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Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Have you ever experienced a nightmare, became conscious, but were unable to move your body?  This is a phenomenon known as isolated sleep paralysis that an estimated 5% to 40% of the general population experiences at one point or another throughout their lifetime.  During this condition, you may feel extreme fear, notice the fight-or-flight response, attempt to move your arms, legs, or eyelids – but you’re trapped in a torturous state of sheer panic.

The good news is that of all individuals that experience sleep paralysis, the majority experience isolated episodes, whereas only a small percentage (3%) experience recurrent bouts of sleep paralysis.  Although this condition isn’t considered a dangerous health problem, it is associated with disrupted REM sleep and neurodegenerative diseases – which may be a cause for concern.

What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is defined as a phenomenon in which a person is temporarily unable to move, speak, or “snap out of” a physical paralysis associated with the REM stage of sleep.  Sleep paralysis generally occurs during a transitory phase of sleep such as from a waking state to sleep and/or from a sleep state to waking.  During sleep paralysis, a person is unable to move their arms, legs, fingers, toes, eyelids, etc. – all limbs that are under conscious control remain temporarily paralyzed.

Although REM-induced physical paralysis may not sound so bad, some cases may last for over an hour.  To make things worse, the paralysis is often accompanied by vivid, nightmarish dreams and sometimes hallucinations (e.g. demonic entities).  Imagine being semi-conscious, seeing demons (visual hallucinations), feeling as if you’re going to get attacked (triggering the fight-or-flight response), but here’s the kicker – you’re unable to move. (Read: Sleep Paralysis Hallucinations).

This results in a highly torturous experience and makes you feel completely trapped and powerless.  Some unlucky people experience chronic cases, others experience isolated incidences of sleep paralysis, while others never experience an episode throughout their entire lifespan.  The condition appears to be more common among those with sleep disorders like narcolepsy; 40% of individuals with narcolepsy are thought to experience sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis tends to affect men and women in equal proportion, but first-episodes are most likely occur during teenage years (e.g. 13 to 19) or early adulthood (e.g. 19 to 25).  Some reports estimate that 36% of all sleep paralysis cases occur between 25 and 44 years of age.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10214743

Types of Sleep Paralysis

There are two commonly diagnosed types of sleep paralysis including: isolated sleep paralysis (ISP) and recurrent isolated sleep paralysis (RISP).  Of the two subtypes, isolated sleep paralysis is significantly more common.  It is estimated that only 3% of all sleep paralysis cases are recurrent episodes.

1.  Isolated Sleep Paralysis (ISP)

Those that experience isolated sleep paralysis are in the majority compared to those that experience the recurrent subtype.  Episodes of isolated sleep paralysis are relatively common and fortunately aren’t very long-lasting by comparison to the recurrent subtype.  Those who experience isolated episodes of sleep paralysis tend to notice the paralysis lasts only a couple minutes.

In other words, they aren’t tormented for nearly as long as individuals with the recurrent subtype.  Additionally, most people that experience isolated episodes don’t need to worry about experiencing another episode each time they fall asleep.  It’s usually a “one and done” type experience.  Should another episode be experienced, there’s generally a pretty big time gap between episodes.

  • Frequency: Infrequent or Isolated episodes
  • Duration: Short (Minutes)
  • Likelihood: Common (40% of People)

2.  Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis (RISP)

Those that suffer from recurrent isolated sleep paralysis are in the minority.  These individuals end up dealing with sleep paralysis that is not only longer-lasting per episode, but is recurrent.  In other words, a person with RISP could theoretically be tormented with sleep paralysis for the rest of their lives.

Some notable differences between those with recurrent sleep paralysis and isolated subtypes is that recurrent sleep paralysis cases often experience paralysis exceeding an hour per episode.  Additionally this subtype generally is associated with out-of-body experiences (OOBEs).  To make things worse, those with the recurrent subtype may experience multiple paralyses during the same night (e.g. back to back).

