Gina Vaynshteyn
March 09, 2017 11:11 am
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Sleep paralysis, which has been called “the night hag,” and described as “the witch on your chest” (it’s for some reason associated with vilified women, which like, okay patriarchy) is when your brain wakes up from sleeping, but your body hasn’t — so you’re unable to move. Sometimes during these sleep paralysis episodes, you experience spooky hallucinations, and you can’t run away from them because you can’t move! It’s just as terrifying as it sounds!

According to WebMD, sleep paralysis has been linked to genetics, sleep deprivation, and is more likely to occur if you’re stressed out, have bipolar disorder, or suffer from narcolepsy. The first time I experienced sleep paralysis, I had taken a Xanax and fell asleep. I don’t know if it was because it was still light out, but I wasn’t visited by any dementors that time; I just woke up and wasn’t able to budge, no matter how hard I thought about adjusting my arm or head. Everything was the same, I was just frozen. (Side note: It’s not totally uncommon to experience sleep paralysis if you’re taking anxiety meds like Xanax .)

The second time, it happened in the middle of the night (which is pretty rare), and I looked up at my ceiling fan and saw a gigantic spider! I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom, shrieking “AHHHHGHHHH, GIGANTIC SPIDER!” I still sometimes wake up in that in-between sleep state and see spiders crawling on my covers. I turn the light on and force my husband to shake out the comforter to make sure we’re spider-free. We always are — aren’t brains fun?

If you’re one of the lucky ones (less than eight percent of the population experience sleep paralysis regularly, and 28 percent have had at least one episode) who are blessed with sleep paralysis from time to time, then you know these things to be too true:

1. For at least two seconds, you are completely convinced something other-worldly is happening to you, and you’re not sure what this actually says about you as a human being.

Is it a ghost? Is it Slenderman? Is it the manifestations of your doubts and insecurities and deepest fears? Should you see a therapist? Maybe call your mom? IDK, it’s up to you, but doctors consider sleep paralysis to be totally harmless (even if it feels like you’re on the verge of DEATH).

2. Being awake but not being able to move is terrifying and will make you feel like you’re in a scary story.

It’s hard to explain. It’s like you woke up in a coffin, realized you’re in a coffin, and also realized that you won’t be able to escape the coffin because you’re buried now and possibly dead. You feel like you’ll never be able to move again, and you wonder how you can signal to another human that your soul is TRAPPED in your body.

3. The “figures” hovering around you during sleep paralysis come in reoccurring forms.

While spiders are my usual paralysis patronus, last night my brain decided to ~switch things up~ and I saw wispy figures by my bed, like fragments of a person moving right by my arm. I pointedly stared at this lost limb, hoping it would go away if I blinked, but it floated there until I broke out of my weird not-really-sleeping-sleep haze and sat up to assess the situation. Nothing was there.

4. You’re more likely to experience sleep paralysis when you’re falling asleep or waking up.

So if you really want to just catch up on some zzzzs, or you have somewhere to be in the morning and you’re already running late, good luck to ya.

5. Or if you decide to take a nap mid-day.

The people I’ve talked to who have also experienced the phenomenon say that it usually happens to them when they fall asleep during times they normally wouldn’t. Most likely you have the creepy brain-body disconnect during a nap BECAUSE you’re exhausted, not because sleep paralysis has a grudge against naps. Who hates naps?

6. Or if you’re going to bed early, for some reason.

Once again, you’re probably plumb tired! Go to bed early tonight!

7. When you describe sleep paralysis to friends or co-workers, they either think you have way too active of an imagination, or they understand you DEEPLY. It’s us sleep paralysis sleepers versus the world.

It must be strange to listen to a person describe not being able to move their body while a demonic figure creeps up on them. But it’s also such a relief when you find someone who has also experienced the same thing. Creepy sleep disorders love company! You have found your people!

8. Sleep paralysis sometimes makes you wonder if ghosts are real — because the hallucinations are So. Vivid.

There might actually be a ghost in my room. My apartment was built in the 1920s AND I live in Los Angeles, so that’s basically a recipe for #GhostProblems.

9. Sometimes it feels like you can’t breathe very well, which is the scariest of all.

According to South China Morning Post, sleep paralysis can cause some difficulty breathing because it paralyzes your muscles “in the upper airways that causes feelings of choking and suffocation.” Hm, okay, excuse me while I drink a pot of coffee and NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.

10. It’s actually really annoying because you FINALLY fall asleep, only to have ghosts and spiders waltzing around. Rude.

Not only have you been getting no sleep lately, but now you have to deal with hallucinations all up in your business. Sometimes, you’ll be so shook after a sleep paralysis episode, you won’t be able to fall back asleep. UUGHHH.

11. It’s always a menacing figure, too. You never have, like, your nana or Hello Kitty come visit you at night.

Because let’s make this whole thing as scary and eerie as possible!

12. After the first five or so experiences with sleep paralysis, you feel a LITTLE bit calmer when your brain can’t seem to wake your body up.  You’ve been through this rodeo, you’ve got this freaky shit on lockdown.

Just repeat after me, “It’s probably not real.” Sometimes you can even coax yourself to go back to sleep!

13. But a part of you wonders if you truly are experiencing paranormal activity and the government is just trying to shut us all up with “scientific facts” because now you KNOW TOO MUCH.

The truth is out there.

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