Paralyzed at Night: Is Sleep Paralysis Normal?

Written by Kevin Morton, with contributions from Sean Mandell, Winter 2010

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Sleep Essentials Master

Have you ever woken up from sleep only to discover that you cannot move a muscle? With the exception of maybe your eyes and your breathing, you find yourself virtually frozen in bed. For some this situation is then made exponentially worse by hallucinations that manifest in their surroundings, threatening them while they cannot even muster a scream.

Such experiences are caused by what's known as sleep paralysis (or SP), a phenomenon that occurs every night in the typical sleeper to prevent him or her from acting out dreams during REM sleep (more on this below). When this paralysis outlasts sleep, as it sometimes can, you get instances like those described above. Waking up to SP can be an extraordinarily frightening situation, as you might know from personal experience or can tell from the personal stories on this page, but rest assured that it is not uncommon and typically not a cause for too much concern.

Quick Terminology Clarifications:

While sleep paralysis occurs in the typical sleeper virtually every night, the phrase itself has become synonymous with the experiences that can more precisely be referred to as awareness during sleep paralysis (ASP), or isolated sleep paralysis (iSP).

Sleep paralysis episodes can also more rarely be a sign of the sleep disorder narcolepsy, and in these cases it is no longer referred to as isolated. Narcolepsy itself is another fascinating sleep disorder, involving patients suffering attacks of REM sleep unexpectedly at various times during the day, and you can learn more about it by clicking it's link in this paragraph.

Despite being associated sometimes with narcolepsy though, awareness during sleep paralysis happens quite frequently in even the most normal of sleepers. In fact, it is said that over 50% of people will experience at least one episode of ASP during their lifetime.

To emphasize this commonality, if you experience left-over sleep paralysis when coming out of sleep it is typically not a cause for concern, even if it is extremely frightening.

To understand why this is, lets take a look at the mechanisms that cause this phenomenon. Knowing the simple science behind ASP can really empower you to a much calmer state of mind during your next episode.

The Causes of Sleep Paralysis

What causes sleep paralysis? To answer this question it's necessary for you to know a bit about REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the stage of sleep where most of your dreams occur. Every night during REM sleep the body shuts down virtually all muscle activity to prevent you from acting out those dreams. Your brain is extraordinarily active as you dream, as you might be able to imagine if you think about the complex environments and actions it is conjuring. The only thing that prevents your body from moving to carry out the scene your brain is living is a mechanism that kicks in to paralyze it.

This mechanism is referred to as REM atonia, or REM sleep paralysis. Very rarely, this mechanism can malfunction in some people with a condition that's quite the opposite of ASP known as REM sleep behavior disorder (or RBD). People with RBD often thrash around (or even walk and sometimes even drive!) in a manner that corresponds with what's happening in their dream world. In other words, they act out their dreams, because the paralysis that should be there during the dream is not. You can learn more about RBD and some of the complexities in life it brings up here.

Sleep Paralysis Causes Sleep paralysis occurs when the REM atonia that normally paralyzes your body during REM sleep spills over slightly into wakefulness, as demonstrated by the section of the pink paralysis bar that overlaps with the green wakefulness bar above.

On the other end of the spectrum, occasionally this REM atonia can work too well, in a sense, and trickle over into the waking state for a short period. This is exactly what is believed to happen in instances of awareness during sleep paralysis, and you can see a visual representation of this explanation in the image to the left.

It is not uncommon to be temporarily paralyzed upon waking up from a dream if the brain is slower than normal to let the muscles be reactivated. If this is the case, and lingering SP does not occur with extreme regularity, then it is completely harmless. Some peoples' bodies occasionally just take a bit longer to disarm their atonia.

However, experiencing sleep paralysis at the start of sleep (sleep onset REM) can also be a sign of narcolepsy, if it occurs on a frequent basis. If you think this may describe you, read more about the other signs of narcolepsy and consider consulting a doctor or sleep specialist about it.

In addition and more commonly, cases of isolated sleep paralysis (SP without the narcolepsy) can occur with enough regularity to really disrupt the sleep and state of mind of individuals. If this is the case for you and you are experiencing iSP quite frequently, you definitely want to look into the treatment insights we offer below.

Before we get into those though, let's spend some time first delving into the hallucinations that sometimes occur alongside SP and make it truly one of the most bizarre and intriguing states of our existence.

Visions and Hallucinations During SP

The creation of terrifying combinations of the dream world and the waking world.

