Sleep Paralysis: Of Hags and Horses

Last week I experienced sleep paralysis for the first time; I am not sure what brought this about, but I had been sleeping poorly all week which probably didn’t help.

Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon which causes the sufferer, usually when transitioning between sleep and wakefulness, to experience hallucinations and paralysis with a sensation of weight pushing down upon them. Many sufferers report seeing an intruder in the room to whom they cannot react due to paralysis.

I had heard of this before, several of my friends had described their experiences to me. I had no idea how real and terrifying it was. This is what happened to me:

I had been unable to sleep again that night; I remember looking at the clock, 3:20am. The next thing I knew I heard my front door opening and someone coming up the stairs. At first I thought “oh good my house mate is home, about time”, it took a few seconds for my thought to catch up with me as I heard the footsteps come closer and open my bedroom door when I sudden thought “wait, I live alone! I don’t have a housemate, so who is this who has just come into my room?!?!”.

I was lying face down on the bed, I could see a shadowy figure out of the corner of my eye, I tried to turn to see but before I could, the figure lunged on top of me and pressed me down hard onto the bed. For that instant I was in complete panic “HELP! Someone has broken into my home and they’re attacking me!” I thought. I struggled to move but I couldn’t; I was completely pinned, with the intruder’s weight pressing down on me and I could not breathe.

The sensation only lasted a few moments, after which I found I was able to move; at first just my arms, which I flailed about and then managed to flip myself violently on to my back, nearly leaping clear out of my bed! I looked around me; nothing there, the door still closed, everything dark and silent except for the sound of blood surging through my body; my heart was beating so hard I could see it thumping in my chest. I looked at the clock again 3:25am

I knew right away that this was sleep paralysis; based on accounts I have heard from friends I got off lightly; some have reported seeing demons, high pitched screaming, having to concentrate intensely in order to move a single finger before they could get out of that state. I certainly hope this isn’t going to become a regular occurrence for me!

The Nightmare

The Nightmare - John Henry Fuseli's iconic depiction of sleep paralysis

About Matt

Cloud Systems Engineer at Reed Elsevier; cloud computing advocate, rock climber, swing dancer, amateur photographer, professional idiot....
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