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The sleep of reason
October 5, 2009 12:07 PM   Subscribe

"Common images are bearded, goblin-like demons laughing or whispering sinister speech, a faceless girl (usually covering her face with hair, moving around in bed moaning and feeling my body), hands appearing from the wall and attempting to strangle me. A hung man talking in the corner of the room, and some of the most bizarre experiences may include up to a dozen 'critter' entities (think Gremlins movie) laughing and talking about me. The environment tends to feel like a holographic dollhouse, the experience peaks and then the hallucinations mysteriously vanish when I regain control of my body."- The bizarre world of sleep paralysis, a form of hypnagogia and root of many folkloric figures such as succubi or incubi and the night hag.
posted by Artw (80 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Henry Fuseli painting gets a lot of work.
posted by Artw at 12:14 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


See also shadow people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:22 PM on October 5, 2009


I have hypnopompic hallucinations frequently, and sometimes sleep paralysis (but only had the "freakout several minutes with adrenaline pumped up" kind once)

I also always have a pile of clothes on top of my computer chair (in my bedroom).
posted by qvantamon at 12:29 PM on October 5, 2009


This has happened to me a couple of times. There's always a tall, dark figure that comes into the room and stands over the bed, staring down at me. Not restful at all.
posted by dortmunder at 12:32 PM on October 5, 2009


I have at least two episodes of this a month, but what I see is surprisingly mundane compared to these reports. One episode I remember vividly from childhood is being trapped at the base of a bookshelf in the school library and being unable to turn around or breathe. Nowadays I mostly see members of my family walking around or lying next to my husband, and being unable to attract their attention to help me by shouting or moving.
posted by Calzephyr at 12:34 PM on October 5, 2009


This used to happen to me a lot, but it was always "I'm sliding off of the bed and can't stop myself," not little men or monsters.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:35 PM on October 5, 2009


I'm not sure if it's the same sort of thing, but I've tried, in the past, to dream lucidly. The problem was that every time I'd realize that I was dreaming, I'd drop immediately out of the dream and find myself in the dark, unable to breathe or move and absolutely terrified. Occasionally I'd think I saw something moving but it would usually end in about twenty seconds and I'd be able to open my eyes and breathe again. Happened about five or six times and then I decided to stop futzing with it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 PM on October 5, 2009


I've had sleep paralysis twice, and while it's a fascinating experience I never ever ever ever want to go through it again. I can't totally understand how the more impressionable can believe they're being abducted by aliens when it happens.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:40 PM on October 5, 2009


Er, I can totally understand
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:40 PM on October 5, 2009


I've experienced maybe a half-dozen or so sleep paralysis episodes. After the second or third, they didn't freak me out so much as they we're just frustrating. I don't like the feeling of not being able to move, but being awake. I saw strange things like "demonic" figures, grotesque imagery, and sometimes auditory hallucinations.

I don't know what it is really that causes this, but even if I'm just staring into the dark and I'm kind of in a bad mood I'll start imagining weird things that seem really lifelike. Just last night I was staring into the dark and I saw "shadow men" reaching out and trying to grab me. It's really weird what my mind seems to come up with.

Sometimes, I'll wake up in the morning and continue seeing things from my dreams in reality for a few moments. That's probably not terribly uncommon though.
posted by d1rge at 12:42 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never seen stuff like this, but I have occasionally had the wild panic thing. According to my wife, it happens more often than I'm aware of.

I had a friend who would only hallucinate spiders wearing top hats.
posted by Foosnark at 12:42 PM on October 5, 2009


The hypnagogic state is fascinating to me. I've been training myself to extend mine ever since I realized what it is, but I'd love to be able to do it better, i.e. astral projection, etc.

I always know when it kicks in because absolutely nothing makes sense. Last night I had the "greatest" idea about how to improve baseball's 4-balls-is-a-walk rule, but I'll be damned if I can remember it now ...

The Fortean Times article was great. Thanks.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:43 PM on October 5, 2009


My wife gets sleep paralysis occassionally, and she always sees the aforementioned shadow people. I can normally tell, because she twitches and tremors and makes the most horrific mewling sounds.

I wake her as soon as I can, but she is almost always in tears by the time it's over. It's traumatic to say the least.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:45 PM on October 5, 2009


I've had several episodes, it no longer freaks me out. If you want try and force yourself to do it the easiest way is to get up as normal, do your normal routine for about half an hour and go back to bed. It confuses the heck out of your brain in some way that makes sleep paralysis more likely to happen in my experience because your brain can't decide if it should be awake or asleep.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:52 PM on October 5, 2009


A hung man talking in the corner of the room

Can we get a NSFW on these? *cue porn music*
posted by Pollomacho at 12:52 PM on October 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


This has happened to me twice. The first I don't remember in detail, but the second one I do.