The Old Hag

Have you ever heard the phrase Old Hag Syndrome? Interestingly enough, the hallucination of an old hag sitting on one's chest has been common enough for this phrase to spring up as a synonomous alternative to sleep paralysis.

Due to various recurrent themes in the hallucinations, other cultures throughout history have also referred to SP by all sorts of different names, such as the "Kanashibari" (retaliating spirit) in Japan, "Phi um" (enveloping ghost) in Thailand, or the "Hauka'I po" (night marchers) in Hawaii.

It is estimated that somewhere around 1 in 5 isolated sleep paralysis experiences are accompanied by dream-like hallucinations, almost always manifesting in negative or frightening forms, projected on the hallucinater's actual physical surroundings.

Witches, demons, thieves, and rapists occupy the room with the paralyzed individuals, sometimes speaking to them, threatening them, or even touching them in extraordinarily life-like manners.

One can perhaps imagine very few things more terrifying than being completely unable to move, talk, or even scream while an intruder--whether human, demon, witch, or some other nefarious menace--roams about your room while you're awake. As long-time dream researcher Ryan Hurd remarks in his book about conquering sleep paralysis, "Terror is not too strong a word to use here, because it seems as if nothing can be done."

It sounds crazy perhaps if you've never experienced it before, but even taking a brief look at some of the visitor-submitted sleep paralysis stories we've received on this site below will quickly contextualize things and give you a sense of how prevalent this actually is.

A Few Stories Of Sleep Paralysis Hallucinations

The following stories are personal accounts submitted by other visitors to this page using the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story of your own, you can share it with us there as well.

Scared to Sleep   I consider myself a normal 42 yr. old female, other than my lack of healthy and restful sleep. I have suffered from Sleep Paralysis since I was 15 yrs....

Just Discovering What's Been Up Lately With Me - Sleeping Paralysis  I think I have been experiencing sleep paralysis since I was 5 years old--at least that is the earliest episode I can remember. I was laying in my bed,...

Mortal Fear  A Sleep Paralysis Story -- I woke up...and I heard a witch who was repeating that: "You can't wake up, I'm going to kill you..". I was trying to move,...

Sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, and hypnopompic imagery  I am 34 years old, and I have been experiencing sleep paralysis / lucid dreaming / hypnopompic imagery episodes for over 20 years. Years ago I was ...

Sleep Paralysis Hallucinations The well-known 18th century painting "The Nightmare" by Henri Fuseli depicts what very likely is a sleep paralysis hallucination (or maybe a night terror). An incubus, or male demon, sits on the paralyzed woman's chest, applying the pressure that is so often felt there during sleep paralysis episodes.

It's amazing what kind of projections the brain can conjur, and these hallucinations have given SP a bit of infamy in various literatures and art throughout history, as well as given rise to all sorts of myths and superstitions about what sleep paralysis actually is. Some cultures have ascribed it as an act of the Devil, other individuals think aliens are involved, etc.

But the fact is, these visions are by far one of the most misunderstood aspects of sleep-related things. Some people are fast to ascribe supernatural explanations to things they can't yet explain well otherwise. But let's take a brief look at what science has to say.

Why Sleep Paralysis Hallucinations Occur

Beyond some logical connections we can make between SP and the dream world, the precise nature of SP apparitions remains one of the biggest mysteries in dream research. The visions experienced during sleep paralysis are known as hypnagogic hallucinations (HH), or more precisely, if they occur upon awakening, hypnopompic hallucinations.

After reading the causes of sleep paralysis section above, we can understand how closely tied SP is to REM sleep. We also understand that REM sleep is the time of the night where our most vivid dreams occur. In episodes of ASP, our wakefulness intrudes on REM sleep in a way that doesn't fully extinguish the REM (hence the paralyzation).

Our eyes are often open but we are still immersed in ways in the dream state. The fact that we can perceive our surroundings enables us to project parts of a dream outward onto the actual physical space around us.

Additionally, the part of the brain that is most responsible for the intense emotions we feel, the amygdala, is already heightened from our dream state during sleep, possibly contributing to the ease at which our fears and terrors are projected during these hypnagogic hallucinations.

These connections between the dream world and our waking state during ASP make a ton of sense intuitively, but of course there's a lot more room for further verifiable explanation as to the exactness of how sleep paralysis hallucinations occur. If you're interested in learning about further explanations, Ryan Hurd, definitely the closest thing to a sleep paralysis expert I've ever come across, brings together a host of psychological and dream studies theories in the second section of his book Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide (follow the link to my review).

