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Old Hag or Sleep Paralysis?

Updated on August 27, 2011
Sleep Paralysis
Sleep Paralysis | Source

The sensation of waking up and not being able to move or speak, which many have experienced at least once in their lifetime, has had cultures trying to explain this phenomenon for centuries. During the Middle Ages, the Europeans believed that the cause was some sort of demonic entity, often known as an Old Hag, sitting on top of the individual and attempting to steal his or her soul.

This often scary sensation is now known as Sleep Paralysis. The medical explanation for this condition is that the hormone that is present during REM sleep, the deepest state of sleep, has not worn off yet and causes the person to be aware, but still in a sleep-like state. Because of this, they are still not able to speak or move. This often only lasts several seconds but still can be frightening for the person. I have actually experienced Sleep Paralysis many times since childhood, so I know firsthand the panic that can overcome you when you know you are awake, but you are not able to move or call out for help.

Hallucinations are also associated with Sleep Paralysis, such as hearing and seeing things that are not really there. Many say that peoples' reported encounters with ghosts or demons while they were in bed or sleeping could be discounted for with sleep paralysis.

However, can we really discount all of these reports?

I have heard some ghost stories where people would describe all of the symptoms of sleep paralysis, yet how some of them were able to describe something such as a ghostly face hovering right in front of them so vividly is pretty creepy. Is it possible that there are some cases of Sleep Paralysis out there that were actually caused by a spirit or demon and not by the body alone?


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    • jennzie profile image

      Jenn 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Amethystraven, I agree that not everything can be explained by doctors or scientists. I just don't believe that humans can know of everything that exists in this world (and beyond).

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Amethystraven profile image

      Amethystraven 5 years ago from California

      A lot of people in the medical field and the science field don't give enough credit to the paranormal world. Some don't even believe that it exists. In order for some to keep things logical for themselves, they explain things only in terms that make physical sense to them. Some people refuse to believe that there is any paranormal existence in this world. They believe if it can't medically or scientifically be explained, then it does not exist. I say give the paranormal a chance, it could and would explain the unexplained.