I decided not to turn a light on to reassure myself.

I spend a lot of my time reading and replying to comments about this article, so I think the scientific explanation is now firmly etched in my mind. Maybe I didn’t feel the need to double-check that there was someone 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 several pages 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 >>


1,178 Responses to “Sleep Paralysis Stories – Intruder, Demon Or Delusion?”

  1. LTBessa says:

    Hi Ethan!

    Sorry, for some reason the site is not allowing me to reply to your comments, but here it goes:
    The windows opened only in my hallucination, when i came to my senses again they were closed but my eyes where fixed in the same spot.
    I think it’s quite right, we provide this shapes and forms to the hallucinations…
    It’s very common for SP suffers to have at least one good experience with a dead relative or such, I had one, but deep inside I knew that it was me, I create the image of my father and I could even know what he would say before he said it, so if we can overcome the fear I think we can control the hallucination, I was never able to, I’ve tried many times, but I’m sure some people can.

    • Hi there

      Thanks for pointing that out – I’ll have to look into the comment replying problem.
      I wasn’t sure about the window thing – sometimes people are sure things actually happened rather than thinking it was a hallucination, and it’s not always easy for me to tell what they mean!
      I think controlling the fear is definitely a good goal to work towards, but it’s not easy. Part of the problem is that when you wake up into sleep paralysis, it can be very confusing and you might not have your full conscious and rational mind at your disposal. That’s why I think for people who are having regular sleep paralysis, it can be helpful to do some positive thinking before bed and remind themselves that it’s nothing to worry about, and that if it does happen, they’ll be fine. Sometimes a little auto-suggestion can go a long way.

  2. LTBessa says:

    As for dealing with it, i found out a few things in my experience, first, don’t get too sleep deprived, when the episodes starts people tend to avoid sleeping to avoid the episodes, it doesn’t work as the sleep deprivation can lead to hallucinations on itself, when I tried to avoid sleep it came to such an extreme situation that a few times I could hear thoughts in my head and I didn’t know if they were mine.
    When you are in an episode, try to move, I know it hurts and it’s exhausting, but try small, one finger, one arm, and try hard, it often works for me.
    As for the hallucinations… well I know one thing, our mind tends to lend known shapes to unknown things, so I believe it’s the same thing for everyone but dressed in the representation your mind saw fit to explain what it couldn’t understand, as for what it is per se, I believe its just fear, pure raw unconscious fear, your mind is awake your body is not, so that’s the most vulnerable situation imaginable, that leads to the worst possible fear^^

    • Hi again!

      Thanks for your comments – it was interesting to read about your experience with the Exorcist film. I’ve said to many readers in the past that I think we are very much influenced by the images we pick up in movies, books, TV etc, so it’s no wonder that a film like that then manifested in your sleep paralysis experience.
      I think your tips are very valid – the moving a body part is especially useful as it’s a practical step people can take in the moment of confusion. Having some focus is very helpful, and effective too.

  3. LTBessa says:

    I actually don’t remember my first episode, it’s about twenty years in the past now, and when it started it was so strong and so constant that I couldn’t remember any of the ones that happened at that time, but I can tell you the worst case:
    When I was seven I begged my father to let me watch The Exorcist, my father was a wise man, he argued with me, he tried to convince me, but he said he would not forbid me, I was free to make my choice, I know its just a movie, but my father knew it would impress to much of my 7 year old mind, but he was all about teaching about choices and consequences, so I won, and watched the movie, the results where well, expected, I got terrified, couldn’t sleep for days and it took a lot of my parents to ease my mind, but the fear, it never got away.
    This will help you understand why, when I developed sleep paralysis the demon automatically played its part, it was ingrained in my brain…
    So my worst episodes are related to Pazuzu (the demon that took Regan’s body in the movie) I’m not a religious person, but this, this I cannot erase, so one of the worst was when I was in my early twenties I lived with my brothers, at that night i already had one episode, it was uneventful but the TV was on, and during the episode, I could see the tv, and an image appeared, it was a piece of wood atop a lot of garbage, and in it I could read “God is nowhere”.
    So I was already frightened that night I went back to sleep after a few minutes and woke up paralyzed again, the fear took over really fast, and I heard a corner of my mind call to it call to Pazuzu, and it came, the body was Regan, but he was in and stood at the door, I tried to move, I tried so hard to scream to wake my brother up, God it was exhausting, then I started praying, I am not religious but I know Jesus name has tremendous power (it really does guys) so I screamed his name with my mind (remembering this brings tears to my eyes and I don’t know why) I screamed many, many times until I finally woke up.
    Later that day my brother told me he heard me moaning, but he was too scared to wake me up.