I woke up, unable to move a muscle -- not even my eyes. In the corner of my eye I saw Satan.

Just as much as I knew that Satan was there, because I could see him and feel him staring at me, I also knew that Satan wasn't there, because Satan does not exist. It was a bit scary, and the ambiguity was sort of awkward.

No other identity for this great evil presence, such as Cthulhu or the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, ever even came into question.
posted by Anything at 1:06 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is my sleep paralysis:

voozhvoozhvoozhvoozhvoozhvoozhvoozhvoozh

... occasionally accompanied by a feeling like the bed is rocking. Sometimes I like riding this wave. Sometimes I don't. It's pretty intense.
posted by not_on_display at 1:09 PM on October 5, 2009


I've had several episodes, it no longer freaks me out. If you want try and force yourself to do it the easiest way is to get up as normal, do your normal routine for about half an hour and go back to bed. It confuses the heck out of your brain in some way that makes sleep paralysis more likely to happen in my experience because your brain can't decide if it should be awake or asleep.

I've never had sleep paralysis, but doing this is pretty much the only way for me to have dreams that I can remember.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 1:09 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've have sleep paralysis occasionally, but I never experience any of the hallucinations. I just have the "locked-in" feeling where I'm conscious but I can't move for a few minutes. It's terrifying enough as it is.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:12 PM on October 5, 2009


This has happened to me a couple of times. There's always a tall, dark figure that comes into the room and stands over the bed, staring down at me. Not restful at all.

Sorry about that. Didn't mean to wake you. I'll try to be quieter next time.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:14 PM on October 5, 2009 [11 favorites]


I had a whole bunch of these in the months after my son was born. Sleep deprivation, I'm sure.
posted by peep at 1:31 PM on October 5, 2009


I've had the sleep paralysis a couple of times, but never with associated hallucinations. Happened once when I was napping in my car at the park, waiting for a friend to get done with something-or-other. He totally didn't believe me when I told him that when I woke up, I'd sat there for a good minute with my head on the headrest, completely unable to move. I'm not sure which was more frustrating, being paralyzed briefly, or being disbelieved. :)

When I was a kid, riding in the car, staring off at the horizon at night would almost always generate a visual hallucination of a gigantic ape, knuckling his way over the ground, keeping exact pace with us. Hills would interrupt the illusion, but when the flat ground returned, there the ape would be. I don't think I ever consciously thought it was real, I think I always knew it couldn't possibly be an actual ape, but man, I stared and stared and stared at that thing, trying to figure out what it was. I still don't know. I'm not sure when I stopped seeing it; the last clear memories are probably from about age 11 or 12. It didn't seem particularly associated with sleep, either. I'd see it even when wide awake.

The brain is a weird thing.
posted by Malor at 1:35 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've been a life long sufferer and went through a patch a few years ago of going through this nightly that lasted several weeks. It started with "regular" sleep paralysis and worked its way up through hallucinations of rats running over the bed to shadowy aliens probing my brain by putting a hand in my skull and feeling around in there. It's fairly closely tied to disrupted sleep patterns, and that was certainly the root cause on that occasion.

I did a lot of research into it around that time and I came across a handy tip for defeating sleep paralysis: rolling sideways (or at least imagining your self rolling sideways). For some reason sleep paralysis seems to be experienced as a downwards pressure, preventing you form sitting upright, but I found it no problem at all to roll sideways, and once I did this the sensation of paralysis disappeared, since it became apparent I could move.

The irony being that there was no actual movement, since sleep entails a loss of voluntary control of movement. I have come to think of sleep paralysis as a disparity between the physical onset of sleep and the corresponding mental processes. I don't think it is a co-incidence that I am also a natural lucid dreamer and can voluntarily induce trance like states that resemble the onset of sleep while remaining conscious. The latter most often happens while listening to certain types of music [1] and it its worth noting that your sense of hearing is the last thing you lose when going to sleep and remains closest to the surface thereafter as I am sure many people have experienced with the say the transmutation of an alarm clock into a telephone ringing in dreams for example.


[1] Generally the kind of repetitive, drone based music you might imagine.
posted by tallus at 1:37 PM on October 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


This sounds simply dreadful and I never want to experience it, which means I will experience it tonight.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:42 PM on October 5, 2009 [5 favorites]


See you tonight, Astro Zombie!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:44 PM on October 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


The mare in that Fuseli painting freaks me the fuck out.

When I was 6 or so, I had this just once, and it's once more than I need. I was surrounded by the classic three witches, and they kept poking me with sticks. A small child does not need to be prodded by witches.

Still, on the flip side of the semi-awake physicial illusion thing, I can often convince myself that my bed is tilting in all kinds of directions, which I control, and I feel the gravitational pull changing. It's more fun than juggling barrels of monkeys.

Malor said: The brain is a weird thing.

