I still remember everything vividly, though I can’t, for the life of me say when it happened. I was stuck inside my own body, unable to move a muscle, and somehow awake enough to feel it all.
The most horrifying part of my nightmares was the old woman crouched on the windowsill staring at me, while I struggled to make a sound.
It wasn’t until many years later that I came to know what I’d been experiencing all these years had a name to it – sleep paralysis.
I am now 27-years-old, and I’ve had sleep paralysis since I was a kid. The one thing I can tell you about it is that it’s insanely terrifying each time it happens.
Sleep paralysis is a state of being awake while asleep and not being able to move or speak. Think of it as your brain waking up while your body’s still sleeping. It usually lasts a few minutes and can happen either when waking up or right before falling asleep. While it is a terrifying experience, fortunately, it is not considered a dangerous or harmful medical condition.
The episodes I’ve had over the years mostly happen right before I wake up, and most often when I fall asleep on my back. The entire duration lasts a couple minutes, but I wake up in fear and a state of panic each time. Interestingly, I’ve noticed it usually happens during naps and not while I’m sleeping at night.
Since I’m skeptical about paranormal phenomena I decided to do some research on how other people described it. It was shocking to see people who’ve had sleep paralysis describe the same physical symptoms. The tightness of the chest, the tremendous amount of pressure, the inability to move or make a sound or even wiggle a toe.
The most recurrent image I see is an old woman with silver hair near the foot of my bed who jumps to choke me a few moments after I notice her.
Just a few days ago, when I was taking a nap I had this dream where I was dreaming IN my dream (creepy stuff I tell ya!) So I wake up from one dream, but I’m obviously still dreaming and this time I try to wake up from the nap itself.
When I tried waking up, I could see the foot of my bed and my bedroom door, but my eyes were shut. I instantly knew what was going to happen next. I started screaming, but no voice came out. Instead, I felt like I was being choked by some paranormal force. I tried focusing all my energy on my toes and fingers to get a slight movement, but all my attempts were futile. My head weighed a thousand pounds and I couldn’t move an inch.
After struggling for about two minutes, a weird half shriek half cry escaped my throat and I opened my eyes.
After reading some of the things written by folks familiar with sleep paralysis, I was truly creeped out. For example, this one girl mentioned how she was sleeping on her left side one night and saw a man sitting down by her bed smiling at her. She tried to wake herself up and saw the man get up and say, “You’re not ready yet.”
Another story described a little girl sitting in a corner of the room who suddenly started shrieking and crawling towards the person’s bed. Some described seeing their bedroom doors opened by a shadow of a large man without a face. While reading these stories, I realized they all had one major common factor and it’s something I personally have felt as well. Every presence in the room, every shadow, every image described seems evil.
The whole experience itself feels demonic and evil. Despite looking for logical explanations, one can’t help but wonder why so many people describe evil images when speaking of sleep paralysis.
The mechanism behind sleep paralysis is poorly understood in the medical field. Although there are several theories behind it, it is widely believed that different sleep phases may overlap and cause the brain to not receive the proper signal it needs to sleep or remain asleep. There is also a genetic correlation that has been found in patient families with sleep paralysis and I can personally attest to that because both my parents have encountered sleep paralysis on and off.
Now that I’ve creeped out some of you, I hope you can sleep peacefully at night and not worry about shadows or shrieking girls inside your room in the middle of the night! And for those who might want to know more – try to be as exhausted as possible and just sleep on your back with both arms by your sides. Enjoy the scary ride if you do happen to hop on – though I would not recommend it at all.
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Cover image via mednewstoday.com