  • Frequency: Recurrent (Chronic)
  • Duration: Long (Hours)
  • Likelihood: Rare
  • Features: Out-of-Body Experiences

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10214743

Sleep Paralysis Causes

It is important to keep in mind that the factors that contribute to sleep paralysis for one person may be completely different for another.  While certain physiological biomarkers may be indicative of a specific subtype (isolated vs. recurrent), more research needs to be conducted to pinpoint the specific mechanisms that give rise to this condition.

Back (Supine) sleep position: There is some evidence that one sleeping position is associated with sleep paralysis more than others.  If you often sleep on your back (supine position), you may be at increased risk for experiencing sleep paralysis.  It is unknown as to why sleeping on the back increases likelihood of sleep paralysis, but over 50% of sleep paralysis cases are noted as having slept in this position.

Brain waves: It should be considered that a person’s brain waves during sleep may contribute to sleep paralysis.  A study by Takeuchi et al. utilized an EEG to measure a person’s brainwave activity during sleep paralysis.  They discovered that during sleep paralysis episodes, there were disproportionate amounts of alpha waves with intermittent spurts of beta waves – particularly in cases of individuals reporting visual hallucinations.  This means that a person is consciously aware, yet physically trapped in a state of REM-induced muscle paralysis.

Chaotic sleep schedule: Those with a highly variable sleep schedule or individuals that travel frequently and aren’t able to adjust to new time zones may end up with sleep paralysis.  If you work shift work or don’t have a strict bedtime and wake time, you may be at increased risk of sleep paralysis.  In fact, not having a set sleep schedule to which your body (i.e. circadian rhythm) can adjust, may lead to sleep disruptions and an abnormal sleep cycle.

Drugs: It is known that using various drugs, whether they be pharmaceutical, over-the-counter, or illicit could theoretically contribute to cases of sleep paralysis.  Even alcohol has been speculated as being a potential causative agent due to the fact that it can disrupt various stages of sleep.  Some sources believe that substance abuse, medications (particularly psychiatric), and usage of psychostimulants (ADHD medications) may increase likelihood of sleep paralysis.

Faulty neurotransmission: It is believed that various levels of neurotransmitters may increase a person’s susceptibility to sleep paralysis.  Particularly, it is thought that both GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) and glycine may be responsible for sleep paralysis.  It is known that nerve receptors responsible for regulating both GABA and glycine can be “shut off” in mice, and sleep paralysis stops.  Alterations in GABA and/or glycine neurotransmission, which may disrupt sleep and/or contribute to sleep paralysis.

Genetic predisposition: Many experts believe that there may be various genetic polymorphisms responsible for causing sleep paralysis.  There is evidence that if someone in your immediate family experiences sleep paralysis, you are also more likely to experience the condition.  There is likely a genetic component, and with knowledge of epigenetics, it could be theorized that healthy sleeping habits may “turn off” genes responsible for causing sleep paralysis.

Leg cramps: Those that are prone to muscle cramps, particularly leg cramps may be at increased risk of sleep paralysis.  While it is unknown as to how leg cramps contribute to the development of sleep paralysis, it is known that they are linked.  Perhaps reducing the soreness and treating cramps prior to falling asleep may minimize the occurrence susceptibility to sleep paralysis.

Mental illness: Those suffering from mental illness such as: anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, and/or schizophrenia may be more prone to sleep paralysis.  These conditions are characterized by sleep disruptions, neurotransmitter fluctuations, and are often medicated with potent psychiatric drugs – which could easily increase likelihood of sleep paralysis.  Of individuals with anxiety disorders, it is thought that 1/5 will suffer from sleep paralysis.

In particular, some researchers believe there may be a link between social anxiety disorders and sleep paralysis.  Anxiety disorders are characterized by an intense irrational fear of non-threatening situations.  There may be some common neural underpinnings that make those with anxiety disorders more susceptible to sleep paralysis.

Other studies have found that those with depression are at increased risk of sleep paralysis.  Upon investigation, researchers discovered that antidepressants and anxiety were not indicative of sleep paralysis among those who were depressed.  This suggests that certain neurophysiological correlates of depression may increase susceptibility to sleep paralysis.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16099138
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2800990/

Neurological conditions: Those with neurological disorders like migraines and epilepsy may be more prone to sleep paralysis than average.  There have been reports of individuals experiencing sleep paralysis prior to a migraine, as well as reports of individuals experiencing migraines during and/or after sleep paralysis.  Intense migraines may interrupt a person’s REM sleep, which could be how they increase susceptibility of sleep paralysis.

