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?

Angel visitations are also known to occur after sleep paralysis
Angel visitations are also known to occur after sleep paralysis

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!

Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night
Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night

My book on sleep paralyis is the only guide on the market that discusses these terrifying visions from a how-to perspective.


Comments 30 comments

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 6 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Hi, Ryan. I'm enjoying all of your hubs. Here's my story -- several years ago I experienced sleep paralysis repeatedly and then it ceased. I would seem to wake up in the middle of the night with a weight on my chest, unable to move, and floating in front of me was the face of a snarling white tiger.

Ryan Hurd profile image

Ryan Hurd 6 years ago from San Francisco, CA Author

wow Silva... that's a powerful image. repetitive images can be particularly insightful. Did you ever do any research or notice any more synchronicities about the white tiger?

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 6 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

I did some research, but interpretations are so varied it's difficult to pinpoint a meaning. I felt that it was threatening, that it represented some threat or problem that I needed to resolve.

VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 6 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

I just discovered you in Hubpages, better late than never! :)

Interesting synchronicity that the first hub I read has a comment about a white tiger because I have dreamt of a white tiger this year, and it was gigantic, was walking past three holes in the street, and it was protective of me.

I have an experience to share: I took a nap in the living room during the summer, and fell into a deep sleep. When I tried to "wake up", I couldn't wake up, so I started to walk around the living room, but then I realized my body was sleeping in the couch, and my double was walking around, so I would wake up. I found it odd that it was my double that was experiencing awareness, not the "me" (body) sleeping on the couch.

Denise 6 years ago

WOW, I have to say this is a great site. I just experienced my first sleep paralysis on thursday december the 8th 2010. It scared the crap out of me and my boyfriend. He called 911 because i would not wake up no matter what he did. I was dreaming about what was going on at the time but in the dream a few things were different. I could not speak, move and it felt like i could not breath. I thaught ok this is it iam going to die. Am i in limbo? I didn't know what to think. The next thing i knew, i saw the paramedics coming up the stairs to my appartment. In my dream state i was outside on the steps and it was summer. In reality it is winter here. I said to the paramedics. Hey i'm right here. They just passed me by ignoring me. Then i got woken up by a paramedic yelling at me opening my eye's, then he took two fingers and hit me in the chest quick and hard. I have fibromyalgia and lupus. So it really hurt. But that was the only way they could pull me out of it. I'm sure glad to know that i'am not the only person this has happened to. Thanks for letting me vent, and if anyone can email me with their story, and maybe some information on a support group for people like me that would be great. Thank you.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

HI, it seems we had the same idea! I found that mine was because of my thyroid problem, but other people find it is because of stress, fascinating but terrifying, cheers nell

Iontach profile image

Iontach 6 years ago

Hello! Great hub! It seems that it's not just me writing Hubs on Sleep Paralysis. haha. I find it interesting that you say that the visitations during SP'...may have clues and wisdom for the dreamer', I've never thought of it like that...Hmmm the next time I get one I'll keep that into consideration.

mieketownsend profile image

mieketownsend 6 years ago from Washington State

Sleep paralysis!? Wow! How interesting and amazing! Thank you for teaching me something new. Very nice.

Mrs. J. B. profile image

Mrs. J. B. 5 years ago from Southern California

What a great hub. Loved it.

Gail 5 years ago

I never knew there were sites like this. I really though I was alone in this till a couple of years ago. I am now 56 and have been suffering from sleep paralysis since my teens. They are terrifying. In my case, I wake up noticing how cold the room has become. I can't see anything although have this overwelming feeling I am being watched. I can't move or speak. I can only move my eyes. I can see all around the room and can't see who is there with me. When I am finally able to move the room becomes warm again. Although I feel someone or something in the room I have never seen it. But it a good presence. Once I realized this happened while sleeping on my back I made an effort to make sure a few years ago to not fall asleep on my back. I sleep kind of half way on my side and stomach. I have not had an incident since doing this. Sometimes I want to sleep on my back but then just before I fall asleep I get so fearful of this happening to me again that I change position.

Gail 5 years ago

Sorry typo above, I meant to say it is not a good presence. I am so overcome with fear.

jennzie profile image

jennzie 5 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

I also wrote a hub on sleep paralysis vs. the paranormal, and I have experienced it [sleep paralysis] as well many times since I was very young.

