If you have never heard of it, Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon where people temporarily experience an inability to move either when they are falling asleep or just waking up. Sometimes along with the paralysis is also the thought or sight of terrifying images such as an intruder in the room, this is believed to be the result of a hyper vigilant state created in the midbrain and what makes it more scary is that the person is unable to react to it, due to the inability to move.
There are two types of sleep paralysis: isolated sleep paralysis (ISP) and recurrent isolated sleep paralysis (RISP).
ISP episodes are shorter (a few seconds to a few minutes) and less frequent. It could only happen once in a persons lifetime. RISP happens quite frequently throughout the persons life and an episode can last much longer, anything up to a few hours which I can't imagine because just a few seconds is terrifying enough!
Here are some images that describe some individuals perception of sleep paralysis...
One of these images goes right back to 1700's and are enough to give you night terrors just looking at them!
For me sleep paralysis started as far back as I can remember, although I had no idea what it was until I researched it as an adult. I remember when I was very young I thought it was just one of those things that happens, like hiccups, or getting dizzy when you stand up too quick, I thought it happened to everyone!
When mentioning in passing to people the effects of sleep paralysis I would either get funny looks or laughter as a response, I think some people even thought I was making it up which is when I realised it wasn't a normal thing that happens during sleep and there must be something wrong with me.
In my experience sleep paralysis happens when I've been woken up in the night or early morning and I am trying to get back to sleep, I often feel really tired with heavy eyes and really close to nodding off when I can feel it happening, it sort of creeps up on me and to try and avoid it I hang an arm or leg out of the bed and start swinging it to stop my body getting 'locked in' as I refer to it. Only I am too tired to keep swinging and my arm will go slower and slower until it stops and then I can't move!
I never wait to actually find out how long an episode of paralysis lasts as I get really worried, the only way I can describe it is I 'jump' out of it. I take all my energy which often takes a few deep breathes and I jerk my body suddenly then I have to move around, a bit like fidgeting to try and shake it off. Most of the time it happens only once in the night but I have had it happen more than once and I have just ended up getting out of bed.
I know that when sleep paralysis is occurring I cannot speak or shout out but more recently I have also noticed that my breathing feels laboured, like I have to concentrate on breathing rather than it just happening normally and afterwards its almost like I'm gasping for air like I've been under water, this is probably what is the most scary part. You know when you hear news stories of people that die in their sleep for no apparent reason I always think, what if they had paralysis and stopped breathing but nobody knew? Although from what I have seen online most health sites don't see it as anything serious and I think you are only prescribed medication if it is something that happens on a regular basis. Sometimes for me it can happen every few months other times it doesn't happen for years. I have never noticed a pattern of it happening after any particular life events or after eating certain foods, it seems like it's quite random.
So I'm sure you are wondering what this has to do with demons and other scary creatures holding you down? Well thankfully I cant say I have experienced that side of paralysis but I have had two experiences of something strange being in the room with me.
On one occasion as a teenager I was sleeping on the top bunk and woke up really early, while trying to go back to sleep I could here a buzzing. My head wasn't too far away from the lampshade and I was convinced there was a bee flying around. I desperately wanted to move or swat the bee away from my head but I couldn't, I couldn't even open my eyes to see the thing and the buzzing was getting louder and louder. All of a sudden I jumped out of it opened my eyes and the room was silent, there was no bee in the room and the window was closed, it was all just in my imagination.
Recently I had an episode and I couldn't see or hear but I 'felt' the cat come into my room and walk along the bottom of my bed but when I opened my eyes the cat wasn't there.
I am interested to here other peoples experiences of sleep paralysis, particularly if you have seen or heard anything strange while it is happening and also how you cope during and after this time?
*I used wikipedia to research the scientific information in this post and pictures are courtesy of google.