Neurodegenerative diseases: Those with various forms of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. dementia) may be at increased likelihood for experiencing sleep paralysis.  It is up for debate as to whether the neurodegenerative disease caused the sleep paralysis, vice versa, or if they occur simultaneously.  Research has demonstrated that sleep paralysis (a result of R.E.M. disruption) may exacerbate neurodegeneration.

Nerve receptors: Researchers from the University of Toronto discovered that nerve receptors may be responsible for sleep paralysis.  Patricia Brooks and John Peever analyzed metabotropic GABAB as well as ionotropic GABAA/glycine.  They realized that ionotropic GABAA/glycine interacts with glycine as well as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid).  GABAB interacts with GABA, but does not respond to glycine.  In rodent tests, sleep paralysis was effectively prevented when both GABAB and GABAA/glycine receptors were simultaneously “shut down.”

  • Source: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/29/9785.full

Sleep disruption: It is well-documented that sleep cycle disruption, particularly to the REM (rapid-eye movement) stages of sleep is associated with sleep paralysis.  During REM sleep, a person’s body becomes paralyzed or unable to move, yet may be experiencing an intense dream (or nightmare).  This results in the individual feeling helpless and unable to move, yet consciously aware.

It’s as if the brain’s homeostatic sleep cycling has gone askew.  A report in 2002 suggested that disrupting a person’s sleep cycle can significantly bolster risk of sleep paralysis.  Researchers were able to intentionally induce sleep paralysis in healthy volunteers by restricting them of REM sleep.  They accomplished this feat by waking them immediately as they entered REM.

This lead to sudden-onset REM, in which healthy participants “skipped” other stages of sleep and directly entered REM sleep from a waking state.  Frequent sleep disruptions, particularly of the REM stage, may lead to a person entering REM directly from a waking state, and thus upping the likelihood that they’ll experience sleep paralysis.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11833865

Sleep deprivation: Those that expose themselves to sleep deprivation, particularly over an extended term will alter their sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.  These alterations are generally considered detrimental, and may be a direct cause of sleep paralysis.  Chronic sleep deprivation is likely to change neurotransmitter concentrations, brainwave activity, regional blood flow, etc.  All of these changes stemming from sleep deprivation could increase your chances of sleep paralysis.

Sleep disorders: Those with preexisting sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder or obstructive sleep apnea may be more prone to experiencing sleep paralysis.  It is thought that as these conditions disrupt a person’s sleep, they likely also disrupt the R.E.M. portion of the sleep cycle, which can cause isolated or recurrent sleep paralysis.

Stress: It makes sense that high levels of stress or chronic stress could increase susceptibility to sleep paralysis.  Sleep paralysis is associated with anxiety disorders, traumatic experiences, and panic.  During all of these conditions, the body produces an exaggerated fight-or-flight response, characterized by over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system.  Those with high levels of stress may experience a nervous breakdown, sleep problems (e.g. insomnia), and ultimately sleep paralysis.

Trauma: Those that have experienced some sort of trauma (e.g. PTSD) have greater rates of sleep paralysis.  It is thought that traumatic experiences may alter brain functioning as well as the sleep cycle.  Traumatic experiences often result in excess sleep deprivation, nightmarish dreams, insomnia, and frequent waking throughout the night (disruptions).

Additionally, baseline levels of physiological arousal tend to be greater among individuals that have endured trauma.  The increased arousal alone is enough to contribute to sleep paralysis.  A 2005 study reported that both PTSD and panic disorders lead to increased rates of sleep paralysis.  There appears to be a direct relationship between severity of PTSD and number of sleep paralysis episodes.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15881273
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16094659

Sleep Paralysis Symptoms

Those experiencing sleep paralysis can experience a variety of symptoms.  The most prominent symptoms associated with sleep paralysis include: inability to move (immobility), inability to talk, and conscious perception or awareness.  Secondary symptoms can include things like: chest pressure, extreme fear, and hallucinations.