  4. LTBessa says:

    Last night i had an episode, I believe it was right after I fell asleep but I’m not sure, I hate to check the watch when this happens because it’s always around 3 am and there is a meaning to it that I don’t like, anyway, I woke up paralyzed I’ve been suffering from this for many years now so I know the drill, then I try to move unsuccessfully I have to be fast before the hallucinations begin, I know this, but then the window beside my bed open, and the wind starts, it’s so strong that its hurting my skin, the fear take over and I can’t tell it’s not real anymore, the wind gets stronger and stronger, then the sky outside my window turns white and the noise is deafening me, than I’m awake…

    • Hi LTBessa

      Thanks for your comment. That sounds like quite a disturbing experience. When you say the window opens and the wind blows, so you mean it actually opens and the wind actually blows in? Or is it part of your hallucination due to the sleep paralysis?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi. I’m 22 yrs old and I’ve been experiencing SP since i was 17. I am actually looking for an explanation about my sp because it’s not like the usual ones which are the OBE and being pinned down by an entity. It’s more like being grabbed in the arms (sometimes legs) and being pulled or dragged by someone i can’t see. I have even felt it’s hairy hands once or twice.
    Also, when i was not yet aware of this sp thing, i don’t see images whenever i had one but when i started to learn more about it, images of dancing shadows and other creepy things show up sometimes.
    There were also times when the sp can’t get me back to sleep because of noises i hear like the sound of elves or an unfamiliar and weird music or song playing. I don’t force myself to wake up because i want the sp to turn into a lucid dream. However, noises keep me awake during the sp, prolonging my agony.
    I’ve been researching about this type of sp but until now i can’t find any similar cases with mine. I am actually starting to doubt whether what i am experiencing is really sp or something else.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. I think that what you’re describing could well be sleep paralysis. It would take a long time obviously, but if you were to look back through the hundreds of previous reader comments here, you’d see that many other people have said they’ve felt like someone or something is grabbing them and pulling their limbs. So you’re definitely not alone in that sense. Some people just have more tactile hallucinations than auditory or visual.
      I think that if you do like the idea of trying to turn the sleep paralysis into a lucid dream, then as many others have said, it is possible. Perhaps it will take some practice, but I several previous readers saying they manage to do it. Eventually maybe you’ll be able to block out the noises and go into the dream state.

  6. ClassicalHeros says:

    I sometimes have these when I’m awake… It used to scare me. But recently I’ve been getting used to being scared.. and the tips on how to stop it don’t help… When I do love something the “thing” I imagine slaps it down… luckily I share a room with my little sister so if she hears me coming he will try to move me. please give me advice on what I should do thank you

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think there’s much more advice I can give you other than the tips already in the article. I would suggest picking one or two in specific and keeping them in your head when you go to bed. For example, wiggling a little finger seems to work well for a lot of people. Try not to allow it to worry you too much, especially before going to bed. It’s important to stay calm, both when going to bed and also if an episode happens.
      Have another look at the readers’ tips section – there ae lots of good ideas in there1

  7. Luke says:

    Hey, thanks for the help! I had one just this morning where I was laying in bed unable to move and the ceiling light kept flickering on and off. Then a tall, lanky, dark figure strode in, seeming to not quite touch the ground with each step. He was at least seven feet tall and he moved so I could only see the ominous shadow from my peripheral vision. So instinctively, I panicked, but it was no good. Then I heard gurgling noises in my left ear and he grabbed my head and turned it towards him but his face was all black. I tried screaming but no sound came out. The gurgling stopped and then he let out an inhuman yell that was so deep and angry right into my face. I woke up after that, pretty freaked out. I’m pretty sure that was a demon or something because of the odd build and behavior but I’ll try some of these techniques. Thanks!