Amen to that.
posted by Dandeson Coates, Sec'y at 1:51 PM on October 5, 2009


I get sleep paralysis occasionally, but only when I take naps during the day. Like Rangeboy, I don't get any of the extra terrifying hallucinations. Instead I either believe I'm dead and trapped in my body (this has only happened twice, I think; my memory of many of them is hazy), that I'm awake but completely unable to move, or, most often, I keep believing I've woken myself up and that I'm starting to go about my day again, only to realize that I'm still asleep and dreaming, at which point I'll force myself to wake up and start to go about my day, only to realize that I'm once again still asleep and dreaming. It's always super disconcerting, and I'm happy it only happens sometimes when I nap. I'm also happy I don't have any of the more vivid hallucinations.
posted by Caduceus at 1:55 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've had sleep paralysis, quite a bit, but without the hallucinations. More like, "I'm awake, and I cannot move." I can blink, and I can thrust my tongue, but even that is oddly stiff. So annoying.

The hypnagogic dreams are not too hard to pull off. One trick that seems to work is waking up at your normal time, then forcing yourself to go back to sleep. Do this over and over. Eventually you'll have bright, jumbled dreams of high intensity but low-coherence. Just a lot of jump cuts between some very random images. It's fun, but exhausting.

So, Flo, when we gather at Astro Zombie's house, is it strictly a "I'll get you, my pretty" deal, or are we getting someone else so we can go for the classic "when will we three meet again" poking hoedown?
posted by adipocere at 1:57 PM on October 5, 2009


I had this happen to me a couple times when I was little. I thought it was because "my blood sugar was low" (no idea where this idea came from) and as soon as I could move again, I'd get my mom to bring me toast with jam (in bed!).

Looking back, I'm glad that I didn't know it could be associated with horrors because I was a very suggestible and frightened child who wouldn't go upstairs alone for years because of the ghosts.

When I was in undergrad I met a professor that studied them and found out they were something weird.
posted by hydrobatidae at 1:59 PM on October 5, 2009


I had a terrible experience with a sleep-hallucination once; it was if a helicopter was landing on the roof. I wasn't paralyzed, though; I tried to put a pillow over my head to drown it out, which didn't help. Eventually, I managed to get out of bed, went to the bathroom, and drank some water, which made it stop.

It was horrible; I had a headache for days afterward.

I've also had recurring nightmares and the bizarre feeling that I'm sliding out of the bed or that I am "jumping" when I fall into the sleep state.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, I tend to be a night-owl...
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:01 PM on October 5, 2009


The more, the nightmarrier, adipocerier!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:08 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if it's the same sort of thing, but I've tried, in the past, to dream lucidly.

I have both sleep paralysis and lucid dreams often (every other night at its height) and would argue they're part of the same continuum. While I might not experience everything in one night, there exists varying levels of awareness which you travel through from deep sleep to wakefulness. The first thing to come is either the awareness of your breathing, or that of dreaming.

If dreaming comes first, then you're straight into a lucid dream (probably the most enjoyable state there is) and with practice you can experience anything you want. There really isn't a limit to lucid dreaming, in the sense that you can conjure up with your mind physical and mental sensations you will never experience in real life. Flying is the most common and fun thing reported by lucid dreamers, but it's nothing in comparison to ecstatic rushes I've experienced, where it feels like my entire body is being blown through with wind and turned inside out and finding that you're made of - what feels like - pure light. I know it makes me sound like I'm tripping for saying something like this, but it's really what I've experienced in my very normal dreams. Lucid dreaming on actual drugs is sadly a not very nice experience. Opiates tended to give me bad dreams and hallucinations anyway, but I remember a lucid dream where I fell off my bed and into constant death. The very phrase "constant death" betrays just how odd and strong feelings can be in lucid dreams, as it's a truly imcomparable experience.

Okay, so what if your awareness of breathing comes first? Well, for a start I should clarify that "awareness of breathing" probably feels to most people like they're suffocating, as evidenced by the kind of sleep paralysis that most people experience. What actually happens (and it can happen while still in a dream) is that you become aware of your own breathing while not being in control of it. It feels as though you cannot breath at all, but in my experience it is simply that you try to breathe and nothing results because your aware mind hasn't got that part of the body back under its control. Often this makes me wake myself up fully when I have it in a dream, but if I can't then I go back into deep sleep instead.

After these, what I find happens is the presence of sight. If your eyes open while you're still dreaming then the two merge together. Your bedroom becomes the stage for your dreams, and I guess this is the cause of most people's hallucinations. I've never really hallucinated like people in sleep paralysis, with malevolent creatures and things around me, but I've had a few happy dreams that have included the stuff in bedroom. Mostly the stuff disappears - literally falls away - when I cease dreaming. The bits of my bedroom remain the same, but the dream are gone. As this is happening, the awareness of breathing spreads to my whole body. I become totally aware of how I'm lying, left or right or front or back, where my arms and legs are, and hopefully where I am. I can't move, but I can make the mental impression of moving by trying to wave an arm or shake a leg. It feels very real in your mind to try and move, but nothing is ever happening. Eventually, I either fall back asleep of manage to move a limb. Just a finger even breaks the paralysis, and I regain control. I often feel very tired though and not well slept.