  • Anxiety: Most people that experience sleep paralysis also tend to feel anxiety.  Anxiety disorders, particularly social anxiety is directly linked to sleep paralysis.  During the sleep paralysis episode(s), a person may feel intense anxiety in regards to feeling trapped, nightmarish dreams, or hallucinations.
  • Chest pressure: Some individuals notice that during the sleep paralysis episodes that there’s an intense pressure over their chest.  This pressure can feel like a stack of weights have piled up atop the chest or as if an esoteric entity is pushing on your chest.  This pressure may be related to difficulty breathing during the paralysis.
  • Conscious awareness: Certain people remain fully conscious during the sleep paralysis episodes and are able to recall the entire episode.  Most people are semi-conscious, meaning they have some degree of awareness or “flashes” of conscious awareness.  The sleep paralysis episodes are characterized by alpha waves with intermittent beta bursts on the EEG – so this makes sense.
  • Distress: Due to the fact that most cases of sleep paralysis are uncomfortable, most people become highly distressed.  The feelings of distress can lead to panic, which triggers the fight-or-flight response – exacerbating the initial distress.  Do not be surprised if you become distressed, especially if the episode includes hallucinations and/or is long-lasting.
  • Difficulty breathing: You may also have a tough time properly breathing during the sleep paralysis episode.  The difficulty breathing may be due to the particular position in which you fell asleep, chest pressure, or as a result of panic.
  • Environmental perception: Most people are able to perceive things in their surrounding environment.  Think of a person being semi-conscious and semi-unconscious at the same time.  It’s almost as if REM sleep is blended with consciousness, leading to a perception of the environment, along with unusual sensory dream-like perceptions.
  • Fear: In many cases, the dreams and/or perceptions people experience during sleep paralysis are terrifying.  In addition to those terrifying perceptions, a person cannot move nor yell for help.  This leads a person to experience feelings of fear and the fight-or-flight response may become activated as panic sets in.
  • Feeling “trapped”: In nearly every case of sleep paralysis, a person reports feeling trapped.  They are aware or semi-aware of their environment and experience, yet they’re unable to do anything about it.  If they’re experiencing a bad dream or hallucination, it becomes intensified due to the fact that their conscious perception is turned on.  This trapped feeling can result in panic attacks or a fight-or-flight response.
  • Hallucinations: Many people experience auditory hallucinations (hearing voices), visual hallucinations (seeing things), and sometimes tactile hallucinations (feeling things) that aren’t based in reality.  In rare cases, a person may even report smelling something that isn’t based in reality (olfactory hallucinations).  Common hallucinations reported in cases of sleep paralysis include: animals, buzzing, demons, doors opening, footsteps, pressure, and whispering.
  • Out-of-body experience: Some people report experiencing a phenomenon known as an “out-of-body-experience” during their sleep paralysis episodes.  This is characterized by perceiving your body from outside your body (e.g. an external perspective).  Out-of-body experiences are most commonly associated with the more severe and recurrent subtype of sleep paralysis.
  • Immobility: The primary symptom associated with sleep paralysis is an inability to move – you’re completely immobile; hence “paralysis.”  Obviously the paralysis is temporary, but it can be highly frustrating feeling as if you’re alert in a bad dream – yet unable to move.
  • Inability to talk: Among the most notable and frustrating of symptoms is an inability to talk.  Imagine being stuck in a dream or dream-like state, but you’re still conscious and sense that a demon is about to attack your body.  Instead of being able to scream for help, you cannot move your mouth and feel tortured.
  • Sensed presence: Some people report sensing a presence around their body while they are stuck in sleep paralysis.  The presence is generally considered evil or considered to have malicious intentions.  A person may not actually see any entity, but they may claim to feel or sense it.  In some cases, the presence is actually seen or heard in the form of a hallucination.
  • Unusual sensations: There’s no telling what you’ll experience during sleep paralysis, but many people report unusual sensations.  Most of the unusual sensations are thought to be a byproduct of REM sleep, yet a person’s conscious awareness gets mixed in.  These unusual sensations get perceived by the conscious mind as being “real” when in fact they are a result of chaotic brain activity.  Sensations experienced could include: feeling as if you are moving, floating, or being pushed; odd smells or sights; feeling stuck in a dream; or sensing an esoteric entity.

