This post and the photos within it may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a commission at no extra charge to you.
Sleep paralysis – the phenomenon of waking up, where finding yourself unable to move, or speak…
Oh, and this whole paralyzed feeling is commonly accompanied by scary visuals. Or feeling unpleasantly strong pressure on your chest.
Sleep paralysis sounds a lit like a scene from a scary movie. However, it is a bit more real.
We are going to explore what actually happens when you wake up and can’t move. Or in other words –
The 33 sleep paralysis facts that you must know, to prevent nasty situations.
Let’s begin with…
1. Sleep paralysis is in a way a natural process
Sleep paralysis occurs as a protective mechanism of our body to prevent us from acting out our dreams.
When we sleep, electrical nerve impulses are cut off from the muscles and the brain. This state is called “atonia” and it is actually an essential part of healthy sleep!
2. Sleep paralysis occurs when you wake up before the REM stage is over
When we sleep, we are going through 5 sleeping stages. REM stage (Rapid Eye Movement) is the 5th stage of our sleep.
During REM sleep, we have vivid dreams, while our muscles are in the REM ”atonia” state.
REM atonia is that feeling of being paralyzed!
It is actually extremely important for our sleep since it prevents the dreamer from acting out his dreams.
However, during sleep paralysis, the person wakes up before their REM cycle and REM atonia is finished.
When you wake up before REM is over, this results in being awake, but your body is still unable to move.
It is simply because the muscles haven’t received the signal from the brain in order to do so.
3. It is accompanied by hallucinations
You might think that you see a DEMON in the corner of the room?
Don’t worry, this is just a hallucination.
The combination of atonia and waking up before REM stage is over, ends up in simply “transferring” strong dream material into our awaken state, while we still can’t move.
4. It gets creepier… physical and visual sensation appears
You may not only feel an evil presence but also you may think that someone touching you or a sense of breathlessness.
People even reported that they feel like a demon is sitting on their chest. Or that they were hearing voices or noises in the room.
5. Sleep paralysis can occur at the 2 main points of the sleep cycle
It can happen either while you are falling asleep, or when you are waking up.
When your body has trouble to make the transitions between going into or coming out of the REM (deep sleep) stage – sleep paralysis occurs.
When falling asleep it is called – hypnagogic or predormital form).
When waking up from sleep it is – hypnopompic or postdormital form.
6. Luckily, it can last for a few seconds up to a couple of minutes
Unfortunately, it can feel like an eternity, even if is only for some seconds.
7. It can happen to anyone
Between 8% and 50% of people experience sleep paralysis at some time in their lives.
Gender doesn’t appear to play a role, however, age does! It is more likely to happen to people between the age and 10 and 25.
The youth appears to be a factor in encountering it. However, people of any age can have it too.
In fact, it is a common condition –
Additionally, sleep paralysis occurs more among people with mental disorders.
8. A movement can help to wake up
It can release you from the scary experience since it will simply send signals to your brain and signalize that your body is awake.
9. It takes extreme effort to make a movement and wake up
It seems like you can see everything clearly. And what you see is usually freaking frightening.
Even to move a small part of your body, such as your toe or a finger, may require a huge amount of effort.
10. It is not similar to a night terror or a nightmare
It is a bit more complicated.
Sleep terrors are episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep (they are often paired with sleepwalking).
And we all know what is a nightmare – a frightening or unpleasant dream.
During sleep paralysis, as I mentioned, it is completely the opposite.
When you enter the REM sleep, your brain tells the body to relax the muscles and that’s why it feels like paralysis.
But then you are consciously awake, while your body is still in REM atonia state.
- Sleep terrors – acting in real life, while still being asleep
- Nightmares – you are acting INSIDE of the dream
- Sleep paralysis – you are consciously awake, but your body is still ”asleep”
11. Sleep paralysis may be caused by sleep deprivation
Irregular sleep schedule can trigger sleep paralysis.
Researches have consistently proved that if you get less sleep and you are exhausted, the chances of sleep paralysis are higher.
So, if you want to avoid sleep paralysis, make sure you get enough sleep – at least 7.5 – 8 hours, each night.
12. It can be linked to narcolepsy, too
According to Dr. Shelby Harris, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine
Narcolepsy is the sleep disorder that causes severe, excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sufferers from this disorder have an excessive tendency to fall asleep in relaxing environments.
Narcoleptic individuals frequently encounter disruptive sleeping patterns that influence sleep paralysis to occur.
13. But there is no definitive cause
The truth is that stress, depression, specific prescribed medications are linked and maybe some of the causes of sleep paralysis.
Furthermore, latest studies supported the theory that it may be also genetic.
Researchers examined individual genes and came up to the conclusion that specific genes could be involved in sleep paralysis.
But while research indicates suggested causes, there is no clear explanation of sleep paralysis.
14. You may want to avoid sleeping on your back
People who are experiencing sleep paralysis on a regular basis reported that it happened mostly when they were sleeping on their back.
Furthermore, researches have found that they the condition occurs exactly when people are sleeping on their back.
So, in order to reduce your chance of experiencing sleep paralysis, avoid sleeping in that position.
15. You may want to induce it!
That’s right! You may wonder, who would like to INDUCE such a (possibly) frightening experience?
You can USE sleep paralysis as a GATE for either lucid dreaming or out of body experiences.
The thing is that LUCID DREAMING itself doesn’t cause sleep paralysis.
However, some lucid dreaming methods may cause sleep paralysis it (WILD is one of them).
Furthermore, a lot of people that are lucid dreamers, or that are experiencing out of body experiences are not even scared from sleep paralysis.
They ”induce it” to experience something much more amazing!
For more information, I have a full article on how to transfer a sleep paralysis into a lucid dream.
