How do you sleep at night? Are you comfortable or do you experience the stress and anxiety of the day coming down upon you? Does your mind race or does it calm down to prepare for rest? Do you sleep in the dark or with a light? However you choose to sleep, sleep is supposed to be a peaceful “journey” for the heart, soul, and mind to de-stress from the daily activities and heal your mind for the next day’s activities. Sleep is not supposed to disrupt your life but heal and mend the body for the future. But sadly, many people struggle with sleep – not just falling asleep and staying asleep, but experiencing the process of sleep without stress and anxiety. For example, sleep disorders such as narcolepsy or insomnia can create a great deal of stress for the sleeper. In many other cases, sleep disorders, also known as parasomnias, can create some of the most frightening symptoms ever experienced. This article will explore and discuss 2 hallucinations that often affect the individual before falling asleep and during the process of transitioning to a sleep state and a wakeful state.
Sleep paralysis has been defined as a temporary state of being that includes an inability to move or speak, primarily during the few minutes when you are transitioning from the sleep/dream state into full consciousness. There have been stories from people who experience sleep paralysis of not being able to ask for help or reach out to someone sleeping next to or around them. Some people report being fully aware of their surroundings and yet, not being able to come out of the state of paralysis or even call for help. It has been defined as a very frightening experience that affects adults of any age. Some research claims that about 3 million cases of sleep paralysis occur every year. Multiple theories have been discussed in both mainstream society and the religious society. In mainstream society, sleep paralysis is a medical condition that seems to be connected to the brain and the sleep/wake cycle. From the religious realm, sleep paralysis is viewed as a spiritual attack from the devil or demons. The experience is awful for some, but many report feeling as if something is suffocating them, preventing them for screaming for help, sitting on their chest, or that there is an evil spirit in the room.
Sleep paralysis can occur during the time when you are falling asleep or waking up but most people seem to experience it before waking up. Sadly, many people who struggle with sleep paralysis also experience hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there). Some people report seeing animals, geometric shapes, deceased loved ones or friends, and even spirits/demons/angels. Having experienced an episode of sleep paralysis as an adolescent, I can tell you that it is a very frightening and earth shattering experience. It is as if you are in a completely different world where no one can help you because you can’t even call for help. It is important to not that sleep paralysis is not a nightmare or a bad dream that is difficult to wake from. Rather, it is a state of existence where you may or may not be able to sense what is around you and that prevents you from deciphering reality vs. fiction (due to the brief hallucinations). With bad dream or nightmares, hallucinations do not occur and when awakened, the individual is able to fall asleep and return to normal sleep patterns. With sleep paralysis, the individual may fall asleep again and experience sleep paralysis all over again.
There are 2 hallucinations that are frequent in sleep paralysis:
- Hypnogogic: This kind of hallucination occurs during falling asleep. During this stage of sleep, the body relaxes and the mind enters into a sleep state. During this sleep state, you are getting comfortable and the body begin to enter into a light sleep state. Your heart rate slows down and your temperature drop. Think of this stage as the stage at which you prepare for deeper levels of sleep. Individuals with sleep paralysis often see geometric shapes, animals, objects, and spirits during this stage.
- Hypnopompic: This is the state of sleep where you begin to dream and experience deep sleep (or REM- rapid eye movement). If you begin to wake up during the last few minutes of REM sleep, you may begin to notice things in the room that are not there. You also may notice that you are unable to move.
What are your experiences with sleep? Do you sleep well or do you suffer? Do you know someone with sleep paralysis? Do you think sleep paralysis is something spiritual?
As always, I wish you well.
Mental Health Blog. (2015). Hypnopompic Hallucinations: Causes, Types, & Treatments. Retrieved online on 1/12/2016 from, http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/05/18/hypnopompic-hallucinations-causes-types-treatment/.
Mental Health Blog. (2015). Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Treatments, & Symptoms. Retrieved online on 1/13/2016 from, http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/05/07/sleep-paralysis-causes-symptoms-treatment/.
Webmd. (2015). Sleep paralysis: Demon in the bedroom. Retrieved online on 1/12/2016 from, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/sleep-paralysis-demon-in-the-bedroom?page=2.