    • Hi Luke

      Thanks for your comment. That sounds like an understandably scary experience indeed. I’m not sure whether it was sleep paralysis, or perhaps a false awakenings in which you dreamed you had woken up and then this experience took place with the tall figure. It might be that you don’t really know unless it happens again, which hopefully it won’t! If it does though, then do try to remember some of the techniques in the article.

  8. Michael jones says:

    I had another episode last night, 21st november 2015, the last one being about 15 years ago, that episode etched into the mind, this one was certainly similar although not as severe or as long. This time I had only just gone to bed on my own, as my wife is away at the moment, I closed my eyes and just drifted off as normal, I don’t normally dream, but think of what I had done during the day and what I need to do in the following days, I was laying on my side as normal it was quite warm, so I had my arm outside the cover, I felt something, animal like walking on my bed and grabbing hold of me and shaking me, for about 30 seconds, then, suddenly I was violently thrown backwards, as if this thing had suddenly left my body, it was as if it had entered me and taken over for that short period of time and then left. I was able to then move and I woke up, I just lay there thinking about what just occurred and compared it to my previous episode, some 15 years before,( I have documented that episode on here a few years ago.) I felt that they were very similar, I must have gone back to sleep, but woke up much earlier than I would do normally. I am now scared to go back to bed tonight, so I will sleep on my lounge.

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for your comment and it’s always nice to hear from readers again! I can understand why your experience spooked you and you didn’t want to sleep in the bedroom again. I do think it’s important to try and not allow it to change your normal sleep habits though, unless those are bad sleep habits! If it happens again, I’d recommend going into another room for 10-20 minutes, doing something light-heated and familiar, then go back to sleep again in the bedroom.
      Let’s hope you don’t have another episode for at least 15 years though!

  9. nevin crews says:

    im 14 yrs old and had SP many of times. in some cases it would happen back to back to the point to where i keep falling asleep unable to wake up. it’s been happening as far as i can remember. all of these comments about how they saw a demon figure or someone above them i’m not really sure about. it was one time where i fell asleep in school after our end of grade exam and felt like the teacher was a witch and put a spell on me but i gotten so used to SP that when it happens i’m not scared at all i just push as hard as i can until i wake up.

    • Hi Nevin
      Thanks for your comment. As you might have noticed in the poll, it’s very common to develop sleep paralysis in your teens. It’s good that you’ve managed to get used to it and don’t allow it to scare you. Hopefully you’ll have founds some other tips to help you cope if it keeps happening.

    • LTBessa says:

      Oh the eternal wake up! I had this once, i was in a cruise ship, went to sleep really late because, you know, party, anyway, I fell asleep, then immediate paralysis, I fight to wake up, and succeed, no hallucinations, but a few seconds later I’m paralyzed again, fought again, awake again, but then paralyzed again, it happened 5 or 6 times, until I decided to stand up and not go back to bed that night, it took days for me to separate this dream from reality…

  10. Amanda Buerklin says:

    Hello all,

    My first ever experience with sleep paralysis was when I was 18 (21 now).
    It was like any other night in my house and I’m not the type of person who stresses over a lot, so my stress levels were fine. I went to bed and fell asleep watching adult swim. Around 3-330am I woke up unable to move. Being it was my first time I was absolutely terrified because I had no idea what was going on. I was able to open my eyes and I wish I didn’t. I saw a black figure standing at the edge of my bed, inching its way closer to me. Now, not knowing it was sleep paralysis and being a strong believer in demons and negative spirits, I had thought something had entered my home. Eventually I woke up. It continued to happen more frequently with each hallucination being more horrifying than the last.

