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Sleep Paralysis: Spiritual or Scientific?

by MSTY Staff


Have you ever awakened from sleep with the feeling that you could not move or speak? Ever feel like there is some other presence in the room –one that should not be there but you cannot move or speak to call it out? If so, it is very possible that you have experienced a condition that is known as sleep paralysis.


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Sleep paralysis is a very real condition that may occur within a few seconds of waking from sleep. Sleep paralysis may also occur just as one is drifting off to sleep and in its most episodic cycle of events can even occur as someone awakens from a sleep paralysis event and attempts to fall back asleep. Common symptoms associated with this condition is the inability to move or speak. It is truly a paralytic event for sufferers can be quite frightening.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine waking up in your bed, in what appears to be your bedroom. You can see your bedroom window. You can hear faint garbled sounds in the distance. Are you awake or is it a dream? Despite being convinced that you are awake, this in between state of wakefulness and sleep leave you in a world that lies between panic and fear.

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The fact is, you are awake, but your body has not yet received the message. You cannot move your hands, your fingers, your legs, your feet…not a single muscle in your body. What’s worse? You cannot even seem to make a simple sound and yet, you sense something or someone that you don’t recognize is in your bedroom with you. A sense of dread and doom easily creeps into your mind as several seconds, feeling more like minutes pass.

This is the feeling that millions of sufferers experience with sleep paralysis.

The feeling of someone being present in the room during this even is an amazingly common symptom of sleep paralysis. You cannot see it but rather a sixth sense tells you that something else is right there in the room standing over you or even just watching you. Some sufferers have even reported feeling this presence sitting on the bed or standing just behind them or even sitting on their chest. Other experiences associated with the sleep paralysis events may include sounds like buzzing or even garbled voices.

Some have also reported a feeling of floating up out of their body and looking down at their own body sleeping. While not everyone experiences the feeling of floating out of their body, many do confirm the inability to move and the inability to speak and the feeling of another presence in the room. It is a disturbing feeling to say the least.

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Some cultures believe that this phenomenon is the direct result of a spiritual or demonic presence while science says --no, wait, not so fast.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis typically begins for most during their adolescence and follows them throughout adulthood. It typically occurs as the body is entering the REM cycle of sleep, when the body immobilizes or enters a paralyzed state of sorts as a precaution to protect the body and us from acting out in our sleep as the result of dreams. However, when one suddenly awakens from REM sleep and the body does not have time to emerge from this paralyzed state.

Research has shown that those who are most prone to these sleep paralysis events also suffer from a sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. It seems that sleep paralysis events are heightened when the sufferer experiences sleep deprivation. Other factors that may precipitate an event include over-eating before bedtime, sleeping on your back, stress, fatigue and poor circulation. 

If you are one who suffers from sleep paralysis, there are a few steps you can take to prevent or fight against it. 


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First, if you identify that you are in the throws of such an episode:

  • Do not try to move your entire body at once. Instead, try moving a smaller part of your body such as your toe or finger
  • Do not try to speak in sentences but rather say names; one word syllable
  • Teach your bed-mate to recognize signs that you're in a sleep paralysis state and that they should touch you to bring you out of it.
  • Establish a stable/consistent sleep schedule

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