Precy loves to write about many topics, including Filipino culture, legends and traditions.
Bangungot or Sleep Paralysis - A Nightmare-Like Experience
For those I'll call lucky ones who haven't experienced sleep paralysis, have you ever wondered what it's like? Or what happens when having one?
Since I had my first episode in my teen years of this seemingly normal occurence, I would like to share what we call it in my mother tongue. Now I said seemingly normal occurence as I often hear the word since childhood from people I know who experienced sleep paralysis.
Bangungot is the Filipino word for sleep paralysis. Out of curiosity of how much stories I can find online and if it happens to everyone, I did a little searching. Bangungot as we call it is referred to as SUDS or the sudden unexpected death syndrome, the cause of death of mostly young adults, usually young men which was first reported in the year 1917 in the Philippines.
Sleep paralysis could happen right before waking up, and that's when the mind awakens before the body does and that keeps the body immobile. Another one is when the body shuts down for the night, too tired for all the daily activities while the mind was left active. Maybe still thinking about everything that has to be done for the following morning? Or all the worries and troubles?
I always hear it from my mom telling my dad to slow down on food as eating too much might give him sleep paralysis as my dad tend to eat heavy meals for dinner. I heard this as well from the elders as the belief goes that too much carbohydrates can cause sleep paralysis.
What it is Like Having a Sleep Paralysis or Bangungot
No monsters. But everytime I experience sleep paralysis or bangungot, there's always an entity, a being or a non-living person that I know isn't supposed to be in my room. My mind is aware and see it as a threat and that's when I either call for help or talk to the entity but nothing comes out of my mouth. Then panicking comes next. Being aware of an unwanted being in your room and being powerless with the thought of getting hurt any moment can be terrifying.
Feeling panicky and unable to speak while collecting all the strength I need to move and wake myself up can be quite a battle as I literally feel weak. Being in the sleep mode makes it really hard to make an effort to move any part of my body that it takes me time and a strong will to wake up and get up. It's being aware but my body won't cooperate that before I could even make the slightest move I'm being dragged back to a deep sleep and the experience continues, until the fear creeps in again. The mind struggles to stay awake once again, to move without any strength to do so and falling back to sleep. The episode continues until I find the strength to wake up and get up. I said wake up and get up because if I wake up and stays in bed, I'll be right back in the episode in no time.
My Bangungot Stories
It wasn't the first one I had but I will start with it. It was way back in the Philippines when I was in my teen years. I was sleeping one afternoon and the part I could clearly remember was these few elastic-like faces appearing on my wall looking at me. They blend well with my wall too being brown. The faces appeared and reappeared after few minutes. And there was a baby too with a menacing laugh that scared me the most.
The first sleep paralysis I had when I arrived here in the US was in a relative's house where my family stayed for about a year. I used to take naps in the afternoon. And it puzzles me until today if the afternoon sun peering through my bedroom's window has something to do with it. But that's how it was that afternoon. And this bangungot episode was the most least terrifying I would say.
I was unable to move, eyes closed but my mind was aware that I was there in my room, laying in the bed when all of a sudden—I hear sounds of furnitures being moved. This went on for minutes, the study table on the foot of my bed was being moved too! I could clearly hear the eeking sound against the carpeted floor in my room.
With the eeking sounds that I continuously hear, I was curious until I saw what I believed I saw—little person-like moving the furnitures. Dwarves. They were too busy it seems like they weren't aware, or maybe they were but just didn't mind me watching.
It wasn't scary at all and I was in awe to be honest. Until I hear the sound of water flowing in a river. And it wasn't just flowing, it was the sound of an overflowing water and the sound of the furnitures being moved stopped, and the dwarves were gone. This was alarming. I wanted to wake up but I can't. I felt so weak and too sleepy as I desperately try to move and get up. I don't have the strength to do so. It took me time but thankfully snapped out of it. I was still too sleepy, weak and feeling groggy but I used whatever strength I had that time to walked out of the room.
Another Sleep Paralysis Episode During an Afternoon Nap in Our Current House
We moved out, lived in an apartment for over a year and got a home. And from then until I wrote this article, I only had two sleep paralysis episodes and like always, both happened in the afternoon. I didn't remember which came first but I want to share both.
My brother was deployed and it will be months until he comes back. Being told by my dad of a superstition about unoccupied rooms, my brother requested for us to spend some time sleeping in his room while he was gone. It was perfect for a zizz since the sun doesn't peek through the window and the curtain made it cozy looking and darker, So I decided to nap there one afternoon.