    It got to the point where I was being touched (or so I thought) by the figure. Eventually I took to the internet to find out what was going on. I then realized that it was sleep paralysis. I looked up a few ways to maybe make it stop. The one way that worked best for me was sleeping on my side instead of my back. Since then it has helped limit the number of times I go under it. The only time I ever sleep on my back is if I have someone else in bed with me because then it doesn’t happen.

    They still happen from time to time, however. I hope anyone reading this who tends to wake up during sleep paralysis on their backs will give sleeping on their sides a chance.

    • Hi Amanda
      Thank you for your comment. Many people have previously commented that sleeping on their side seems to help reduce the likelihood of sleep paralysis. We do of course tend to change positions a lot in our sleep, but perhaps there’s something to be said for at least falling asleep on your side, and putting the idea into your head that you should try and stay on your side. So perhaps if you wake up briefly, your brain remembers to stay on your side. Thanks for reinforcing the idea though – it’s always good to get fresh support for the tips in the article.

  11. bob says:

    I don’t want to come off as an authority…I just want to share what has worked for me. This started when I was very young, and it hasn’t come back since I was in my twenties, and I’m 60 now. I think the thing that benefited me the most was reading Memories, Dreams, and Reflections by Carl Jung when I was about 17. I took the stance that I was doing this to myself,and therefore, I had the option to make it a pleasant experience. I maintained a calm attitude when it came on, and waited for the levitation, disregarding the ominous entities. Then I’d take control, usually flying out the window and taking flight around the town. As others have stated, I came to tell myself to “bring it on”, almost defiantly. I now use this to solve real problems when I go to sleep that otherwise would cause me stress. I select the problem consciously before I go to sleep, and I have awoken with it solved. On one occasion, I had a complete country song to write down in the morning. You may see this as silly, but that’s my point…you take the thing to whimsy if you want.

    • Hi Bob
      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think it’s silly at all – in fact, I recently wrote an article about why we dream in which I discuss the fact that many famous people have found that some of their ideas, including songs, have come to them in dreams. And furthermore, that some people are able to control their dreams through lucid dreaming, and perhaps use them to their benefit.
      So I think if you’re able to do that, especially converting potentially scary sleep paralysis into something productive and positive, then that’s fantastic!

  12. Mandy says:

    Try to relax by thinking about something else… It helps when you try to shake your whole body … And just try taking deep breaths… After it happens, just go sit in a light room and praying will also make you feel better … I experienced it a couple of times and every time I experienced it I woke up on my back, so I would advice not sleeping on your back and before going to sleep think of happy thoughts…

    • Hi Mandy
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your tips. I think that thinking positive thoughts before you go to bed is a good idea in particular, as is spending time in another room before going back to sleep again.

  13. Mike says:

    I have recently started taking B12. My Sleep Paralysis has declined from 2-3 time per week to 1 in the last 2 weeks. I’m not sure if it’s the B12 or not. I’ll wait and see.

    • Hi Mike
      Thanks for your comment. I don’t know of any evidence for B12 specifically helping with sleep paralysis. But you never know, and it could be that in your case an imbalance was contributing to sleep problems, or perhaps stress or another issue which in turn affected your sleep. Let me know how you get on in a few weeks!

  14. Mia says:

    This is the signal that your body is asleep, but you retain conscious awareness. It is the entry to a lucid dream. I welcome sleep paralysis . I have been a lucid dreamer most of my life. You don’t have any idea of what you are missing. It seems to me, as if most of the world is only half alive, and misses so much, because they lose conscious awareness during sleep.