The weirdest things (apart from all of those that I've mentioned already) are: twice I've had lucid dreams where I've been aware of everything in my dream being a product of my imagination except one person, and that they were "really there"; and a few times I've had the experience of paralysis of feeling as though only half my mind was awake and the other half still asleep.

Right, that's enough weirdness from me, but I promise it's all perfectly true despite what you might think. I've not ever taken enough drugs to permanently mash my brain up, and besides my mother talks about similar experiences when she was my age. I'm totally up for questions, but at the moment though I've got a lid on my sleeping patterns, have moved to a new place, and haven't had much for a couple of weeks. Sleep is much more refreshing when you don't have to worry about your mind and body playing silly buggers with each other.
posted by Sova at 2:15 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


Too lazy to search for links myself but I'm surprised noone has posted a "see also here, here & here." Because I recall reading about this on MeFi previously. And the reason I recall that so well? Because not long after reading that post I had a couple episodes of this. Always wondered if that was power of suggestion/ cause and effect.

I'm also a light sleeper who has vivid dreams; I've had an occasional lucid dream; and I'm extremely easily hypnotized. I'm sure some if not all of these things are related.

btw One of my experiences was of someone pressing down on my chest so that I felt I couldn't breathe. Another time I just had the I can't move feeling. But even that made me panic and I had to keep telling myself to relax and not try to force myself to move.
posted by NorthernLite at 2:15 PM on October 5, 2009


Ah, this sounds intense. I've never experienced it before and probably never will. Honestly though, I'd like to, just once, to see what it's like.
posted by defenestration at 2:23 PM on October 5, 2009


I remember watching some television show a good decade or so ago about alien abductions, and in the show there was this helmet which created magnetic waves which could disrupt normal brain function. They put it on this guy and put him in a dark room and turned it on, and he started describing a pretty classic abduction scenario -- blue light, floating through the air, strange shadowy figures, very terrifying and left the subject with the sense of being very violated. Even though he was awake and sitting in basically a broom closet the entire time. They later showed him the videotape, and he was quite taken aback by the whole thing.

In that same show they talked about these sleep paralysis episodes and described it as likely being the same basic mechanism going awry as with the abductee experience. They talked about the demons people saw, the paralysis, and how much of the phenomena has overlap with the abduction stories.

And wouldn't you know, within a week, the power of suggestion caused me to have the only such sleep paralysis incident I've ever had. I was sleeping later into the day than normal, and opened my eyes to a fairly well lit room, but there was this gargoyle-esque demon sitting on the headboard of the waterbed with his finger on my forehead and I could not move at all. He just held me there with his one finger, I could open and move my eyes, but nothing else. I wanted to scream, and was just completely frozen. I finally stopped fighting against the demon and he changed from being a threatening presence to something less awful, and I drifted back to sleep and woke up some time later as a normal person again, but a little traumatized from the earlier experience.

TOTALLY creepy experience. And taught me never again to watch television shows about strange brain phenomena and think to myself "gee, I wish I could experience that."
posted by hippybear at 2:26 PM on October 5, 2009


I regularly suffer from this. The first time however, the glowing, knife-wielding figure with large deep black eyes and a malevolent presence had his knees intersecting with the ceiling, which rather undermined it all.
posted by edd at 2:32 PM on October 5, 2009


"This is my sleep paralysis:


voozhvoozhvoozhvoozhvoozhvoozh

"

I used to drive a Hexendrücken on the autobahn, it's just like that.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:33 PM on October 5, 2009


I do the physical part of sleep paralysis fairly often. It seems like I wake myself up out of a very bad dream, and then know that I have to make myself move or I'll go straight back in, but initially I can't move at all and it takes a long time and a terrific effort to be able to.

The horrors have only happened a couple of times - you know that there's something horrible in the room with you, but you can't move. The incident I remember most clearly was no more detailed than that: there was something in the room and I couldn't move. I wasn't as conscious as the usual episodes, either; generally I know what's going on but on those occasions I definitely did not.
posted by dilettante at 2:47 PM on October 5, 2009


My sleep paralysis episodes always occurred when I was napping in a strange place, and had to wake up at a certain time. In the dream, I would always be in the place I really was, but slightly odd but not unrealistic things would be going on around me, and even though I could see them, I would be aware that my eyes were closed. I would try to open my eyes, but could only flutter them open, and what I saw would be in distinct contrast to what I was dreaming. Then I would go through a series of dreams of waking up, each of which would end when something occurred that was so bizarre that it made it obvious I was still asleep (e.g., walking outside to see a completely wrong landscape), until I finally manage to pry my eyes open by force of will and was actually awake, usually sweaty and more disoriented than I had been in the dreams.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:48 PM on October 5, 2009


Honestly though, I'd like to, just once, to see what it's like.