Sleep Paralysis Treatment

If you experience sleep paralysis, particularly a type that is long-lasting and recurrent, you may want to work with a sleep specialist to determine the root cause.  In most cases, the cause of sleep paralysis is an unregimented sleep schedule and interrupted sleep cycle.  The most obvious fix is to make conscious lifestyle changes to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.  For more information, read the article “How To Stop Sleep Paralysis.”

  • Coping techniques: Should you experience an episode of sleep paralysis, many anecdotal reports have suggested mastering various coping techniques.  The most reported coping technique is that of consciously trying to wiggle your fingers and/or toes.  Some people have had success by focusing on wiggling their fingers – which triggered a “wake up” rather than a paralysis.
  • Medical evaluation: Be sure to get a thorough medical evaluation for sleep disorders (e.g. narcolepsy) and neurological conditions.  In many cases, undiagnosed medical conditions may be contributing to the sleep paralysis that’s experienced.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs: If you’re taking various pharmaceutical drugs and the sleep paralysis occurred after you began taking the medication, consider that it may be the cause.  If you aren’t taking any medications, some people have had success with various sleeping pills, SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants.  These may be options to consider if your case is severe.
  • Sleep schedule: A regimented sleep schedule is perhaps the best antidote for sleep paralysis.  A majority of cases are a result of chaotic, highly variable sleep schedules with (often) interrupted sleep.  Create a sleep schedule, stick with it, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and that it’s uninterrupted.  This may not be a quick fix, but will likely help considerably over the long-term.
  • Supplements: Certain supplements like melatonin may enhance sleep quality and reset the circadian rhythm, particularly for individuals involved in “shift work” and/or experiencing jet lag as a result of frequent travel.  You may want to consider taking melatonin and/or other supplements to improve your sleep quality.

Diagnosis of sleep paralysis

It’s relatively easy to self-diagnose the condition of sleep paralysis, but it is very important to follow up with medical professionals to determine whether a condition like narcolepsy or a neurological condition may be contributing to the episodes.  If you are still unsure about whether you have sleep paralysis, consult a sleep specialist.

  • Isolated Sleep Paralysis (ISP): If you’ve ever consciously noticed an inability to move or speak while falling asleep or upon waking – then you’ve experienced isolated sleep paralysis.  This is common and isn’t usually bothersome.  Episodes generally only last a minute or two and are unlikely to persist.
  • Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis (RISP): If you constantly notice an inability to move or speak when falling asleep or upon waking – you have recurrent isolated sleep paralysis.  This is a chronic condition that can provoke anxiety and may lead to a fear of sleeping.  Only 3% of all individuals with sleep paralysis have recurrent episodes – and many have a comorbid condition like narcolepsy.

Have you ever experienced sleep paralysis?

If you’ve ever experienced an isolated episode of sleep paralysis or have recurrent bouts of sleep paralysis, feel free to share the details of your experience in the comments section below.  You may want to mention when you first experienced an episode of sleep paralysis, how long your episodes typically last, and whether you have discovered any ways to cope with them.  If you speculate any particular causes that may have contributed to your sleep paralysis, be sure to mention those as well.

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10 thoughts on “Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment”

  1. I started experiencing this recently in the last few months but they are infrequent at the moment but they increase in terror each time. I always feel like I’m wrapped in plastic like Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks and I keep trying to scream but can’t. I just had one where I felt this way and I could feel hands under my covers clawing at me and rubbing on me and I couldn’t fight them off. Luckily it didn’t last too long but it left me with a fear of going back to bed. I’m terrified of what might come next. All I know is that each time is worse than the last.