The book is also centered around treating and taking control of your sleep paralysis, which is what we'll turn to next.

Sleep Paralysis Treatment

Sleep paralysis can feel like the most helpless thing in the world. You suddenly can't move, if you're frightened you can't scream or call for help, strange sensations (pressure, vibrations, etc.) may overcome your body, and if your episode is one of the 1 in 5 that comes with a dream hallucination you could have a nightmarish figure posing a terrifying threat to you.

Up until recently there really wasn't much grounded advice on how to do anything else besides cope with the experiences. But dream researcher and educator Ryan Hurd has recently changed all that. His downloadable book, pictured at right, offers 102 pages of groundbreaking insight into how you can take control of your sleep paralysis, with insights and advice based in Ryan's own extensive experience with iSP (he's been battling it for 20 years, since he was a teenager) and an extraordinary collection of research and citations.

You can learn more about the book from my review of it here, or go straight ahead to get the book directly from Ryan's online storefront.


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Have You Ever Experienced Sleep Paralysis?

Have you ever woken up to sleep paralysis before? Did it feel like something or someone was holding you down? Or maybe you experienced a bit of dream imagery while you were paralyzed? In any case, sleep paralysis can be quite the experience, and we'd like to hear about it.

Share your story with us and our visitors below--your insight could aid others who can relate to what you have experienced.

Enter the Title of Your Story (ex: "Can't....Move....Ahh!")

Read Other Sleep Paralysis Stories

Click on the links below to read stories of others that have experienced sleep paralysis. They were all written by other visitors to this page, just like you.

My Sleep Paralysis Taken To A Whole New Level 
Never had givin much thoughts to all this because I remember having many nightmares as a child. Now that it is starting to happen to me as an adult at …

Paranormal or Sleep Paralysis? 
Seems a lot of people are having the same experiences or at least very close to what I have had. The feeling of something climbing on your bed, feeling …

I Thought I Was Going Insane... 
I've never felt this before and am so comforted to know it's not uncommon. Last night, after having just drifted off to sleep, I dreamed that I was speaking …

It Has Never Felt So Real Before... SP With OBE 
This started out by happening about twice last year in 2010 and now in 2011 it happens about once a month. To tell you the truth I thought I was going …

Terror In The Night 
I experienced episodes of altered perception since I was a toddler (I’m 20 now). Sometimes the room would be immensely big, sometimes very small. There …

First Experience with sleep paralysis...terrifying  
I was having a normal dream and I was talking to someone, I'm not sure who, but I said something about a little girl who's name was Monica but then I realized …

It Sucks, But It's Ok: Lifelong Sleep Paralysis Observations 
As long as I can remember I've had episodes of sleep paralysis . I had no idea that sleep paralysis was even a condition until a few years back. When …

Can't Scream For Help 
I had a seizure a few years back, so when I first started telling my mother about these episodes, she thought I might be having them in my sleep. The …

I'm Screaming, But Apparently Not 
In my 19 years I've had this happen to me on numerous occasions. I first remember it happening when I was eight and it has happened a few times since …

Sleep Deprived Mom Experiencing Sleep Paralysis 
My son is 6 weeks old and needless to say I haven't gotten much sleep. The night before my sleep paralysis experience, I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep. …

Buzzzing 
When I was in college, I didn't know what was happening, was I abducted by aliens? If I let the "buzzing" overtake me, I would be paralyzed and frightened. …

Should have taken the damn strawberry 
Well then here's a good story. Literally had already 2 attacks tonight. the first one just sounded like someone broke into my house and was running down …

Sleep Paralysis Information Please! 
I'm not sure if I have suffered from sleep paralysis or not but what I've experienced seems to match exactly what everyone is talking about. Last …

Call On Jesus 
I've experienced this many times in my life. Unable to move, hearing an evil laugh or being touched. At first I'm unable to speak, but I keep calling out …

I Thought I Was Possessed - Don't Open Your Eyes 
I must've dozed off that night. When I opened my eyes I felt tired and heavy. It seemed that I woke up in the middle of the night. I wanted to get up but …

Couldn't Move, Heard A Drilling Noise, And Saw A "Ghost" 
I'm 27 and have never experienced sleep paralysis , but last night I went to bed at an "early" time for me (9:30pm). Around 3am I perceived that I was …

I Don't Find Sleep Paralysis Frightening... 
Interestingly enough, I've only ever had sleep paralysis when waking up from a nap, but never when waking up in the morning. Every time it's happened, …

