Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, author, and former newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psychology and Biblical studies
Sleep paralysis occurs when the brain is awake and the body is sleeping
Sleep paralysis can be quite frightening when you do not understand what is taking place. This is especially true when it is accompanied by auditory and visual hallucinations. SP occurs when the body is paralyzed due to an individual being in sleep mode but for some reason, the brain is still awake. I began dealing with SP at age 10 and thought I was being attacked by demons or ghosts. I would be unable to move for speak but I was fully awake and aware of what I perceived to be going on. Because I was uninformed about this disorder I was so traumatized that often I tried not to go to sleep.
When SP occurred, there would be a sensation of drifting in and out of sleep. I would hear voices of those in my home as well as others that were not there. Once I was staying with an aunt who had a Doberman Pincher named Runt. One night my mind woke up and I thought I heard the dog coming up the steps. I also experienced a strong sense of foreboding as if something bad were about to happen. As Runt's footsteps sounded as if he was coming down the hall, I tried with all my might to get up but could not
Runt came into the room and stood by my bed. I heard the dog breathing near my face and was powerless to do anything. It was a helpless feeling because I had no control. After what seemed an eternity but was only a few moments. I was fully awake and sat up in the bed. The dog was nowhere to be seen and I had no way to know if the encounter were all in my mind, a supernatural event or if Runt had been there and left.
Sleep paralysis occcurs in roughly 20 percent of healthy individuals
Medical studies indicate that sleep paralysis occurs in about 20 percent of the population of healthy people. There does not seem to be any one common denominator. I personally do not believe it to be hereditary as none of my three children experience this disorder, for which I am thankful because it can be disturbing when you don't understand what is taking place.
Often during SP, when my husband worked the night shift, I would hear his keys in the front door. My mind knew he was still at work but the sound of the keys jingling was vivid. There have been numerous times I heard my husband talking to me or felt him lay down beside me and put his arm around me during SP when I knew he was not at home.
Hypnagogic auditory and visual hallucinatons
There have been times when I was tired and closed my eyes for a moment while sitting up, and just for a second or two I would see a face a scene taking place or hear a conversation. Often I hear a voice speak almost in a whisper as if having a conversation with someone else. Once I heard "She needs to go take care of this business." On another occasion, I heard: "It's time for dinner." Whenever I see the faces it is always brief and they are always ugly or evil. Sometimes a gremlin-like face will grimace at me or stick out its tongue.
These visual and auditory occurrences are not a sign of mental illness but are called Hypnagogic hallucinations. The best way I can explain this is to say its like dreaming when you are awake. Just like SP, these related issues take place when I am tired and caught between falling asleep and waking up. For whatever reason, a small segment of the population deals with SP and the related issues and if that is you, there is help/
Methods to combat SP and related dsorders
There are varying theories, on the root cause as well as treatment for SP. Some people believe they are being visited by aliens or demons while the medical community considers this to be a brain glitch that is associated with narcolepsy. The first thing to do is to see your personal health care provider and go from there. Studies have shown that antidepressants and sometimes psychological assistance help. I have found that for me, reading scriptures from the King James Bible before retiring for the night to be beneficial. Seven that bring me peace and relaxation are:
1. Luke 19:1 "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.
2. Proverbs 3:24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
3. Psalms 4:8. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
4. Psalms 91:5-7:
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Be careful not to eat just before bedtime or sleep on your back both of which have been said to cause nightmares luvd dreams SP and night terrors. Try to calm down and relax an hour before bed when possible. You may also benefit from joining Facebook groups for those who deal with SP and the other related disorders. Should you find yourself in the midst of sleep paralysis and unable to speak think the scriptures in your head and try moving your toes or fingers to snap out of it. You may also want to investigate deep breathing relaxation and meditation techniques.
Educate yourself and cover all bases regarding Sleep paralysis
The best thing you can do regarding sleep paralysis is to cover all your bases. Even though the medical community considers this as a neurological disorder the feeling that something evil is hovering nearby is very real. Prayer and reading scripture will bring comfort to those convinced they are being visited by evil spirits. Meditation and breathing techniques will relax the mind and body which may reduce the frequency of the vents. New information is always coming forth so continue to educate yourself on the matter and don't be ashamed if a medication has to be prescribed.
Neither scientists nor theologians have all the answers related to Sleep paralysis, but one thing is certain that may ease your mind. Since it first began being studied in the 19th century until now, there have been no reports of anyone dying from SP so let this set your mind at ease.
© 2019 Cheryl E Preston
Joseph Leal from Alamo, Texas on January 29, 2019:
Very good article. My father all his life suffered with this issue. It would always happen when sleeping on the back. I have a belief that when entering the half state the subconscious begins to generate these episodes to demand a response from our body. Our body craves to gain its motor function back, so it generates the visuals to get the heart rate and nerves up. Sleeping on the side seemed to help my father as well as when he began to get more back into religion.