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Health, Life

Sleep Paralysis: A Living Nightmare

Today, a mundane, short afternoon nap turned into something I soon won’t forget.

I didn’t have a nightmare. Nightmares occur primarily during the REM cycle, with a lack of consciousness and a period of rapid eye movements.

I fell asleep with my iPod on shuffle, playing out of my speaker.

Upon awaking, I began to hear the music that I had left on for the duration of my nap.

So far so good, until I ran into my first major problem, specifically when I tried to move.

The sleep paralysis that was supposed to keep me safe during my dream was still in full swing, so my body was rigid, except for my eyes. I could blink, and hear my music playing in my room, but nothing else.

I was petrified. Literally.

I had felt like a had been drugged. I tried to free myself from this frozen state, but to no avail.

It was as if the anesthesiologist during a surgery made a critical error, and I was a patient on the operating table about to be cut into with a scalpel, in a conscious state.

Now, from the literature I have read about this today, this is usually the extent of sleep paralysis for the average individual; consequently, the event rarely lasts longer than a couple minutes, with no other symptoms present.

But, for approximately 1 in 5 individuals who suffer from such paralysis, it is also accompanied by hallucinations.


I’ll essentially give you a condensed version of what I saw, not because I want to remain mysterious or for some other neat literary effect, but rather, I think I have a right to a certain level of privacy about this unusual experience.

With my eyes open, the only movement I could manage included blinking. That was it.

As my music played softly in the background, I hallucinated two individuals on my bed. One blonde, older female, and another male at the foot of my bed, both lying intertwined within my comforter. I did not recognize them.

[I just deleted the paragraph that was supposed to take up this space, just for the fact the hallucinations sound far-fetched; this medium does not do them justice. I’m sorry for leaving this out. Just know they were utterly terrifying.]

I tried yelling out.

Instead, I heard popping/static noises. My voice sounded very muffled and distorted, and a distinct pressure was felt in my ears and on my chest – almost as if a weight was placed on them both.

I felt a noticeable increase in my heart rate, and in the minute or two that followed I struggled to free myself from the paralysis, and eventually (and thankfully), I regained motor function of my body.

The hallucination ended abruptly.

Here’s a quick Wikipedia snippet about sleep paralysis and the hallucinations occasional involved:

I’ve highlighted the symptoms I experienced in orange

In addition, the paralysis may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger.[9] Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations.[8] The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision.

Humming, roaring, hissing, rushing, zapping, and buzzing noises are frequent in conjunction with sleep paralysis (SP). This happens when the REM atonia sets in sooner than usual, before the person is fully asleep, or persists longer than usual, after the person has (in other respects) fully awoken.[18] Sleep paralysis is reportedly very frequent among narcoleptics. It occurs frequently in about 6% of the rest of the population, and occurs occasionally in 60%.[30]

So, have you ever experienced such a phenomenon before? Sleep Paralysis, or the hallucinations associated with it? Feel free to write about your experience below as a comment.



3 thoughts on “Sleep Paralysis: A Living Nightmare

  1. Interesting post. I’ve experienced sleep paralysis many times over my lifetime and I personally find it quite fascinating. Probably because I also make dreaming a personal study. Most commonly an old or adolescent female of Asian decent is reported being seen. I most recently had an auditory hallucination that whilst I lied paralyzed I heard a man cough, flush my toilet and walk out into my living room to sit on my squeaky futon. It’s very bizarre and quite scary but the fact you experienced it usually means you pay careful attention to your dreaming, so that’s a plus 🙂

    Posted by fela2fela | March 10, 2012, 6:16 pm
    • It was one of my first times! I found it super terrifying, but now that it happens again, hopefully I can convince myself its all just a fallacy.

      I’m considering starting a bit of a dream log, too. This got me interested.

      Posted by Tyler | March 18, 2012, 11:59 pm
      • You should! They are massive fun. That is the crux of my whole blogging idea, plus, you’ll remember everything with perfect clarity after you start doing it for a month or so. It’s truly fascinating all of the things you can learn from yourself through dreams. I mean, not dream interpretation, just noticing patterns. (tagging helps with this). Hope to read more from you!

        Posted by fela2fela | March 20, 2012, 8:06 pm

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