Hello and welcome to this instalment of my "sleep phenomenas" series. In this post I will be discussing the captivating experience of sleep paralysis.
The sleep phenomenom I am going to discuss in this post is sleep paralysis. This is an (often terrifying) experience whereby the self is in a state of consciousness yet unable to move or speak. This occurs during falling asleep or waking up, and can be explained by the brain waking up whilst the physical body remains in an atonic state (a state where the body's motor functions are relaxed to prevent sleepers from acting out their dreams). It is most likely to happen to young adults, especially those who suffer from sleep deprivation, stress/mental health disorders, or interestingly those who sleep on their back (this last one has definitely given me some experiences!)
Sleep paralysis is often accompanied by hallucinations; typically demonic, with people frequently reporting sensing or "seeing" a harmful presence in the room, such as a tall dark figure.
I personally have experienced sleep paralysis on numerous occasions, with hallucinations every single time. On the first occasion, whilst falling asleep I heard my wardrobe door opening. I ignored this, passing it off as a breeze, until a very ghost-like figure climbed from the wardrobe and stood at the end of my bed. I recall trying to scream for my dad (at this point I believed it to be a genuine person OR a ghost), which is when I realised I physically could not communicate - I tried running from my bed, however was paralysed.. After a short while I believed my dad had been into my room to comfort me - it wasn't until I saw "myself" standing at the end of my bed telling me that "this isn't over yet" that I realised the paralysis was still happening. I then believed I had finally managed to open my eyes and that I had woken up - until yet another hallucination of "myself" was in front of me warning me that it still wasn't over despite the original hallucination telling me it was. By the end of the paralysis I had seen a ghostly figure and about five or six figures stood next to each other that were identical to myself. This felt like it had lasted for ages, whilst in reality it had been only 10 minutes since I had attempted to fall asleep.
It's not all scary...
Despite the denomic stigma attached to sleep paralysis hallucinations, there has been reports of comforting or enjoyable experiences. These include hallucinations of a couple of cheery men with guitars serenading the sleeper, playing music that the individual described as pure joy. When the individual began to wake up, the singing men said "she is waking, it is time to go" and left them in a state of peace and serenity. I have also hallucinated Finn Balor's "Demon King" purely from speaking to my WWE-loving boyfriend; whilst this was vaguely in keeping with the demon theme, it was rather amusing knowing who "it" actutally was...you can certainly get some good stories to tell your friends!
For me personally, I am very easily able to explain my experiences. My first experience happened very close to moving up to university; my stress levels had obviously increased, and I was lacking sleep. I also had a stage of frequent sleep paralysis around the time of my exams - again, increased stress and decreased sleep. If you do ever experience it, please remember that it will only last a short period of time: it is harmless...and you probably just need a little more sleep!
Thank you so much for reading - please do feel free to leave any comments so we can discuss your thoughts and experiences below! This is one of the first posts of a mini series of sleep phenomenas: the next instalment will be discussing the eery phenomenon of "Night Terrors". In the mean time, if you would like to read my post about "Dream Symbolism and Recurring Dreams" please click the link below.