Dominique 5 years ago

This has been happening to me for a long time and I just encountered it or whatever it was tonight , that's why I looked this up for a name and reason . Each time the unknown appears its either dragging me across the room or fighting with me (because I try to fight back). Another moment was when something was at the end of the bed and all of a sudden I'm faced with something that(I'm literally face to face ) appears to be a girl but has wild black hair and black face and for some reason I said NOOO . And I was on the floor thinking WTF just happened . But now I know and have a better understanding thanks to reading this article . Still a little scared but fighting .

Bernie2111 5 years ago from Lancashire. England. UK.

This happened to me last Wednesday while on a break on night duty during work. I lay on a bed in the office and while asleep, went through similar experiences, that describe sleep paralysis. I dreamed I was in a large but dim lit house and after walking into a room I stared at a mirror. I became aware of the door behind me slowly closing, yet no one else was present. I was also aware of an unseen entity being present. I couldn't speak out as I was rooted to the floor and before the door in the room closed I woke up. I was breathing deeply and terrified. The time on my watch was 3:15am. I covered dream analysis while studying Hypno-Psychotherapy and thinking back to last weeks experience, am aware that the house in the dream represents myself and the mirror, how I percieve myself. In reality I am experiencing a major life transition, in work and personal life including turning 50 shortly. What happened was sleep paralysis but wonder if my subconscious was acting out via a traumatic event.

This is a great subject area and wonder what others think as many previous experiences, had me waking up at the exact same time.

Amethystraven profile image

Amethystraven 4 years ago from California

I have also read that the entity has been called an Incubus or a Succubus. They prey upon those at weak moments in their lives.

PennyCarey profile image

PennyCarey 4 years ago from Felton

My first experience occurred about 3 years ago. I was sleeping and had a dream that a dark hooded figure was bent over my bed pressing an arrow into my chest very slowly. Of course, this snapped me out of my dream and when I awoke I could not move or scream and felt a very heavy weight on my chest. When I finally could move I ran so fast I pretty much ran straight into my door trying to get out lol.

I don't really remember seeing anything over me after I woke up. I had never even heard of sleep paralysis before that, so it was very frightening for me.

Great hub by the way!

Brody 4 years ago

It's finally good to know this has a name as I've experienced this off and on for years. It always happens at night and never upon awakening and always is acompanied by hallucinations. These vary in intensity and scope but always involves somne other outside presense and can be visual, tactile and auditory...I just though it was paranormal but now I have a better understanding. The expereinces are frightening and in a way exhilirating.

creepyhead profile image

creepyhead 4 years ago from philippines

it probably explains what i am experiencing since i was a child

ProbatioPennae profile image

ProbatioPennae 4 years ago from Netherlands/Belgium

Actually, sleep paralysis is natural and occurs every night to prevent the sleeper from acting out their dreams. It's only when people become aware of the sleep paralysis that they become scared.

Also, when you see these hallucinations, you are still asleep and still in the dream. So "we are literally dreaming with our eyes open" is incorrect.

The reason people often see scary shit is because the paralysis makes them scared. The associative nature of the dream makes monsters appear. If you just relax and imagine nice things, the experience will be a lot less scary. Eventually you'll slip into a nicer dream or wake up.

In short: nothing paranormal about it :)

Lee Barber 4 years ago

Hey, literally just had this experience... terrifying stuff... so I'm currently in college and sleeping in my fraternity house with my girlfriend. We fell asleep about four hours ago around midnight, then it got weird. I felt awake, could see everything in the room around me, then all of a sudden my girlfriend was screaming in unintelligible gibberish but frighteningly so. I started screaming her name to wake her up and shaking her and it felt so real that I was even concerned about waking up my roommate, then all of a sudden I look up and there's a dark gray figure, sort of difficult to make out, hooded and with no face, floating above my bed. I immediately froze with terror and let out a yell of my own which came out muffled but seemed enough to jolt me awake. I immediately went out to smoke a couple cigarettes, and really did get a strong sense that I needed to adjust my lifestyle (away from drugs and drinking) and particularly that I couldn't leave my girlfriend alone, no matter what- I've been reading about these experiences for a little while now and it is good to see that it seems to be a pretty common experience for people and with no seeming real harm connected to it, aside from just scaring us shitless. One theory I read proposed suggested that perhaps it was just to scare us out of a lifestyle, or to give us a good jolt to get our life pumping again... who knows, but just want to let y'all know I'm in this with y'all! The beauty of humanity is we can wake up and share and talk and still love. Stay strong my mates!

