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reader comments: sleep paralysis

15 April 2009
Mr Skepdic,

reply: I don't find it amusing to be addressed as Mr Skepdic, any more than you'd find it amusing to be addressed as Mr. Askhole.

In 1989, I saw a Neurologist as a result of what I thought were Epileptic Seizures.
My body would go into paralysis, and messages from my brain were not being relayed to my body.
Instead, it seemed they were short-circuited, kind of like a pinball getting stuck, you can’t control the ball, but your score sky-rockets.
It seemed the electrical charges that normally get distributed throughout your body were gaining momentum in my brain.
The more time that passed, the more electrical impulses seemed to sky-rocket in my brain in conjunction with an increase in the intensity of painnot a favourable score.
My conscious mind would try desperately to depart from this state, only to experience further intensity of pain.

In this state of paralysis I could not breath and my heart raced out of control.
I would be desperately wishing my internal screams could be externalised.
I would be thinking, I know there is someone in the next room that could save me, but cannot be aware of what is going on.
I would lay helpless not being able to speak, knowing that soon my heart would explode, no oxygen would be going to my lungs, and my brain would self-combust at any moment.
So, I would resign myself quietly to an impending death.
Usually, once I resigned myself to death, I would begin to relax, slowly the pain would reduce, and eventually the paralysis would cease, and I’d be able to open my eyes.
At times the trauma of the experience had me in tears, as I was convinced I was about to die a horrible death, not unlike I’d imagine of being buried alive.
Tests concluded that I did not have Epilepsy and that what I was experiencing was a condition called 'Sleep Paralysis'.
I was prescribed with some form of Anti-Depressant, and advised that when I experience these attacks to try not to fight against it, try to relax my body, and it will soon pass.
The Anti-Depressants seemed to work; I rarely had sleep paralysis attacks, and the times I did they were at a reduced intensity. I was able to relax, and they would soon pass.
On some rare occasions, whilst there was a build up of energy in my brain, I was more relaxed, and actually welcoming the increase in pain, an amazing thing happened.
The sensation building became a combination of both pain and exhilaration. An impending death turned into an impending, excuse the language, but it was like a ‘mind-fuck’.
However, these experiences were rare, and I felt that the Anti-Depressants were, well, doing what they were intended for, to reduce the incidence, but also were making me a little numb to reality. I was in my first year at Uni at the time, and friends felt that I was too aloof, detached, and devoid of emotion. Certainly, not the extrovert, and sometimes charismatic person I used to be.
I eventually got off the Anti-Depressants and got back into connecting with Reality. The intensity of the Sleep Paralysis resumed; however, this time I had developed the tools to ensure the episodes were not painful.
I eventually found a way to not only relax during these experiences, but to put myself in a deep meditative state. When I did this I was kind of surrendering my physical reality to a spiritual one; it has a lot to do with humility.
When the energy (mind-fuck) came to a climax I seemed to literally surrender my physical body and this milieu of Energy became Spirit, leaving my body, which has led to a 20 year Journey of Adventures in the Astral.
I really should write a book about it, though I do prefer to keep it to myself. I am sure you have looked into this esoteric, paranormal activity, and I would like to hear your thoughts on the whole matter.
Gary Askwith

reply: My thought is that you should continue to keep your story to yourself if that's what you prefer. I think your interpretation is wrong. OBEs aren't spiritual, in my opinion. You were right to consult a neurologist, even if epilepsy (or sleep paralysis) is not an appropriate diagnosis for you.


26 Jun 2006
This is in response to your articles on alien abduction and sleep paralysis.

Wow! Tonight I just watched an "Is it Real?" show on National Geographic Channel. This one was about UFO's and abductions. Here I learned the term "sleep paralysis" and began researching it.

I will tell you my experience with sleep paralysis.

I am now 38-years-old. I've been having sleep paralysis all my life, starting when I was four-years-old. Sometimes I have several experiences a day. My longest time without an incident was for about 6 months. In total, I've probably had close to a thousand occurrences.

My first experience was during the day. I was laying on a couch in the living room and fell asleep. About an hour later, I woke up and could not move or speak, but my eyes were open and looking directly at a portrait of Jesus Christ in the corner of the house. I was very scared! When I finally was able to move, I just ran pointlessly and found my mom. Breathless, I leaned my head against her and didn't know what to say. It happened a few more times on the same couch, then I decided not to ever fall asleep on that couch anymore. I was scared every time it happened, but not as much as the first time.

