What Does Sleep Paralysis Mean?

Updated on May 8, 2019
EvieSparkes profile image

Evie Sparkes is a published novelist, content writer and company director from the UK.

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

It is perfectly normal for our muscles to be paralysed at certain times when we are asleep. Sleep paralysis, however, occurs when the brain and the muscles do not work in harmony causing our muscles to remain relaxed, even when we awake.

I have suffered with this frightening condition for almost twenty years, and to this day, it still scares the life out of me. However, now, I can calm myself and bring myself out of the paralysed state sooner.

What does sleep paralysis feel like?

It's the strangest feeling. You are awake, but you can't move. For me, I see things—mostly people and often demonic creatures. They are completely real to me, and I can really see them; I am not just dreaming them. I am hallucinating, I suppose. It's terrifying in any case. I feel gripped with terror for around twenty seconds until I realize what it is and tell myself to move. I try—unsuccessfully—for a couple of seconds, but eventually, I am able to move my limbs.

I generally scare the hell out of my husband because I always let out an ear-piercing scream.

Sometimes, I see people but can move. I once sat up and looked right at a young boy who was sitting at the foot of my bed! I am not sure if this is the same condition, but it did feel just as terrifying. I find myself looking at whoever it is, and then I scream the house down before leaping out of bed. I once leapt out and landed on an open suitcase and cut my leg very badly.

How to Cope With an Attack

The very best thing you can do is to be fascinated by it. You are experiencing something bizarre and almost paranormal. You are awake, yet you are not. Your brain is awake, but your body is sleeping. I have started to deal with it this way.

I don't get an attack very often. I get a few of them on the trot if I am under too much stress. When my Dad was ill and subsequently died, I had three attacks in as many weeks, and that is a lot for me. Once, I was apparently screaming like crazy, but I couldn't remember it the next day.

The terrorizing feeling is horrible, so what you are looking for is calm. Easier said than done, I know. It has taken me a while to get there. I find it easier to be calm when I see people that are not monstrous. The thing is, when they are horrifying, my brain takes a while to tell my mouth to stop yelling like a lunatic.

Actually, it scares my husband so much that sometimes, he shouts at me and that stresses me out even more.

Surely You're Asleep, Aren't You?

No. Technically, I am not asleep. Nor am I awake. If you've even seen the show Stranger Things, you'll get this. I'm in the "in-between." My mind feels lucid and as awake as ever, but my body is frozen.

How Can I Prevent Sleep Paralysis From Occurring?

The most important factor here is to make sure you are getting plenty of sleep on a nightly basis. Do whatever you can to reduce your stress levels, especially just before you retire to bed. You might try some different sleeping positions. I find mine they occur less frequently when I sleep on my side, and they don't last as long either.

I also take herbal sleeping tablets from time to time if I am a bit stressed or anxious, and it gives me a much more relaxed and unbroken sleep. I hear they are good for snoring too, although, as far as I am aware, I don't suffer with that condition! You should definitely talk to your doctor before trying any medications or supplements.

What Causes It?

  • Not getting enough sleep in general
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • A family history of sleep paralysis
  • Sleeping on your back (which I do to prevent creases in my skin!)
  • Stress and anxiety

When to See Your GP

  • If you are feeling incredibly anxious about going to bed because you are scared of suffering an attack.
  • If you are experiencing a lot of attacks, and your sleep is affected so much that you are unable to function efficiently the following day.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

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      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        3 months ago

        Hi Evie, I'm glad you experienced this because I find it really difficult to explain to people (funny looks). However, now I can tell them that guess what I'm not the only one. Actually having this knowledge doesn't make it as frightening - I'm even curious now. Thanks for your reply.

      • EvieSparkes profile imageAUTHOR

        Evie Sparkes 

        3 months ago

        Hi Lorna, yes I've experienced hands on me too. I think this condition might explain people that think they've had experiences with aliens! It seems so real at the time.

      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        3 months ago

        Hi Evie, I found this article fascinating and it explains a lot. This has happened to me a few times, usually if I am stressed or sleep on my back. I saw demon- like creatures and one was actually holding my hand really tightly. I do have a vivid imagination, however, it was so real to me and really frightening. I tend to meditate before sleeping which helps to clear my mind. Thank you for sharing such an interesting topic.

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