No, you wouldn't. Trust us.

(I'm looking forward to having this happen to me tonight for the first time in a very long while, because of this thread. Thanks, Metafilter.

And by "looking forward to" I mean "absolutely dreading" and by "thanks" I mean "F*ck you.")
posted by lord_wolf at 2:59 PM on October 5, 2009 [3 favorites]


Stuff like this is the reason I leave the TV on at night in the bedroom, turned down low, to something like Headline News or the Weather Channel.
posted by mrbill at 3:00 PM on October 5, 2009


I've had sleep paralysis since I was a kid, including the voozhvoozh sound. I still remember the first time it happened, I was awake and thinking but couldn't move my body. The sound filled my ears and I was terrified because I couldn't control my breathing. I tried to scream but I couldn't make my vocal chords work. My young self decided that this was what dying was and I worried about my family finding me, not seeing my dogs anymore etc.

I never told an adult because I was terrified that it'd be something bad and somehow not knowing about the badness was better than having it confirmed.

I still get it, though less frequently. It seems to cluster around sleep deprivation, at least for me. In lack of sleep was probably the trigger for the first event, I remember a close relative had died so I wasn't sleeping very well.
posted by substrate at 3:03 PM on October 5, 2009


"Honestly though, I'd like to, just once, to see what it's like.

No, you wouldn't. Trust us."

He's right. I am really very lucky that the first experience I had of this was so deeply irrational that it was quickly clear that it was a hallucination. I have had almost no experiences that were terrifying or scary, but they are always unpleasant, and I can only sympathise with those that might ever think that their experiences of this are real.

And Sova's lucky. I assume he or she has never lucidly dreamed themselves into flight only to suffer a terrifying loss of control.
posted by edd at 3:34 PM on October 5, 2009


(except on reread I see Sova's experience of constant death, which beats any of mine hands down. Although all my bad experiences were without chemical assistance)
posted by edd at 3:36 PM on October 5, 2009


I experience sleep paralysis with full-on hallucinations and everything roughly every two months. For a while it was really frequent, just about every other night, which was not okay at all. I did some research and found out that some people reported that they tend to experience sleep paralysis much more often when they sleep on their backs, which was my usual sleeping position. So, I switched to sleeping on my side and now I only vividly hallucinate 4-foot tall machine intelligences with glowing red eyes bi-monthly or so.
posted by signalnine at 3:46 PM on October 5, 2009


Damn undergraduate program, only offered their sleep and dreams research seminar every few years. If you didn't happen to fall on the right year, too bad. I love this stuff. At least theoretically. My g/f gets sleep paralysis and hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations semi-regularly. Only experienced the weight on the chest thing once; now that she understands it, she doesn't attempt to struggle. But she does occasionally see the shadow people, though her usual thing is spiders. Coming down from the ceiling. *shudder*

Last time was just a couple of weeks ago, and I wasn't even able to sense her panic beside me, poor thing.

That being said, I do have lucid dreams on rare occasion, though it's been awhile. Did spend the first 20 minutes this morning madly scribbling down the contents of a dream before it was forgotten, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:52 PM on October 5, 2009


In my case, it's bolt-upright in bed, staring in terror at god knows what, unable to move. Fairly often; maybe every 10 days or so.

It used to be that any light coming under the door would trigger a hallucination that the entire door was lit up from the other side, and jesus fuck I don't want to know what's behind it. The terror level dropped when I insisted that all lights behind the door be extinguished before sleep.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had this happen twice when I was in High School. The first time I was dreaming about swimming in deep water and I couldn't come up for air. This went on for (what felt like) minutes. When I was able to eventually snap out of it, I had been - indeed - holding my breath the entire time. I took a huge breath - I was having all these large black blobs/spots in my vision and I nearly passed out.

The second time i was napping on my side in the middle of the day and I became CONVINCED that my brother was painfully holding me down by pushing down on my ear. I felt awake, but was completely paralyzed. When I finally did wake up I ran through the house trying to find my brother so I could beat the hell out of him. That was probably the angriest I've ever been. I was just incensed that he would do something like that to me.

Of course, he was over at a friend's house at the time, and nowhere near me all day. But, it took days before I finally believed him. It was so vivid and real. And this is coming from a guy who almost never, ever remembers dreams.
posted by ssmith at 3:56 PM on October 5, 2009


Man, MeFites are some seriously disturbed people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:05 PM on October 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a few instances like this, while growing up - until I was about 22. Asleep, dreaming, then the dream shifts suddenly - I sense, then see, a demonic apparition. There is always the overwhelming sense that it wants inside me, but it needs my permission.