The strangest of my experiences happened while I slept under a bamboo bed while my brother slept on the bed. Waking up in total darkness, I first heard a humming noise. Next came a strong violent wind, as if if coming from a powerful electric fan. And I felt like somebody was tickling me. I couldn't laugh, couldn't speak, and couldn't move, but could feel myself being tickled.

Another strange experience was when, after waking up, I saw the figure of my late father. He wasn't speaking or moving, just looking at me. Although I could not see the actual face, I knew it was my father. He had something in his hand as if he wanted to give something to me. I still don't know what it was.

This one was the most embarrassing. I was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and was assigned as guard duty for the tanks motor pool. We took four-hour breaks on every two-hour shift and I was taking advantage of it by trying to get some sleep. I found myself awake, unable to move, trying to move, trying to speak, but instead my attempt to speak came out as if I was moaning. Well, that's according to the other guards on duty. When I was finally free, they were just laughing and to them it seemed as if I was having an orgasm in my sleep.

I've had many, many more experiences. There were a few more times I was tickled, times when I simply just stared, times that someone or something was there, something unseen, and times that I woke my wife from my screaming.

Because of so many occurrences, there were times I was able to just ignore it and simply wait until I was free and able to block any ideas from my mind. I cannot ignore the fact that I'm still scared about 80% of the time it happens. I've always known I'm not alone. Although I did not know the term "sleep paralysis," I have always been told there are many others out there who had these experiences. I believe I've had an unusual number of occurrences but it's nothing to brag about. It is no fun.

Now to my personal opinion what sleep paralysis is. It is my body not waking up in synch with my brain. Because of this, we tend to get scared and crazy ideas enter our minds. We just wake up and it's dark. We don't think at 100% of our capability when we're just waking up and scared. Different cultures, as in other countries have their different interpretation of what causes this. Some say a demon is pressing them down, some say other kinds of monsters or something paranormal is present. In America, some people think it's aliens. I think it's what you make of it; it's in your head. I've had many experiences but they're mostly all different. If aliens are on your mind, then you'll probably think it's aliens. For example, when I saw my father's figure, well, my father had just passed away and he was trying to give me his Bible. When I was young, my brothers and sisters loved to tickle me, which is when most of the tickling experiences happened. When I saw the Jesus portrait, well, it happened to be there in front of me. Sleep paralysis happens but what happens when you wake up is what you make of it. Basically, I think, it's cultural, what is happening around you... all in the head.

Name withheld by request

21 Jul 2005
I was just looking for information on sleep paralysis on the web after watching a program on TV where people were convinced that were being abducted by aliens at night. I was amused by the fact that I had also experienced numerous similar nocturnal events from a very young age which also involved seeing or sensing a presence in the room, hearing sounds etcetera. I was relieved when a Japanese scientist explained that this is called 'kanashibari' (steel bars) in Japan and is a widely acknowledged phenomenon; not seen as paranormal or abnormal.

You are aware of this, no doubt, but what I thought might be an interesting addition to the great info on your site on this subject is that it is in fact a very useful state for artists: especially musicians. (I am a university graduate musician). In this state, all the senses are heightened and the imagination is unfettered by inhibitions and various creative blocks that plague the mind in the completely wakened state. One night years ago, when I was 'caught' in this self-hypnosis I found that I could create and vividly hear music of incredible complexity and beauty. I could listen to full brass sections playing complex harmonies with a piano and and then without any serious effort - I could just 'will it' to happen - and without missing a beat, Introduced a massive cascade of violins and violas, and so forth. All this required no conscious utilization of any theoretical principles I had learned in University. Unfortunately, I have not as of yet been able to retain or compose any of the music I create when in the state, but for me, it is exciting to be so close to what can only be described as the infinite hidden genius of the human mind. Conversely, with so much power at its command, but driven by fear, it is no wonder to me that sleep paralysis leaves some people seriously doubting their sanity, or in some cases driven from it quite completely.

Matthew Sowerby
South Africa

31 Aug 2002

Thank you for your entry on sleep paralysis - the description of this phenomenon exactly parallels an experience I had as a youth, in which I seemed to be unable to move in my bed, yet was "aware" somehow of an evil, buzzing entity in the corner of the room. I've been an agnostic for most of my life, and have never taken this memory at face value, but it's nice to know that other people have had the same experience. I can easily see how someone who already believed in demons, ghosts or aliens could assume he'd been visited. Could you add more to your entry regarding the experiments I saw on a science program (Nova?) in which it was claimed that this state could be induced?

By the way, your website shows an interest in Celtic music. You should point this out when asked how a skeptic can possibly enjoy life. How can one NOT enjoy a life in which one can listen to beauty?

Bryan Haught

sleep paralysis

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