    • Hi Mia
      Thanks for your comment. I know that there are people like yourself who welcome sleep paralysis as a lucid dream starting point. Unfortunately most people just don’t have that kind of positive experience. Out of interest, how much of your sleeping time do you think is taken up lucid dreaming, compared to not having and lucidity?

  15. Ella Raye says:

    Last night there was an episode that had me so afraid that I forced myself to wake up completely before I tried to go back to sleep…the past few nights, I have been waking 2-3 times throughout the night to use the bathroom…last night was no different (frequent potty visits) but at 3:48 am I remember dreaming 2 dreams…they were super short and the first (different from the second and more a physical experience than a visual dream) kinda bled into the second (where I remember people, thoughts, and what actually happened)…anyway, this is how it went…I’m feeling like I can’t breathe. My nasal passages are blocked like I have a cold so I’m clearing my throat to get air and it feels like something is crushing my chest (imagine breathing thru a coffee stirrer with your nose plugged)…all of a sudden I’m in a hallway at a school and there are people picking a fight with a guy and when one attacker is about to stab the guy with scissors, we break it up (I’m either security or a teacher?) Everyone starts to leave except the guy with scissors…3 of us (all women) start walking away and break out in a full run with the scissors guy close behind…in a panic we split up 2 and 2 where me and another woman head out of the building…I remember thinking ‘run to the church’ which is where I’m not sure if I was awake or about to be…in full blown panic I feel extremely terrified, sweating with heavy breathing, and feel nauseous… That’s when I realize I need to use the bathroom and take the opportunity to wake up completely because I’ve been able to go right back to sleep in the past and continue a dream…I felt more frozen than pinned like I was having trouble deciding if it was real…i had trouble at first finding prayers and scriptures to call out…i had the urge to check my apartment doors and after doing so and visiting the bathroom i go back to bed…I’ve done this 3-5 times before…nauseous afterwards, once…I’m usually running from something or someone and after last night, I was convinced it was bc of a spiritual battle (I’m Christian and currently studying with other female church members about fervent prayer against the devil) and feel what I initially experienced (1st ‘dream’) was the enemy attacking and the second dream made me sense fear therefore waking me…that or I stopped breathing so my brain woke me by throwing me in a frightening dream…I’ve had dreams before where I was about to use the toilet and just as I was about to release, I woke up running to the bathroom bc I’ve learned the hard way that bathroom dreams mean WAKE UP and get yourself to a toilet! Lol

    • Hi Ella
      Thanks for your comment. It sounds like you have a problem with bad dreams there, as well as possible some sleep paralysis when waking up. Have a look at my article about nightmares also – you might find it helpful.
      Have you spoken to your doctor about the frequent wakings to go to the toilet in the night? It might be worth getting yourself checked out. And also perhaps try not drinking liquids in the last hour before bed, except maybe some small sips if you feel thirsty.

  16. Tasha says:

    Thank you so much for this article, the part i picked up on most that, really my body is sleeping, but my mind is very much on alert.The poll part was nice. Ive had sleeping problems about 7yrs now, light sleeper but also have several dreams per night. I looked for answers today because im scared to go to bed after last night, I woke after 30mins, couldn’t move, a vivid man with an evil look hovering over me, I wiggled & tried to scream but of course its just crackling of my voice and grabbed my husband very hard, I got up after i was SURE the “man” was gone, opened the door & left the hallway light on.
    Ive yet to have one of these terrifying experiences since 6 months ago, and earlier 5 years ago (the same night my father in law woke & told me of his scary experience last night and my eyes got big and i told him “me too!” we were all living together at the time)
    Im not a highly religious person but sometimes its hard to not think something spiritual is happening.
    besides my father in law, I havent come across another person with these experiences so thanks again,its nice to know Im not nuts

    • Hi Tasha

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you found the article helpful. It’s also nice to know the polls are appreciated and useful. I can understand your point of view, and I think many people question the scientific explanation when faced with such a vivid and convincing hallucination. You’re definitely not alone in experiencing this, or in wondering what on earth is going on.