Most times I have been able to open my eyes, and see them "outside" the dream, there, physically in the room with me. It's terrifying. Really.

The very last time, twenty years ago, it was the classic night hag. She was lying heavily on top of me, her face against mine. She was old and shriveled beyond recognition as anything human. It was sensual, but repulsive.

I was already aware of sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, and wakeful dreams - so I never really thought I was being visited by demons. Nevertheless, frightening as Hell when it's happening.

I've always wondered what would happen if I yielded permission.
posted by Xoebe at 4:18 PM on October 5, 2009


Redditors are also seriously disturbed.
posted by buzzbash at 4:21 PM on October 5, 2009



My "ghost" storys kind of crap by comparison: I was staying in a creaky old scottish bed and breakfast in an old crumbling house on the shores of Loch Ness, and in the middle of the night I felt hands tugging at me, then I looked at the foot of the bed and saw an old man in Edardian garb leaning over me. I think I jumped up and shouted and scared the shit out of my wife.

So basically i've seen a very stereotypical ghost in a very stereotypical ghost setting, whicgh probably factored in quite a bit. Oh, and for about five minutes after that i saw weird after images and trails aftyer anything I looked at, which was kind of odd.

We did ask at the desk if the place was traditionally held to be haunted, and the answer was no - which probably makes it unique amongst scottish B&Bs.

Another weird sleep thing: I once woke up one moring remebering how, as a child, i had once seem a large balck panther-like cat prowling at the bottom of the garden. I was wondering why I never told anybody such an unusual recollection or thought about it much, and then, as I woke up further, I realised why: Because it never happened and why weirdo sleep-mind had just made it up.
posted by Artw at 4:45 PM on October 5, 2009


:|
posted by Rhaomi at 4:46 PM on October 5, 2009


I had sleep paralysis fairly often in my teen years, but never any of the hallucinations others report. I'd often experience it when waking up from lucid dreams - my vision would be completely blank and I couldn't move. Eventually, after concentrating very hard on moving just my finger, it would move and I'd snap out of it and wake up.

Occasionally, in the paralysis state, I'd feel and hear electric vibrations/pulses running through my body. Usually if I felt this, I'd be able to trigger an "out-of-body-experience", which more or less was like a lucid dream in which I flew around a dreamworld version of reality.
posted by pravit at 4:54 PM on October 5, 2009


Metafilter: Sensual, but repulsive.
posted by CardinalRichelieuHandPuppet at 5:01 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have experienced sleep paralysis on several occasions - the first time before I'd ever heard of such a thing, which made it especially terrifying. I don't have hallucinations with mine, except for one brief but horrible instance when I woke up unable to move and absolutely, 100% convinced that there was a dead body in the bed next to me. This was several years ago and thinking about it still freaks me out so bad that I almost didn't want to type the words out. Ugh.
posted by naoko at 5:04 PM on October 5, 2009


some people reported that they tend to experience sleep paralysis much more often when they sleep on their backs

I heard a recent interview w/ some sleep paralysis researchers in which, if memory serves, they stated that it ONLY occurs when sleeping on your back although they really didn't explore why this might be. Has anyone here experienced this in any other position than on one's back?

I've experienced sleep paralysis many dozens of times since adolescence, always with terror and a sense of presence in the room but never with hallucinations. In my case, ever single incident has occurred when sleeping on my back. I sleep on my side as a matter of comfort preference so ending up on my back is fairly rare but if I do there seems to be a pretty good chance I will experience sleep paralysis that night. It's been a while since I looked into this but I'm curious to know if there are any theories as to why the phenomenon is associated with sleeping on one's back.
posted by well_balanced at 5:14 PM on October 5, 2009


U of Waterloo reports that sleep paralysis occurs in various sleeping positions, but far more likely when on one's back: Sleeping position: It has been long suspected, and frequently reported, that lying in the supine (face-up) position seems to be associated with sleep paralysis. In our own work we have found that lying in the supine position is five times more likely during sleep paralysis that it is during normal sleep.

See the chart here.

They have no explanation, only the noted correlation.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:31 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too lazy to search for links myself but I'm surprised noone has posted a "see also here, here & here." Because I recall reading about this on MeFi previously.

Here's one.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 5:33 PM on October 5, 2009


I really wish I could have somehow read the comments "The first time this ever happened to me was the night after the last time we talked about this" first. It seems terribly unfair that it's not until you've read halfway through the thread, deeply engrossed in everyone's comment, that we get those warnings.

Then again, I think I have earned a pass on sleep paralysis. The first time I ever heard about visual migraines was here. I had my first one the day after reading that post, and now I get them all the damned time.