Annamie Cureteyz 4 years ago

Yikes, I was actually taken abacked with the image you have included here, scaryyyy! Anyway, you got a good post here, I have known sleep paralysis and about it's link to paranormal activities.

windupbird 3 years ago

I had both a negative and positive experience with sleep paralysis. My rough estimate for the first one had to be about 5 to 6 years ago. I was awake in my room lying with my back down, unable to move my arms or speak. The setting was oddly very realistic for a dream, it looked like my room to the last detail. I had this terrible feeling I was being watched, when a shadowy phantom like figure with horrible yellow eyes slowly crept towards me from my door. I could feel my heart beating rapidly and a horrible urge to scream, I honestly felt like I was going to die. In a time span that felt like 5 to 7 minutes it gradually kept moving towards my bed. It started to draw its hands towards me and what I guess I could only describe as its mouth started to open (Not that it really had a distinguishable limbs or features apart from its eyes, its very hard to describe it properly actually. I have yet to see any sort of picture that could portray it.) when I mentally started praying. I kept thinking I had no reason to be afraid of it because I was protected, and I think it kind of worked because it could only hover over me for that period of time. I woke up to find myself clawing at the sheets, drenched in sweat, and screaming. After looking it up I realized it was sleep paralysis, but it still shook me up to pray nightly, way more then I ever did at the time. Fast forward to last night actually, and I had my second experience. Again, the setting was the same, a detailed likeness to my room, but the timing was different. Whereas the other was set in the morning this was set at night (but for both I woke up in the morning.) I was again lying on my back, unable to move or speak, when I directly could see an illuminated tall figure standing at the foot of my bed. For some reason though I felt oddly safe. It was the only source of light in the room, a figure of white with wings that spanned to the floor. I felt no curiosity or desire to see its face, but I guess it was a male. The only remarkable thing I could see was a single wide gold bracelet or bangle on its wrist. (It kind of reminded me of a prisoner chain. That was the stray sad thought that I felt when I saw it.) It made no move to get closer to me, but it felt like it was trying to communicate with me. It kept sweeping me with feelings of safety and love, all the while actually trying to get me back to sleep. Go back to sleep, was its only spoken words. When I started to question it, trying to gauge if it had ill intentions, I felt it answer (keep in mind it was weirdly only "talking" with emotions, while its only verbal answer was "go to sleep") that it was always there and that I was safe. Then I woke up, finding myself more tired then before, and with the odd realization that it was either my guardian angel or something pretending to be it. That, or my own imagination. Who honestly knows. Negative or positive, I hated feeling that vulnerable though. Ah well, take from this what you will.

Guest 3 years ago

A man whom I estimate was in his late twenties, wearing a really streamlined and high-tech looking military uniform, was at the foot of my bed when I opened my eyes in the middle of the night. He was just staring at me. I was frozen but was able to scream. I was finally able to break free from the grip of fear, rushed to turn on the light, and when I looked again, he was gone. The same man appeared about fifteen years later. I felt his presence, got up, and not seeing anyone, went to the restroom. As I was returning to bed, he was standing there in the doorway. I froze, went back into the bathroom, and realized I would be trapped without a cell phone if I locked myself in. So I decided to confront him. I went into the hallway and he wasn't there, but I could see a bright light that was like the sun shining through the cracks of a closed door to another room that went to the garage. That door was very well fitting when closed, so only a really bright halogen strength light could penetrate the cracks. This light then illuminated the top of the door crack, moved toward the floor along the crack of the door, and went out abruptly. When I got the courage to open the door, nobody was there, and the other door to the garage was locked. There was no way in or out. These two occurrences, over a fifteen year period, seemed to correlate for reasons I cannot explain.