  2. I’ve been suffering lack of sleep through being a mum to six month old twins, at the moment one of my babies is teething and is waking us up every two hours. This morning, my hubby kindly took them downstairs at about 5 o clock so I could get some catch up sleep. I woke two hours later on my back and saw a fast – spinning baby’s mobile on my ceiling that wasn’t there.

    It was making a whirring noise too. I tried to move but couldn’t. I tried to talk to call my husband but couldn’t. I tried really hard to turn into my side, and once I managed it, the mobile and the sound had gone. Quite often I have dreams within dreams, lucid dreams, the same type of dream where I’ve woken up but they’re usually more scary, usually I can hear people breaking into the house, coming up the stairs, I can hear my older child telling my younger one not to be afraid.

    Often the intruders come in the room as shadowy figures and I wake up (sometimes back into the beginning of the same dream) as they get close to me. I can’t move or shout to wake my hubby to wake me up. I always know it’s not real but it’s still upsetting. This morning was the most real I’ve ever had, I think I was fully conscious this time. I’m an identical twin and my twin has schizophrenia. Think I’ll go to the docs and get checked out

  3. Am glad I found this article today. In fact I have experienced all the symptoms of sleep paralysis before and I did not know it. It was very scary and some time I didn’t want to sleep at all and the moment I got back to sleep it happens again just as am about to fall asleep. The scary part is I will see and feel the presence of something or someone that I will presume to be demonic enter my room and at that very moment I feel overpowered and helpless and start panic and breath heavily.

    I try as much to alter a word or move but unable to do and that even make me panic more. I tried some tricks to avoid it especially by not sleeping on my back. The part that worried my family a lot was the presumed presence and feeling of demonic entity. One way I got out of episode faster is when I try hard to alter a word and for me it was easier when I mentioned Jesus.

    I could get out in few seconds after alter the name but that was still terrifying so I wanted it stop for good. I was 19 years at time and was having the episode almost 3 times per night for about 4 days a week for a year. I felt tormented and wished I could skip sleeping at all. My parents wanted a solution for the presumed demonic aspect of it and introduced me to a traditional African herbalist in Ghana.

    He gave me a combination of multiple herbs that I don’t even recall what they were now but for 11 years I never experienced the episode again. However in the last fee days I have started experiencing it so I have been researching medical reasons and possible solution when I found this article. Thank for this article, it is very informative.

  4. Hey, apparently when I was younger I used to have these states a lot but I cannot remember. I am 17 now and I just had one for the first time that I can remember. It started off as a normal dream and someone behind me pinched my leg and it felt like cramp. I couldn’t tell them to stop and then my scene changed and I was in bed.

    I heard heavy breathing and a chuckle and thought my dad was trying to prank me in my sleep. I thought it was funny at first. Then I realized I was immobile and could not do anything. For me it was a 7 foot minotaur with shackles. There was a. Red smokey glow in the room and my vision had a red tint too. He was muscly and red with a black face and 2 horns.

    I tried to wake myself up by convincing myself it was sleep paralysis. It only lasted around 20 seconds but I was so scared. It picked me up and shook me from behind and uttered 3 words in a deep demonic tone but I don’t know what was said.for background I’ve always had terrible sleeping patterns. Until last year I would sleep for about 14-15 hours everyday but now I annoyingly wake up after 7 or less hours now.

    This is the first time I’ve had it that I can remember although apparently it’s happened before. My mum claims to of had a similar thing when she was younger about a shadowy black entity coming through the window and sometimes resembled the shape of an elderly lady figure. I got very drunk the night before so maybe alcohol has something to do with it or maybe the stress of very important exams in 14 days.

    Recently I’ve been feeling down but I’ve never had anxietynor depression. I do occasionally get migraines though. I always sleep on my belly and I’ve never had a leg cramp at night although I get them comonly in the day. I now have 4 hours opportunity to sleep before college tomorrow. Hopefully my demonic friend won’t come again. All the best, everyone, Ieuan

  5. I first started experiencing sleep paralysis when I turned 20. I’m now 31 and still frequently have these terrifying episodes. I have learned to be able to inch my feet off the end of my bed in an attempt to fall out and as a result wake up. I’m usually able to hear anything that is going on inside the room as well as speak (usually something like “wake me up!”).