  17. Phillip taylor says:

    I had sleep paralysis last week where I saw a grey looking alien thing walk through the room and I heard a loud wah-wah over and over real fast like a laser beam sound. It only lasted like 5 seconds, then I pulled myself out of it. I’ve had it many times before so I know how to pull myself out of it. It was scary and I got a feeling of extreme dread where my lips and face felt like all life was pulled out of me. I can now feel when I’m about to go into it, I just stop trying to sleep for a few seconds re adjust myself in bed and try to relax that usually helps to stop it.

    • Hi Phillip

      Thanks for your comment. It’s great that you’ve learned how to deal with sleep paralysis and are able to spot it coming on. I guess the trick now is to master that art to the point where you don’t get to the point of seeing any hallucinations.

  18. Rob Bishop says:

    I’m 50 and started having sleep disturbances when I was 20. Typically, as I drift off to sleep, and just enter REM, I have a frightening dream, and become conscious and wake up, but can’t move. I try to move and wake myself up, but can’t. I sometimes have auditory hallucinations, and hear loud banging or swooshing (similar to descriptions of Exploding Head Syndrome). Often associated with the event is a very painful seizure-like pressure in my head. I was a regular pot smoker for 25 years, and the events didn’t occur when I smoked. I no longer get high, and this happens sporadically, about 1 to 3 times a week, but sometimes stops for a while. I’ve noticed no association with stress or lack of sleep.

    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks for your comment. It does sound very much like sleep paralysis from what you describe. Have you had the painful pressure issue checked out by a doctor? It might be worth getting yourself checked out just to rule out any physical causes. I know that marijuana can be helpful for sleep, as reported anecdotally by many people. But then you have to weigh up the negative effects of smoking it.
      Hopefully you’ll find something useful in the article to help with the sleep paralysis in the future.

  19. sam says:

    Last night, I fall asleep on our couch. I was sitting while sleeping. Then there’s my dream. Someone’s standing in front of me he’s big and he almost reach the chandelier. I woke up and can’t move or even speak. He’s still there and trying to touch me. Then I felt someone on my back. She’s whispering that I have to move. I felt the man standing in front of me, he’s carrying me. I panicked and started to fight by moving. I finally moved my legs. Is this what you call sleeping paralysis?

    • Hi Sam
      Thanks for your comment. I think it’s sometimes hard to tell whether you’re still half-asleep and the dream is mapping onto reality, or if it’s sleep paralysis and the accompanying hallucinations that happen. The main point though is that if you’re definitely awake, but unable to move, and perhaps seeing, hearing or feeling unusual things in your bedroom, it’s probably sleep paralysis.

  20. Lara says:

    I’ve had sleep paralysis now since I was 13 (now 24) these past couple of years I’ve had it happen to me more regularly than ever before. Last year was my worst time for it. I’d have it happen to me at least twice a month, guaranteed! This year it has calmed down a lot, with me only experiencing it twice this year. I’ve never believed in demons/ghosts before I started with sleep paralysis, however I’m a believer now. I always ‘wake up’ unable to move, scream, do anything, I always see a black figure/shadow in my room, standing still just staring at me and I always have a feeling of a negative presence in my room. The experience is truly terrifying when it’s happening, I’ve never known a fear like it and I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy.! I think a lot of the cause (for me anyway) is stress related, last year I was under a lot of stress and were suffering from severe depression, the sleep paralysis wasn’t helping my depression either so it did feel like a vicious cycle, this year I am in a much happier, stress free environment and I have noticed the changes from the lack of sleep paralysis I’m getting. So glad I found this site by the way! I was getting fed up of telling my friends about it and them looking at me like I was crazy!

