Sleep Paralysis: A Real Cause of Paranormal Activity
Almost everyone has a ghost story. Either you've experienced it yourself, or you know someone who has. We're fascinated and horrified at the same time, which is why movies like Paranormal Activity and Drag me to Hell are always popular. Some part of us, irrational as it be, knows deep down that creepy encounters with not-quite-human creatures is a part of life.
What many people don't know is that a common cause of these encounters is not fantasy or even psychosis, but a surprisingly widespread sleep malady known as sleep paralysis. This sleep disorder is basically a hiccup in the process of dreaming, in which the mind becomes aware of our surroundings while the body remains asleep, paralyzed.
It feels like this: you wake up, but you can't move. You can't scream. And then there's a terrible weight pressing down on your chest or throat, almost like someone--or something-- is trying to push you back into the bed.
Or maybe, you think fearfully, back to hell.
The horror doesn't stop there. Victims of sleep paralysis also may see an intruder peering over the bed: often this is a dark hooded figure with gleaming eyes. Or simply a shadowy image that you can't wquite make out, no matter how much you focus.
Your heart-rate climbs as the figure than proceeds to sit on your chest. You get a better view: it is a terribly ugly creature, mis-shapen and evil looking. And with terrible breath, you notice, a detail that makes you certain the encounter is really happening. Am I going crazy? Am I dying?
The Science of Sleep Paralysis
This imagined event actually happens to thousands of people around the world each night. Sleep paralysis remains one of the biggest mysteries in dream science, but recently scientists have discovered in the lab that sleep paralysis hallucinations -- or visions, as I refer to them -- occur during REM intrusion into stage 1 sleep, or hypnagogia.
We are literally dreaming with our eyes open.
Fascinating and terrifying, sleep paralysis visions do have a rhyme and reason. The creatures of sleep paralysis are different in different cultures, suggesting that expectation and folklore play a role in the garb of the entities who show up on your bedside. For some, they are vampires; for others: ghouls and ghosts.
Actually, sleep paralysis visions have been connected throughout history to otherworld figures including werewolves, elves, fairies, gnomes, giants, angels, ancestors, demons, and every other creature of the night.
Today, many people experience paralysis in bed before being confronted by alien greys, suggesting that many (but not necessarily all) alien abduction tales are dream visions that occurred during sleep paralysis.
In my mind, just because these visitations occur during a dreaming sleep cycle does not mean they are simply "random" images drawn from fairy tales. Rather, these encounters occur at potent times in the victim's life, and they may have clues and wisdom for the dreamer.
I have had dozens of these experiences, and the good news is that there's plenty of easy ways to wake up from sleep paralysis.
But, for courageous and curious dreamers, these encounters can become less nightmarish by swallowing the fear, facing the Stranger, and listening to what the entity has to say. The figure may even transform to a less threatening figure, and become a helpful guide to realms on the edge of the imagination.
Over time, sleep paralysis can become a gateway to lucid dreaming, out-of-body-experiences, and other powerful visionary states.
This article is drawn from my book Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Hallucinations and Visitors of the Night.
I welcome comments and stories about your own spooky SP encounters!
My book on sleep paralyis is the only guide on the market that discusses these terrifying visions from a how-to perspective.