It's like the placebo effect gone horribly awry.
posted by ErikaB at 5:40 PM on October 5, 2009


I've experienced pretty much the same thing that Pope Guilty described upthread, except usually the paralysis would come after I tried to wake myself up out of a dream (when I was much younger and would realize I was dreaming, I'd try to have fun with it, but some very weird sinister stuff would always end up disturbing me greatly so now I just reflexively try to force myself awake if I have a moment of lucidity). Usually I would wake up unable to move and looking at the opposite wall/ceiling, but I never hallucinated anything except for what was supposed to be there. There was the feeling that what I was viewing was a hallucination, of course, as I would usually be able to wake up for real after some effort. It's a very strange experience, as if part of my brain has gone into awake mode while the other is lagging behind in dream land and won't let me move.

Oh, yeah, the only extremely weird occurrence was when this happened as I slept on a couch, and as I woke up paralyzed and tried to get myself to move, my entire body floated a few inches off of the couch and then rotated so that the length of it was perpendicular to the back of the couch and I continued to float upwards. This happened within a span of what felt like a second, and freaked me out enough that I pretty much instantly woke up for real, back in my normal position. I imagine some lucid dreamers are mad at me for not taking advantage of all of these "opportunities," but I'm telling you, I'd rather watch David Lynch movies and be disturbed while I'm awake than feel like I'm living one in my whoops-I-forgot-I-was-dreaming-again no-longer-lucid dreams.

Thankfully it's been quite a while since I've had lucid dreams or sleep paralysis!
posted by palidor at 7:08 PM on October 5, 2009


I love having nightmares. Not so much when I was younger. But now I'm like Ralph Wiggum. "Oh boy, sleep! That's where I'm a Viking scared witless!!"

The FPP made me laugh. Reminded me somewhat of Ben Okri's description of spirits in The Famished Road, but not quite as good.

young girl moaning... hung man... *snigger*

hung, or "hanged"?

posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:16 PM on October 5, 2009


I remember having these as a young teenager, for a couple of years. I always thought it was my subconscious working out my mom's death or something. I also read Stephen King's short story 'The Boogeyman' around then, and I had this feeling of being awake and there being a horrible malevolence nearby but unseen...AND THE CLOSET DOOR WAS JUST SLIGHTLY OPEN. I cannot relate in mere words how much extra terror was induced by that short story, combined with my closet door being just slightly ajar AND one of these dreams. I was so scared I pissed my bed. I guess you could call it a wet dream, just not the good kind. I've not experienced one of these dreams since my teens and if I never do again, well, that would be okie dokie with me. Especially if my closet door is just slightly ajar.
posted by jamstigator at 7:30 PM on October 5, 2009


I've had sleep paralysis twice

TWICE?! Good gravy. This happens to me all the time. Scary as shit during the dream, then ya wake up and it's all "woah, that was awesome!" I also regularly have dreams where I'm flying. They are also v.cool.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:02 PM on October 5, 2009


I've only had this happen once, in the hospital the night after my appendectomy. Woke up semi-paralysed, had a full-blown panic attack.

Never. Again. Please.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:50 PM on October 5, 2009


I hardly ever experience this at night, but regularly if I go lie down on the floor on my back for a quick nap during the day. I just stopped worrying about the fear and let interesting things happen.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:52 PM on October 5, 2009


I've only had this happen once, in the hospital the night after my appendectomy. Woke up semi-paralysed, had a full-blown panic attack.

I've also woken up during the operation last two times I've had a general anaesthetic. Once, the orderly was laffing at me as he wheeled me back to my room. "We had to keep on upping the dose. You da man!"

The other time the anaesthetist flat out didn't believe me.

"Oh, by the way, I woke up briefly."

"No you didn’t."

Asshole.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:55 PM on October 5, 2009


I've also died in my sleep a few times. Each time from a bullet to the dome. That was some heavy shit, seeing the shutters come down.

So I can happily disprove the urban myth that if you die in your dreams you really do die. Unless I'm dead and living a James Herbert novel-like experience. That's a possibility.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:05 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


I heard a recent interview w/ some sleep paralysis researchers in which, if memory serves, they stated that it ONLY occurs when sleeping on your back although they really didn't explore why this might be. Has anyone here experienced this in any other position than on one's back?

I wish this were true. I sleep on my side and have experienced sleep paralysis more often than I'd like. It's usually correlated with sleep deprivation. My episodes are accompanied by the menacing shadow people, aural hallucinations, and the sensation of being pushed or pulled, but I've had a few that were different. I'd see disembodied hands typing on an invisible keyboard around exam time. And shortly after I saw The Ring, I hallucinated a little zombie girl--face covered with hair, as in the Guardian article--lurching toward me, and startled myself awake when she suddenly threw a sheaf of papers at me and I instinctively covered my face.

