The following article can be written in two ways, one is a scientific approach based on studies and the science about why sleep paralysis happens, or the other is about what the recipient of this strange sleeping disorder goes through on one of those nights; I think I will focus more on the second way…
However before the fun we need to look in to what sleep paralysis actually is. It is a sleeping disorder that has happened to, on average, one out of ten people, however where some get it a mere few times in their life, others will get it on a regular occurrence. The ideology behind it is that your body is meant to be asleep (hence the paralysis) but your mind isn’t; thus incurring potential terrifying dreams that seem incredibly real. However for those who go through it on a regular occurrence, you will understand that you are in a dream but the intensity of it still makes it extremely scary, although on these occasions you can begin to control them. It is quite common that people experience it in their lifetime however a rare few experience it on a very regular occurrence, and as one of those people here is my account on the last few years of my life in regards to sleep paralysis.
As a regular recipient of this strange sleeping condition I will try explain the extent of how it actually feels. One of the most interesting comparisons I found was when I watched Paranormal Activity. I felt like the paranormal happenings in that movie where extremely similar to how I would describe the dream. The old medieval approach was that it was a demon holding you down, and when I read that analogy I could relate to that significantly.
The first time it happened I was nothing short of petrified as I had never experienced it before, and unlike a nightmare it was very clear and I seemed to lose all control of my breathing pattern, my heart rate shot up, and I was unable to move in spite of the fact that my mind was telling me that this is what is happening and I needed to get up. I eventually after a few seconds, managed to gain control of my body, and found that my heart was beating extremely quickly and I had a horrific headache. As I realised that I was now fully awake I felt a strange feeling of fear over me that firstly felt like my heart was going to give up on me, and secondly that was by no means like any other dream I have had before; however me being me, I kept it to myself and carried on with my life; however I had to go to bed every night thinking my heart may give up on me if it happens again and this caused a lot of sleepless nights and distress.
It then happened again, and again after, however now it wasn’t just my body paralysed as I was trying to wake up, it started to become more vivid and was fully mixing with my dreams. The strangest part was that it was often the same dream and before doing any research on the matter started to think I was possessed. The reason I felt this though was that my mind was telling me that a young pale girl with dark hair was storming in to my room every time it happened and screaming things that I couldn’t make out. Obviously looking back I can see that it was just my mind however it felt scarily real. What made the dreams seem so real, and this is the main correlation with the film Paranormal Activity is that I always knew where I was and who was around me. If I was in my bed with the television on, then when she stormed in and I was going through sleep paralysis I could see that it was my room and the television was on, I also knew if my curtains were shut and so on. However I put this down to familiarity as I often had the tv on when I was going to sleep, and I usually shut my curtains. However it got stranger when I stayed at my girlfriends or stayed at someone else’s house, as when it was happening in other people’s houses I was seeing the girl storm in screaming in there house, and if my girlfriend was next to me I would often try (but fail) to shout her name to help me. Thus I began to think I am being followed as I was clearly able to focus on what was going on around me whilst I was dreaming, I was also still putting horrible pressure on my heart as it was struggling to cope with the sheer panic I was battling.
As it began to happen quite often I began to be able to control the dreams in a small way. As they were happening I was able to tell my body to wake up and to try and relax myself as much as possible including calming my breathing down. This meant I was gaining a slight advantage over a disorder that I found absolutely terrifying originally, however where as originally I thought that I was in some sort of horror story I now felt like it was simply my mind playing games and I could in fact defeat it. The reason this came about was because I began to research all the facts about it and see what it was linked to, one of the main problems it is linked to is anxiety, the emphasis on a condition like anxiety is very fitting to how the dream feels, and the second you reassure you that everything will be okay, then that is when you can relax and wake up.
The problems did not stop there, as I began to get mentally stronger in regards to the waking up, the sleep paralysis then got a lot stronger, and I now was finding the dreams a lot more vivid and intimidating. A very deep but loud voice, that sounded like an old man was shouting, now began to yell intimidating stuff into my ears, and the sheer pressure of this was really taken its toll on my ability to stay calm, my heart was now beating quicker than ever, and this disturbing voice was causing me huge pressure and anxiety as I really began to struggle with a disorder that I felt could take over my whole life. I still managed to wake myself up, but this time I would wake up confused with a pounding headache. The pain was getting a lot worst and I was now really struggling with it.
What followed next was the strangest feeling I have had about sleep paralysis, I began to crave it. I have some people who are very interested in it and have witnessed me wake up in a bit of a state, and thus they would talk to me about it, however I was going through a phase where I wasn’t really experiencing it and actually felt like I was missing it. Normal dreaming did not seem interesting anymore and I was actually beginning to miss the combination of surrealism and reality in my dreams regardless of how distressed they were making me. I think that the dreams stopped as I was no longer going to be tired and I was only working part time and I was getting a lot of sleep; I usually got sleep paralysis when I was very tired and this prevented me from sleeping more and caused distress.
When it once again returned I began to lose track of when I was actually awake. I was going through sleep paralysis and I was waking myself up as usual, however this time it was in fact more tricks being played by my mind. I was still hearing the deep voice of an elderly man, and I was being haunted by a young gothic girl, but when I was waking up I was actually still in my sleep trance and ended up repeating this false feeling around five to ten times a night. When I eventually woke up and got my grasp of reality back, my brain felt like it had a needle poking at it, and I felt extremely weak and tired. The only way to break the sleep paralysis was to get up and go for a walk in the house, and get some food and drink; if I just woke up and went back to bed I would on most occasions just go through the same terrifying experience again.
Sleep paralysis still has a huge influence over my sleep, I have began research and even gone to the doctors however most answers I find are based around being able to compose yourself, and there is no real cure to helping this condition disappear. One thing that puts me at ease is that other people do suffer from it, and thankfully it is not based around being possessed as was the old teachings, and the feeling you initially get. It is an absolutely terrifying sleep process, however I feel that reading about it and not being afraid to come out and tell people about the experiences really has helped me to learn to deal with it slightly better. It’s dark, it’s scary and it’s strangely real and because of this I will never fully understand how you go through such accuracy in your brain and how you can learn to control your thoughts to a certain extent. If anyone goes through anything similar or just wants to learn more, I fully invite you to come forward and talk about it. For years it has been my Paranormal Activity, and I fully encourage anyone to share their experiences.