    • Hi Lara
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article helpful. I think many people arrive here feeling like they’re going crazy, or fed up with people telling them they are crazy! And as you now know, for most people it’s just sleep paralysis. I know it can be extremely frightening, but the main thing I think is to tell yourself that it’s not ghosts or demons etc, and no matter how vivid and real that shadow figure seems, to remember it’s not real. It’s good that you’re under less stress now, and hopefully as that continues to be the case, the sleep paralysis will continue to lessen. I guess it’s a reminder for you in the future that if it happens more, then there’s something in your life which needs to be addressed and some action taken to reduce stress.

  21. Emma says:

    I had sleep paralysis many many times. There was this time where there was these dark shadowy figures around me, they were looking down at me in my bed i was very scared. Then suddenly during sleep paralysis one of the shadowy figures stabbed into my side with something and it felt like it really hurt and it caused alot of pain i was fighting it the best i could but the more i tried fighting the harder it got to try moving, i couldnt move and i had a hard time breathing during this. There is another terrifying one i just had tonight its been awhile since i had it but in my sleep i heard something crawl onto the end of my bed but then it attacked me. I couldnt move i was fighting it again, it held me down but my first insinct was to pray and when i did it quickly went away. I had many more episodes of sleep paralysis and it can get very hard to sleep comfortably some nights.

    • Hi Emma

      Thanks for your comment. That sounds like a horrible experience you had there. I think a lot of readers find prayer helps them, and to be honest, I think that within reason anything which helps stop sleep paralysis as quickly as possible is a good thing. Have a think about some of the other tips in the article as well. Maybe you’ll find something else which also helps.

  22. B McD says:

    I had an experience last week that I told my girlfriend about, and she encouraged me to hit the internet and make sure I’m not losing my marbles. I’m not superstitious, at all, and believe in the power of the human brain, but the reality of my experience was terrifying beyond belief, as seems to be common. Needless to say I’m incredibly relieved to hear these stories and see the totally reasonable explanations. Here’s my personal experience of what the human brain is capable of:

    I woke up and instantly felt the “presence,” felt completely restricted and unable to breath, move, or speak. I tried to speak, I think I was trying to say “f**k you” to whatever it was, but nothing would come out, and attempting to say something to instigatory seemed to make it intensify. I can say that the presence was conveying hatred and anger at me — it felt like it was undeniably reprimanding or chastising me for something. I was truly terrified and trying very hard to move something, anything, when finally my index finger brushed against my dog who was lying on the bed and feeling the fur instantly the paralysis broke, and I could breathe and move freely. This first part, by the way, occurred one other time to me, about 3 years ago, and was somewhat less intense. On this night last week though, it wasn’t done.

    After regaining movement and catching my breath, I made the mistake of mentally “acknowledging” what had just occurred, and almost instantly, the “presence” seemed to rush back into the room, but 10 times as intense as before. I was once again paralyzed, and this time I felt my bed began to shake. This I can only assume was me actually shaking. I know it was actually shaking, because my dog reacted quite obviously. I started hearing a chopping sound in my ears, similar to if you’ve ever taken nitrous or had a helicopter land on your head. At this point I shut my eyes as hard as I could and again felt for my dog, which again broke the paralysis.

    I made the same mistake, and thought about what had just happened, and a 3rd time it returned (this could all have occurred in 30 total seconds for all I know – it felt like an eternity). Again the bed began shaking, this time violently, and my dog leaped off and ran away. I heard what sounded like low, deep murmuring, and despite the fact everything had been pitch-black up to this point, an eerie green light began illuminating on the wall in one discrete spot. Truly physically impossible. It grew brighter and brighter and the low murmering sound grew louder. I shut my eyes tight again, and this time when I regained movement I kept them shut until I had spun around and turned on my lamp. I’ve been sleeping with a light on for the past week.

    • Hi there
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your sleep paralysis stories. I completely understand how these episodes can make you question whether they really happened or not, especially when they are so vivid like you describe. But I think it’s important to remind yourself that they are just hallucinations, dreams or a mix depending on the person and the moment.
      Hopefully you’ll have found some useful ideas in the tips section so if it happens again you’ll be ready for it.

