What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is… well… exactly what it sounds like. Have you ever woken up from such a deep sleep that you’re kind of disoriented and don’t know whats going on? Well, sleep paralysis is a little bit like that, but on top of the confusion, you can’t do anything; no matter how hard you try. You are stuck down in your bed, unable to move, unable to speak, and having trouble even breathing. As if that isn’t bad enough, you start seeing and hearing the scariest things you can imagine. Sounds like something out of a pretty messed up horror movie, right? Well, it actually happens; a lot more often than you’d think.

The Science Behind Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis happens when your body and brain fall a little bit out of sync. While sleeping, your brain runs through four different cycles; The REM (rapid eye movement) cycle is the deepest sleep and where dreams usually happen. In this cycle your brain naturally kind of paralyzes your body so that you don’t hurt yourself or others while unconscious. Occasionally during this cycle, you can regain consciousness, but your brain thinks that your body is still asleep so you can’t move. And bam. Sleep paralysis.


There are different theories on how the hallucinations of sleep paralysis happen. You may believe one over the others depending on if you believe in the existence of the paranormal.

When you experience sleep paralysis, you immediately wake up in fight or flight mode. Science explains the hallucinations as your brain reacting to that fear. Your brain is going nuts in this panicked state and creates hallucinations trying to explain why you can’t move your body. This is why so many people describe the same experience of ‘The Nightmare’ sitting on their chest (also called the Sleep Paralysis Demon) or other things holding them down.

scary nightmares

Many cases of sleep paralysis involve aliens visiting people while they can’t move, which supports the theory that alien abductions are just hallucinations. But those who believe in aliens argue strongly against this theory stating that experiencing sleep paralysis may be a side effect of abductions.

The majority of individuals who believe in the paranormal believe that sleep paralysis is caused by entities visiting people in their sleep. This theory makes sense to many because not all cases of sleep paralysis are negative or scary. A handful of individuals who wake up paralyzed report seeing positive entities or energy protecting them while they sleep.

Astral Projection

This theory is also supported by stories of astral projection, which is described as a willful out-of-body experience; it’s the idea that humans have a soul or consciousness called an ‘astral body’ which is separate from the physical body and can travel outside of it if done correctly. Many people, however, try to perform astral projection and get stuck in the sleep paralysis stage and have bad experiences there. Astral projection is similar to lucid dreaming, which is basically willful dreaming, people report being able to control what happens in their dreams, such as being able to fly or go wherever and see whoever you’d like. Astral projection takes that one step further and occurs when you realize you are experiencing sleep paralysis and can leave your body to go wherever you’d like.

scary nightmares

Sleep paralysis can happen at any time during the night; anytime your brain is in the REM cycle of sleep. It’s significantly more common in those who are sleep deprived or who sleep on their backs.

6 Chilling Accounts Of Sleep Paralysis

Accounts of sleep paralysis can be found in Persian medical texts dating back to the 10th century. A Dutch physician made the first clinical observation in 1664 when he diagnosed a 50-year-old woman with “Night-Mare.” It was believed to be caused by demons or spiritual possession until the 19th century, when it was termed “sleep palsy” and eventually “sleep paralysis” in medical texts.

A Devil Tried To Kill Us

“Never realized this is what I had experienced until I started looking around here (on Reddit). Worst experience I’ve had was with a devil-like creature. It was red and black with huge teeth, and it was sitting on me when I woke up. It felt like it was suffocating me; it just kept pushing on my chest, and I couldn’t move or scream. I was utterly terrified. What made it really bad was after I got up, my husband woke up startled and told me that something had been pressing on his chest trying to kill him as well.”


“I’ve never had any visual encounters but when it happened the first time I was laying on my left side and started to feel that pressure on my chest that everyone describes. When I realized I was paralyzed and started panicking, something whispered in my ear “Just coming in to say goodnight.” Then I felt something pushing me towards the edge of my bed before I finally was able to move. Terrifying shit.”

scary nightmares

Giant Spiders

“I had an experience where I was sort of awake or waking up, laying flat on my back, and I saw two people sitting on either side of me. I was able to recognize that they were two of my best friends, but they had these crazy looking faces and appeared dark and shadowy. After just sitting there staring at me for a while they started throwing tons of giant spiders on me, and the spiders ran all over my body. I was trying so hard to move so that I could turn on the light in my room but I couldn’t move a muscle.”

Gravely Whispers

“I was fully awake, as in I knew that I wasn’t sleeping. It felt like someone was holding me down by my arms and chest, and then I heard a deep and gravely voice whispering into my ear. Wish I knew wtf it was saying, but It only lasted about 15 seconds before I was able to move again.”

scary nightmares

The Hidden Hag

“I have it a few times a year. The most memorable one was a time I woke up in my bed unable to move, and I looked to the left towards my wardrobe. My bedside locker was gone and in the open door of the wardrobe was a little old lady with long Snow White hair and floaty, gray, ragged clothes; classic hag really. She saw me and started screaming “you shouldn’t be able to see me, you shouldn’t see me!” repeatedly. Then she vanished and reappeared at my bedroom door peering through the crack. Then I was able to move and really woke up, and everything was normal.”

Crazy Ghost Girl

“I was dreaming, and in my dream, a girl jumped on top of me and pinned me to the floor. She started pulling out my hair, and I half-woke up; I could then see all of my room and realized that I had been asleep up until now, but I could still see the girl on top of me. Tried calling for help and screaming but couldn’t make my body do anything. Probably lasted around 30 seconds before I was able to move.”

Real Life Nightmares

stories are taken from reddit.com and edited for wording and grammar.
Check out the posts here for more stories of sleep paralysis:

What was your run in with the sleep paralysis demon like?

Whats your experience with sleep paralysis?

Have you ever had sleep paralysis?

Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis? Tell us your story in the comments below. Check out these tips on how to wake-up from sleep paralysis.