holosys 3 years ago

I just signed up, and wrote the Guest comment above. By the way, my sister, the eternal optimist who would rather come up with a scientific and worldly explanation for these phenomenon, theorizes that I was sleep walking and having visual hallucinations. Then it dawned on me that as a less advanced species of hominid (at the top of the food chain on this world), we can never trust our senses in witnessing supernatural or extra-terrestrial phenomenon. Everything we see will always be considered visual and/or audio hallucinations, and multiple witnesses will be considered as having experienced mass hysteria. We are vulnerable because it is impossible in our current state of mind to accept anything our senses experience that our overall worldview and current scientific consensus denies as possible. Perhaps a real visitation by another race of extra-terrestrials would result in the breakdown of our civilization by causing people to simply shutdown and go into shock, stupor, and have nervous breakdowns on a wide scale? We are afraid of our own shadows and don't even know it. Many of our experiences are indeed caused by explainable phenomenon like sleep paralysis, and so it's impossible to distinguish what is real from our overly active imaginations (caused by our own primitive story telling culture that is performed on a grandiose global media platform through motion pictures, books, electronic games, and eventually virtual reality platforms). We're completely vulnerable to attack, and better hope nothing is out there. That is why, contrary to many who believe in the possibility of other-worldly civilizations throughout our cosmos, the thought there are experts in the government keeping a lid on real extra-terrestrial encounters, in a strange way that thought comforts me. I think that I want to see the truth, but deep down, I'm afraid to look. Most people, if they were honest with themselves, would realize we aren't ready for the truth. We're like birds in paper bags, only vaguely aware of what's outside our confines. Sorry to get a bit carried away here.

Maria 3 years ago

I just literally right now had that experience.... It was the first time it had ever happened and I kept hearing my name but I didn't see anyone my i tried opening my eyes to and when I partially did, they were crossed eyed and I could see double and my mouth just wiredly got misshapen... Not to be mean or anything but I went to the side like Silvester Stalone's mouth but a little bit worse than that and I could only make weird noises... Sounds that just randomly came out of my mouth

Cyndie 3 years ago

I had my first sleep paralysis event last week at the age of 47. I woke up and couldn't move or speak but unlike most of what I have read my experience was very different. I have a spirit of a 19 year old male that inhibits my home and during my paralysis he showed me how he was murdered but no more info for me to investigate. I'm not sure where to go with this info or if I should expect this to happen again. Since this episode he has been very active by changing tv channels, turning the ceiling fan up and down, turning lights on and off, and throwing small objects. He wants my attention for something but he won't give me enough to go on. Please help.

TruthEncounter 3 years ago


There is an evil spirit haunting your place. I have been awoken by many demons and in the last week, an angel on 3 different occasions. Angel visitations are much different than demonic visitations. When it is a demon, I feel scared and my spirit feels trapped. I hear it's voice say terrible things and it tries to harm me. If I am unable to speak or move I begin to pray to God. Saying, God help me, God open my mouth. Jesus you have overcome this world so help me now. In just a bit, my mouth is able to speak again and I say, In the name of Jesus Christ and the power of his blood, demon I bind your arms and your mouth and I send you to the pit of Hell. When said in faith, the demon must leave as said in the Bible. My advice to you would be to seek help from a pastor and turn your life fully over to Jesus Christ. Only then can you truly have victory.

malay 3 years ago

i was facing the same problems.... but tell me is it true???

Jam 2 years ago

Woah. This morning I think I just had an SP, that is I don't even know if it's real or just a dream. I woke up early, still sleepy because I have to go to school. It's Sunday. I went to our living room first, I take a nap at our couch, the next thing I knew, I'm awake again, still lying on the couch, I tried to move but then realized that I was paralyzed it's my 4th time to have an SP, I swear I heard scary moaning beside me. I then tried to think happy thoughts like fairies, sweet candies, beautiful creatures etc. The scary moaning goes away though. I even wiggle my toes, I don't want to open my eyes that time, I tried to shout my brothers name, 'cause I know he's just at the second floor and can hear me, but nothing comes out.

I then started dreaming of another girl on sleep paralysis, and some people trying to wake her up too. But I don't know them. The next scene I saw 3 kids (1boy 2girls) fighting over food on their table. Then I snap out of it, and woke up. I stare at the mirror infront of me first, but one thing creeps the hell out of me is, I saw my face above me at the mirror, I thought I was having Lucid dream but No, I can see my face at the mirror clearly. I'm really awake.

TLStahling profile image

TLStahling 23 months ago from US

This experience doesn't quit husband and I were both in sleep paralysis at the same time. I woke up and couldn't move. I whispered his name; and he was awake as well.

We could see nothing, but felt the pressure from above on us.

Neither one of us could move. We inched our fingers toward each other and touched. My husband then started praying to Jesus for the power to overcome this.

We eventually were able to break away from the paralysis and just couldn't understand what had happened

We went to our Church Pastor and he really didn't believe us. He asked if we had too much garlic or an anchovy pizza for dinner....?!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article