I didn't close the door and left it a bit open. I was surprised when I heard a voice, his voice. It was then that I saw my brother looking inside the room or at me. In my head, I knew he wasn't supposed to be home. I was aware he was deployed. I asked him why he was home but I didn't get an answer. Being aware that my brother was on deployment alarmed me and I said, "You're not him. Leave!" But I didn't hear my voice at all. I was talking to him in my head. I didn't know if I was being heard or I was just being completely ignored.
It bothered me that this being that looks exactly like my brother could get inside the room any moment. I want to get up but I was immobile. I don't have the strength to wake up or get up. I was scared that this being or doppelganger will get near me before I could even wake up. In my head I was thinking, "Please God help me!" Only then, I was able to move. I got up, feeling weak and groggy but I dragged myself out the room. If I snapped out of it and stayed in bed, I knew whatever I was experiencing will just continue. My mom and dad were watching television when I walked passed them and landed on the couch, my heart was like a drum and I was still too sleepy and weak. I was asked what happened, and I said I had a sleep paralysis. It took me time before I felt my energy being restored.
The Most Terrifying Sleep Paralysis
The one episode that still haunts me until today. Honestly I wasn't even sure if it was a bangungot or a sleep paralysis, as it could be something else. But here it is. The most terrifying one I had was way back in the Philippines.
But first I want to tell you how I spent my day as there might be a connection on what I experienced that night. My entire day was spent on the road. I graduated high school and spent the whole day on the road with my best friend and her family. We went to two different computer schools to inquire and took exams in hope to get in on one of them. It was roughly 6 hours travel, back and fort. I did enjoy the road trip like I used to and we used our spare time to go sight seeing. The day ended well and it was already evening when we got back.
It was the night I didn't expect to have my most terrifying sleep paralysis. I woke up or most likely I was awakened and I glanced at my right side and there she was—a young girl wearing white standing by my double deck's ladder. I was looking at her reaching her hand out to me but I don't see any facial features. I asked her how did she get inside my room but I didn't get an answer. I knew my door was locked.
The response I got was, "Come with me. ___ is waiting for you." I didn't even know if she heard me when I asked how she got in, but she just keep on reaching her hand to me while I was asking her how she got in. I knew she wasn't supposed to be in the room. I was starting to get terrified as my hand was lifted off the bed reaching for hers against my will. I yelled for my dad on the next room to help me but I failed. I was just yelling in my head. My dad can't hear me.
"Come with me. She/He's waiting for you. It would be quick," was all the response I got. I don't know how she got in and who she was referring to. It was creepy. The name she said who was waiting for me was a woman's name I just couldn't remember it.
I used every inch of my will to stop my hand from reaching hers but I can't. It became more alarming and terrifying as my index finger almost touches her extended hand. It was then that I remember to utter a prayer in my head asking for help. "God help me." My hand dropped and I turned my back facing the wall. I looked back to check if there was someone by the ladder, but I was all alone. It was something that still baffles me and gives me goosebumps.
Filipino Folklore About Bangungot
In some Philippine provinces, such as those that speaks Ilocano, a folklore goes that the "bangungot" or sleep paralysis is cause by a demon called "batibat" that resides in trees. When the tree is cut down, of course this would enraged the demon as this is its home, it will still be attached to the tree by residing on the post that was now being used as a house support. With the post serving as its home now, it doesn't like any humans getting close or sleeping near its post. And when a person sleeps near the post, or used the wood for bed, the batibat attacks by sitting on the chest of the sleeping person. The person, being unable to breath because of the heaviness or the feeling of being suffocated dies from his/her sleep.
Brian Villabito on March 13, 2018:
Hi mam that last story you tell is same as my experience..
In my situation i was sleeping in my uncle old big house no one has been living in the house since they are separated and that one night i was sleeping around 3 to 4 am i have a Bangungot that there was a child beside my right side arm and he was like rubbing the right side of my bed and murmuring that i don't understand and i thought that he was going to sleep beside me but i cannot move my body and speak and i thought why the hell he got to the room because i lock the door that's the time i realize something was wrong and i scream but there are no word came out of my mouth but i just keep screaming for help thanks to my cousin that another day there was a inuman because my brother having a party and they are drinking until the morning they heard my voice and they wake me up and tell that binabangugot daw ako that when i started to wake and pause for a moment who the hell that is and immediately run to get out of the house because i feel the child is under my bed hiding.
ava p on March 14, 2015:
Hi omg i am looking for a story about bangungot bcoz i experienced it yesterday friday the 13th. we have same experience except of who's with us in the middle of nightmare...
I wanna share mine. This was fresh and i really can't believe what i experienced.