  23. Stylo says:

    Here is my experience, if it can help.

    I’m a user of marijuana for 4 years now and I’m 26. It helps a lot for sleeping, which has always been something random in my life due to heavy stress.
    Even born in a loving and caring family, i’ve been a highly stressed child for biological or unknown reasons, unable to sleep for whole nights.

    I learned at 22 what it means to have 8 hours of sleep.
    Thanks but no thanks to marijuana.

    Now the fact is that every time i tried to stop smoking, this unexplainable stress and urgency will come back to me and affect my sleep.

    Then, i experienced the first paralysis. Choking, anxiety and the feeling of intrusion. The weight on my chest was as clear as a cow on a golf course. After the episode my first rational thought was that my girlfriend was laying on me. I realised she was way too far on the queen size bed. Then i panic. Then i google, then i panic more, then i found you and other stuff and i’m all ok now ahah.

    Then it happened on a 2 week family vacation in mexico (craving for weed here) along with horrible confusing nightmares about people i dont know and waking myself up every 15 minutes in sweat by talking loud gibberish. That time i had my girlfriend as ‘witness’ and i could realise the impalpable nature of this disorder when i asked if she saw or heard anything. Nada. The was awake and i looked totally normal.

    I’m someone who his overthinking his day and to stop using marijunana as a tool to get to sleep, i’m trying to stimulate my brain in a smart way before bed. With a book by example. Those times i felt like my brain lighten up the little of its left energy to consciously realise its time for bed. Also not forcing myself to bed even if my body is exhausted and i work the next morning.

    Have a herb tea.
    Have a book.
    Quit coffee.
    Quit drugs.
    Think clear before bed, dont fall asleep in a state of confusion or questioning.
    These helped for me.

    With 9 to 5 and nightshifts, single parents and people with 2 job, its really easy to fall in a bad ‘go to bed’ habit which result in just dropping your exhausted body on the blanket and shutting off instantly,
    leaving your brain to carry on the stress of the day into your night.

    And then freaking out when you’re supposed to recover.


    • Hi Stylo

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your ideas. From what I’ve heard, rebound insomnia is very common when people stop smoking marijuana, having previously found it helps them sleep. It can take some time to adjust to falling asleep naturally again.

      Generally, I think you’re right in that it’s important to try to settle the mind, relax and go to bed with as peaceful a mind as possible. If you jump into bed at the end of a long day, your brain often decides to start processing everything and keep you awake.


  24. julie says:

    I’m 38, one of my earliest memories is of horrifying nightmares, of things I had not previously been exposed to. Once I was old enough to research these things, I found it was not just me. I was maybe 2yrs old and it is one of my first memories. I was still sleeping in my crib. It has stayed with me my entire life. I have this happen regularly, a few times a month. My husband is very aware and a thanfully light sleeper. He can feel my jerking, or hear the gurgle in my throat of my trying to speak and wakes me. The most terrifying for me is when I escape my body and I am in fact the evil presence in the room watching myself struggle to escape me. I know it’s just a dream but that doesn’t change the fear even as I tell myself “you’re dreaming”. I’ve heard gunshots, and little kids run into my room to get in bed with me. I’ve been given headless dogs to play with as an experiment by shadow people. I’ve spoken to several random people in my room, in my home, all of whom have appeared to be recently deceased. I’ve seen my door open/close and entities enter and exit. I have been truly terrified to dream. I try very hard not to pay attention to it after the fact and that seems to help with the return of dreams. I’m still in the air about explanation. There are just some things that I cannot accept are science explained.

    • Hi Julie

      Thanks for your comment. As unpleasant as these stories sound, I’m not sure that they are due to sleep paralysis. It seems that they all take place in dreams, rather than you being awake and not able to move in bed whilst seeing and hearing things. Have a look at the article about night terrors and nightmares. You might find some information there which can help you deal with the vivid and scary dreams you have.

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