And now that I've read through this entire thread, I'm going to have sleep paralysis tonight. Naturally.
posted by kiripin at 10:50 PM on October 5, 2009


I figured out how to lucid dream when I was a kid because I was having nightmares a lot. After I got the hang of it, it was awesome. Some after when I was a little older I saw this movie "The Dream Master" or something (not the Freddy Krueger one) wherein some kids had to learn to lucid dream to defeat some evil dream dude. That was my go-to reference for what it was like until first person shooters with cheat codes. For me, lucid dreaming has always felt like having the cheat codes to the subconscious. It's so awesome, I recommend everyone learn how. However, I don't even do it anymore. I prefer not to dream when I sleep, so, nowadays, I just don't. Not usually. Last time I had a nightmare I didn't fight it, but I didn't cheat either. It got very unpleasant, and I had to wake up. I immediately forgot about it though, like water running out of a drain. But even after it was gone I didn't want to go back to bed right away.

Lately I've become interested in the stream-of-conscious thinking, thinking without thinking. I do it all the time, and I figure everyone else probably does too. We have this big chaotic buzz of brain activity going on all the time and we seem to pull our conscious thoughts and words out of it. What the heck is that thing? It's random, but I pull order out of it and make it my own. And the things that seem to be in there are much weirder and scarier to me than my nightmares, and there they are with me, all the time, in broad daylight, every. single. day.
posted by wobh at 11:03 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]


@uncanny hengeman:

A good anesthesiologist will keep you just barely unconscious, because the more you are sedated the more likely it is that you won't wake up. Too bad he was a jerk about it, but there are horror stories out there about people who were aware but paralyzed throughout their entire operation, and that's not something an anesthesiologist (or his insurer) wants to think about. They'll often give you an amnesiac drug so that you don't remember those things...perhaps he was depending on that.

I was given an amnesiac for an endoscopy, without my permission. When I came to, I was almost pissed enough to sue...
posted by Jimmy Havok at 11:31 PM on October 5, 2009


You know what they say "it's not the crime, it's the cover up"? Something like that.

I wasn't pissed off I woke up, and I only woke up for a few seconds. But his denial... like I was some idiot imagining it...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:33 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has happened to me numerous times, including when I've been sleeping on my side (although far more commonly when sleeping on my back). I've had the shadow people and the suffocating too (in fact, I was pretty convinced I'd been abducted by aliens for a while until I realized it'd been a particularly icky sleep paralysis incident years ago - there were little dark beings in my room and I could see them moving back and forth against the light under the door). I can ironically put myself into a sleep paralysis incident while trying to avoid it, when I catch myself falling asleep and try to wake up to avoid it. It most often happens when I wake up and then go back to sleep, or when I nap on a couch. It's icky, even when you know what's happening.
posted by biscotti at 7:17 AM on October 6, 2009


So, I'm pretty sure reading this thread right before going to sleep was what caused me to wake up screaming at 3:00 AM this morning, from a nightmare about being attacked by the ghost of a gerbil that I had as a child.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:25 AM on October 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I used to have dreams like this (I didn't have the suffocating feeling, but I did experience the sensation of something I couldn't see clearly sitting on top of me and crying out for help to people who should have been able to hear me) so often that I was able, after some time, to recognize the dream for what it was and wake myself up.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2009


I slept very, very soundly last night. The best sleep I've had for some time, in fact.
posted by Artw at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2009


I've had sleep paralysis uncountable times. My bedtime habit is to lie on my back for a while, relaxing, and then roll over on my side when I'm ready to actually sleep. Occasionally I fall asleep while still on my back, and that's when there's a chance of the sleep paralysis occurring.

For me it's barely visual. No hallucinations whatsoever. I prefer to sleep in as near-total-darkness as possible anyway, but even when this has happened to me on the couch, midday, my memories are mostly of what I was hearing. I don't feel a weight or any kind of pressure, it's just like my body isn't responding. The feeling is as though my conscious mind has been severed from my physical being. I'm trying like hell to open my eyes, totally freaked out about what I might see, but convinced that it's going to be even worse if I don't. Sometimes my eyelids will flutter some before I actually regain control of my body, and what I see in those split seconds is always normal for the room I'm in, but at the same time infused with a sense of impending dread. When I finally come fully back to normal, my heart rate is elevated and I feel like I could run a mile, but I usually am able to pretty much go back to sleep straight away.

I don't wish that on anyone.
posted by owtytrof at 9:25 AM on October 6, 2009


Metafilter: a nightmare about being attacked by the ghost of a gerbil.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:40 AM on October 6, 2009



I heard a recent interview w/ some sleep paralysis researchers in which, if memory serves, they stated that it ONLY occurs when sleeping on your back although they really didn't explore why this might be. Has anyone here experienced this in any other position than on one's back?


I've experienced it kind of sideways on a couch, but the theory that it is much more likely to happen while on your back is very true in my experience.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:44 AM on October 8, 2009


Shadow people
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on October 20, 2009


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