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sleep paralysis

Sleep paralysis is a condition that occurs in the state just before"The Nightmare" by Johann Heinrich Fussli, 1781 dropping off to sleep (the hypnagogic state) or just before fully awakening from sleep (the hypnopompic state). The condition is characterized by being unable to move or speak. It is often associated with a feeling that there is some sort of presence, a feeling which often arouses fear but is also accompanied by an inability to cry out. The paralysis may last only a few seconds. The experience may involve visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations. The description of the symptoms of sleep paralysis is similar to the description many alien abductees give in recounting their abduction experiences. Sleep paralysis is thought by some to account for not only many alien abduction delusions, but also ghost sightings and delusions involving paranormal or supernatural experiences (e.g., incubus and succubus).

Sleep paralysis is something many people experience once or twice in a lifetime but it is a frequent occurrence of those suffering from narcolepsy.

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further reading


Dement, William C. The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep (Dell Books, 2000).

Hufford, David J. The Terror That Comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989).


Sleep Paralysis Page

Web MD on Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment by Alina Bradford, Live Science

Sleep Paralysis and Associated Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic Experiences

Isolated Sleep Paralysis: A Web Survey by Giorgio Buzzi and Fabio Cirignotta

Abduction by Aliens or Sleep Paralysis? Susan Blackmore

Waking Up to Sleep Paralysis by Chris Mooney

My experience with sleep paralysis by Anonymous

Sleep disorders by Dr Alison Bentley, School of Physiology, Wits University, South Africa

Dr. William C. Dement's page on sleep paralysis

'Alien abductees' suffer post-traumatic stress

Old Hag Syndrome

Sleeping with the Light On - the paranormal in Iceland


The waking nightmare of sleep paralysis Around one in 20 people report experiencing associated symptoms, including a strong sense of a presence, difficulty breathing due to pressure on the chest, intense fear, and a wide range of hallucinations.

Last updated 29-Jun-2015

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