Im a customer rep and my shift is from 8 to 5am. Im alone in the office because my teammate is absent. In that office i always take a nap alwys on breaktime... midnight... i had experienced 4 to 5x but the last one is the scariest for me...
Im sleeping sideways.. i remembered that all lights were on before i take a nap.. fresh on my mind that i know that im awake but it feels like im dreaming.. i can't move .. my heart is beating so fast because i know that this is it.. bangungot... i feel it and i know it.. im really scared.. at first i see the sala of the office its full of lights and i remembered when i opened my eyes someone closed the door.. i did not see that person.. i did not hear the door closing.. i keep on moving but i can't.. i almost fall at the sofa but its not.. i keep on standing but i can't.. i wanna see whos outside that door.. i can't move.. i even hear the flashing of toilet i even hear people talking outside and a scrrreeetchhing sound.. i don't know what is that. I want to stand up but don't know why i keep on laying down on the sofa..
strange... i told myself that "be brave and keep on moving your right arm". i gave my full arms strength and then i can move fully but when i stand up.. my body is still heavy that i had a feeling na still im on a nightmare.. when i fully stand on my feet.. the first thing that i did was look if theres a noise when i open the door.. and yes it has a loud noise...
When i went up to the room.. i saw on the other pc monitor that someone was there.. i moved my face toward the monitor to see if who is that person.. this time i am fully awake...
Now.. i don't want to go to work.. waaaaaaaà!!!!
krix on February 22, 2015:
....i've been searching about the cause of bangungot. Then i saw this article of yours. I have read your stories and some of them are familiar and seems same on my experiences too. Experiencing sleep paralysis has always been "normal" to me- either i get easily sleep after taking meal or the usual one s having scary dreams.
gustvo elias on December 25, 2014:
I've had some sleep paralysis through my life and l can tell you it's a terrible feeling! In my case it feels like l can't breath, talk or move! I'm actually conscious but l can't move! I've tried to continue breathing and l finally achieve that right after my body shakes. It feels like some kind of epilepsy attack.
precy anza (author) from USA on August 17, 2012:
About the bedroom, well, it was my dad's superstitious part. I think every province in my home country has its own superstitions as I hadn't heard it before. The first time I heard about it was on my brother's first deployment when dad said something like, "someone has to sleep in your brother's room as it isn't good for a room or the bed itself to not be used for a long period of time." I'm curious and asked why but wouldn't explain further. They would probably rent the room, if it became empty. I also had thought about my experienced of sleep paralysis and waking up with the afternoon sun's heat through the room. All of these happened afternoon except for that little girl in white dress. I haven't known anyone else which has the same afternoon "bangungot" like mine. Maybe there's some out there, I just don't know. :)
Derdriu on August 17, 2012:
Precy Anza, Your last story is definitely scary although it's quite unsettling about whoever was masquerading as your brother.
What happens if the bedroom of a living person is not occupied? What will your parents do with the room when your brother starts his own family and has his own house?
Do you know if others are also more likely to have bangungot in sunny rooms during the afternoon and if they have dispelled bangungot with a call for God's help?
Respectfully, and with many thanks for the explanation and examples of sleep paralysis, Derdriu
precy anza (author) from USA on August 12, 2012:
@ Aviannovice: Thank you. I think so. And I'm thankful for that. ^-^'
@ Diyomarpandan: Thanks! Wow. You are lucky then :) And yes, I remember about the news of Rico Yan that it might be sleep paralysis. I was in grade school then.
@ Dinkan : Thanks. Glad you found it to be something interesting to read :) It was scary to have sleep paralysis. And I don't like the feeling I get after waking up from it: feeling weak, groggy from sleep, and I can hear my heart beating. lol.
dinkan53 from India on August 09, 2012:
"bangungot"-interesting and at the same moment scary too. I just wanted to comment and say that I really enjoyed reading your article here. It was very informative. Let others also know about it, shared!
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 08, 2012:
You have a strong spirit, which always seems to see you through.
precy anza (author) from USA on August 08, 2012:
Good to hear you haven't had them for long time :) I think the last one I had was last year. Thankfully I hadn't had any episode again. Thanks for dropping by and reading :)
Renz Kristofer Cheng from Manila on August 08, 2012:
It really is scary to experience sleep paralysis.
I had one when I was a child, after I woke up, I was all sweaty and my pillow was heavily soaked with sweat. I can't remember what I dreamed of that time, but I'm sure it was pretty much scary.
Anyway, it's fortunate that I haven't experienced any of these for a really long time. I guess, relaxation before sleep pays off.
Great hub, precy anza!