16. Fortunately, sleep paralysis is harmless
It’s not a serious condition, nor it is a sign of something extreme.
Indeed, it can be pretty disturbing.
But the truth is that sleep paralysis is not dangerous and it is a common natural experience.
17. Also, sleep paralysis is NOT absolutely always scary
Nevertheless, it is very common and natural for them to be so.
The scary hallucinations are partially the transferred dream, that turned out to be a nightmare, because of the paralysis.
The scary type of sleep paralysis happens when you are awake enough to be conscious of your surrounding, but your body is yet paralyzed.
The feeling of being paralysis must be quite scary whether dreaming or not.
As your brain attempts to understand what is going on, it produces something to explain why you feel so anxious.
The solution is…
18. Try to stay RELAXED!
Indeed, not the easiest thing, and definitely not the desired relaxation atmosphere.
But your best weapon against sleep paralysis IS relaxation!
Although it may be pretty scary, you should repeat to yourself that it is only temporary and that anything you see it is NOT real.
Being calm helps you to feel less attacked. Also, instead of fearing it and panicking, you learn to rationalize it and ignore it, in a way.
Repeat in your head “It is only a dream“, ” I am safe “, etc.
19. Sleep paralysis spans the globe
Reports of what people see during these episodes are consistent and they all include the feeling of evil presence.
20. It has been documented since ancient times
Since back then people didn’t know too much knowledge on the topic, they thought that it is caused by negative and demonic spirits.
People made sense of it by creating a fantastic interpretation based on cultural references.
Yet, the truth is that sleep paralysis is not a demon, caused by a negative entity.
It is simply our own mind and vivid imagination, in the mixed state between sleep and wakefulness.
21. The cultures interpret the sleep paralysis as demons and evil spirits
People thought of sleep paralysis that is even a UFO abduction or evil witches.
People have been trying to explain the mysterious phenomenon for ages.
Different cultures interpret sleep paralysis differently:
- in Medieval Europe – a demon or evil spirit or an ET abduction scenario
- in ancient Chinese – a ghost oppression
- in Turkey – the dark presser
- in Africa – devil riding on your back
- in southeast Asia – the crushing demon
- in Germany – passing witches
- in Egypt – terrifying Jinn attack (evil genies)
22. It feels like you are the main character of a horror movie
A lot of patients say the same thing over an over again when they describe their experience:
”It feels like you woke up dead”
You can feel that something is wrong and that your mind is awake and your body is trapped.
The terrifying experience feels almost paranormal, rather than a typical sleep disorder.
Related article: 32 Insanely Scary Sleep Paralysis Stories
23. Learning meditation and muscle relaxation will help
Such techniques are supposed to help you to better cope with the experience!
Researches showed that
It might help the individual reach a relaxed meditative state more rapidly during sleep paralysis, and enable you to transfer your attention away from threatening stimuli for longer periods.
24. Some people feel sexually abused
Around the 1940s, scientists thought that sleep paralysis is actually a suppressed libido that comes out to the front.
25. Sleep paralysis – the ancient ”s*x demon”?
There is a big possibility that legends about abusing demons (such as the succubus and incubus) have their roots from experiences of sleep paralysis.
People back then had no idea what is happening and they didn’t know about the strange phenomenon.
Furthermore, they explained it, simply thinking that it is some kind of a supernatural power.
26. Some people believe that it is ALL real
Sleep paralysis can make you wonder if ghosts are real. Imagine how vivid and realistic the hallucinations are!
The truth is that some people strongly believe in supernatural entities and they simply can’t be convinced with scientific explanations.
They believe that what they experienced, it is 100% real.
It is a completely personal choice to believe in such things.
27. Being afraid will only make it worse
Simply explained, if you fear it, this will make the whole experience much worse, and most likely, you will prolong it.
And by experiencing it, you would have more fear — and then, you have all these cultural ideas of what it is added as well, and now you are even more scared of it.
A study carried in 2014, shows those who encountered it and they were extremely scared, experienced longer periods of sleep paralysis than those who weren’t frightened.
28. It all depends on YOU
The truth is that you really have the chance to transform the sleep paralysis into a lucid dream, or an out of body experience.
Or simply to end the episode.
The best thing is that you should stay rational and understand the situation.
Being aware that nothing bad can happen to you is a very important thing to remember in such moments.
29. It is also possible to experience it if you take a mid-day nap
Some people explained that they the phenomenon usually happens when they fall asleep during times they normally wouldn’t.
30. Even if you are not stressed, or sleep deprived, sleep paralysis can occur
There are more reasons for experiencing this condition.
For instance, a simple change in your sleep schedule might induce sleep paralysis.
So, the best thing you can do is…
31. Educate yourself
Exactly the way you are doing right now!
Understand in detail and in depth:
- what exactly IS this condition
- how to fight it back
- how to transfer it into a lucid dream
- why does it happen TO ME?
Being aware of the situation will give you the advantage of knowing how to react if you experience it.
Furthermore, you won’t be a victim of sleep paralysis and you will be able to ”escape” the trap.
32. Becoming sleep deprived is a potential risk of sleep paralysis
There are cases, where people with regular sleep paralysis episodes are afraid to go to bed.
They think that if they fall asleep, sleep paralysis will happen.
This might end up in a serious sleep deprivation, which shouldn’t be ignored.
33. Consult your doctor
If you feel anxious about experiencing this or the symptoms leave you very tired during the day, consider seeing a specialist.
If the symptoms are affecting negativly your waking life and if they keep you up during the night – make an appointment with your doctor!
You should take it seriously if you see that it has any kind of harmful impact on your life!
Did I miss an interesting or scary sleep paralysis fact?