    I have cameras in my house and have caught myself on tape doing this many times. Oddly enough, it usually occurs when I sleep on my back. Even more interesting is the extent to which I am conscious. Yesterday I was in a state of sleep paralysis on my couch. I have wood floors, and I knew I had set a glass of water on the floor where I would have fallen trying to wake myself up.

    I was able to get my body turned such that my hand could push the glass out of the way before I finally fell off the couch and woke up (the entire episode lasted about an hour, and its very eerie to watch on video; especially when you can see the glass slide out of the way). These episodes never get any less terrifying, and usually when I finally start to come out, it looks like I’m having a seizure. I rapidly wake up and fall right back into the state over and over again.

    There is no getting used to it, but if I can keep a good sleep schedule, which usually I can’t, it helps to lessen the frequency of occurrences. I do have a history of anxiety and panic disorder for which I’m not taking anything. I don’t want to live with this the rest of my life, but it seems there is very little I can do except try to prevent the episodes from happening, for which I haven’t had much luck.

  6. It first happened when I was 12, back then I didn’t really know what it was and it hardly ever happened at all. But then when I turned 15 about a year ago it started to get worse, steadily increasing in frequency and back to back episodes. Currently I experience it two to six nights a month and it always happens multiple times in one night.

    The most back to back occurrences I have had in a single night is eight times over a span of nearly four hours and the least it has happened is three in a span of an hour. I have just been trying to deal with it and hope it isn’t somethings that will have a great effect on me.

  7. I have these episodes all the time, usually about 4-5 times a month, once in awhile I experience out of body episodes. When I talk to what seems to be something in the room, I can sometimes control what I do, like get out of my body, these are not terrifying but the ones that happen where I just can’t move are scary as hell… and I do feel as though I’m being watched or ready to be attacked. If anyone has Netflix, I suggest seeing the movie “The Nightmare” it’s definitely something to watch if you experience RISP.

  8. I experience frequent episodes of sleep paralysis. I have learned how to control these experiences as well as how to enter this state. If I lie down on my back with the sun shining and the intention of producing this state during a nap, I focus on seeing a dark spot in my visual field with eyes closed and do not think at all. Just observe and wait.

    Eventually I hear and feel a loud buzzing inside my head and my etheric body lifts up and away from my physical body. If I wave my hand in front of my face I do not see it. If I open my eyes I do not see the room, I just see the ceiling. I can then pass through doors windows and walls. I can go anywhere I like in the world by flying overhead and looking own at beautiful scenes. If I choose to go up, I pass through different levels. They are always the same scenes but each time I go up I will try to reach a higher level.

    The highest level is like a semisolid ceiling and I cannot go through it. Years ago I had these experiences, but they were always scary and bad entities tried to pull me backwards through the wall behind me. Once I started talking to them they disappeared and I was able to take charge of these experiences. I look forward to these adventures. They only happen if I lie on my back.

    I clear my mind and stare into the blackness until I feel the loud buzzing vibration. I am fully aware of all that is happening in the house and can hear my family talking and if needed I will sit up and respond to their needs and afterwards go back and finish my experience. Sometimes I want to move, but am unable to do so. I try to talk but cannot. I just wait for it to pass.

  9. I am 38 and have been suffering from this disorder for 22 years. I can usually work my way out of an episode by the aforementioned wiggling of toes, but there are still times that the panic and fear is overwhelming and it’s all I can do to calm down. I had an episode last night where I felt compelled to recite the Lord’s Prayer because of the presence of a malevolent spirit trying to force itself on me.

    I have often fallen back into an episode, immediately after escaping one. To remedy this I find that waking up completely by getting out of bed and walking around helps to combat recurrences. Some of my most terrifying episodes include what seem like hours of waking into new episodes and being unable to escape, seeing demons in the room and being attacked by an incubus.

    (To clarify my history, I have undiagnosed PTSD and anxiety stemming from childhood sexual abuse. I have suffered on occasions, over the same 22 time period as mentioned before, numerous panic attacks and regular mood swings. I also have had bouts of insomnia.)


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