Positive Stories About Sleep Paralysis?? 
I started to experience sleep paralysis in my teens. I'm in my early 30's now. At the time I didn't know what it was and what caused it but I have to …

5 to 8 Hours of Sleep Paralysis a Day 
Most of the articles I've read about Sleep Paralysis (falsely) assure the reader that the inability to move doesn't last very long. Mine may run only …

Intense Sleep Paralysis 
I'm 19, and when I was 17 I went to work at a Kenyan orphanage for a month. One night, I woke up and saw many of the children in the room with me (they …

Stuck In Sleep Paralysis 
I'm 18 years old and for a few years I have been experiencing sleep paralysis , however I don't have visions. I feel as though I am awake and no matter …

A Man In The Doorway 
I'm 17 currently, but the very first time sleep paralysis happened to me was last year, while I was still 16. I woke up randomly, and was frozen. …

Important Question For You Guys - PLEASE Read & Respond 
So after reading these & writing a post - its obvious that we're all having the same thing going on. Growing up - my favorite movies ever were (and still …

Red Eyed Demon 
I have suffered sleep paralysis before just after i had my baby due to sleep deprivation i think! I kept thinking there was a ghost in my room and …

Click here to write your own.

Thank God I Found This 
I'll write more tomorrow because I'm too exhausted at the moment. I'm petrified to sleep - it's getting worse & worse every single night - harder & harder …

Unseen Demonic Force Attacked Me! 
I am a strong Christian i have a deep realtionship with God and offen have mystical experiences this one was terrible. it was during the day i felt weak …

Paranormal Or Not? 
I'm 16 years old and have often woken up to find myself unable to move or speak. First of all I have been having problems sleeping for months now, where …

I'm Stuck, I Can't Move, All I Can Do Is Make A Soft Noise 
I'm presently twenty years of age and since as far back as I can remember whenever I would wake up from a good night's rest and fall back to sleep I would …

Alien Abduction 
I had been sleeping most of the day that day, and so i didn't fall asleep until around 230 only to wake up at 3:13 to realize that i had just had a really …

ATTACK of the DEMONS - Sleep Paralysis Throughout Cultures 
Surprisingly, though, is the consistency of such reports made by societies and cultures with no previous knowledge of each other or their lore. The main …

Frightening! Body Lifting Out Of Bed 
I am 15 years old and have always had trouble getting to sleep straightaway. I have experianced sp before.. it is a horrible experiance. Last night i experianced …

Being Held Down (Terrifying) 
I have had too many episodes of s/p to remember them all, however my most recent episode was two nights ago as i was drifting off to sleep, suddenly …

Four Times In The Same Night, All Of Them Different 
I'm 14 yrs. old now. I don't know how to exactly say it but... This sleep paralysis has happened to me, only I'm not afraid of it. The first time: …

Am I The Only One Who Enjoys Sleep Paralysis? 
Hi There! My name is Christina, I'm 30 years old and I have had sleep paralysis episodes since I was 14 years old. They first started a couple of …

Strange Sleeping Experiences 
Hi All, I've had these strange experiences for years but I really thought that they were either stress related or it was just something supernatural …

How Do I Tell My Parents? 
One week ago I experience a sleep paralysis, at first I thought it was a nightmare or it was pressure from my school work until I kept getting it often. …

Sleep Paralysis Misdiagnosed As Sleep Apnea 
I've been living with sleep paralysis since I was a little girl. But of course at the time I didn't know what was wrong with me -- all I knew was that …

I Know They Aren't Real 
I am a multi-published speculative fiction author and I have a very vivid imagination. When the hallucinations started, I really thought I was losing touch …

Shadow People and Dark Demonic Entities During Sleep Paralysis 
{Editor's Note: While many religious and spiritual explanations for sleep paralysis can be found on this visitor-submitted post and within its comments, …

Evil Presence In The Room 
I had another episode last night. Now that I am 36 they happen less often. My mind wakes up but my body cannot move. The air in the room feels different, …

Increasing Frequency of Sleep Paralsis 
I have had a few experiences with SP as a teenager but never frequent enough to really cause me to notice. Most of my unusual dreams at the time had …

Anyone else hear the buzzing? 
I don't know that I've ever had sleep paralysis happen at night. Maybe once or twice in the morning. But when I experience it the most is when I take naps …

Recurring Sleep Paralysis Dream  
I have had a recurring "dream" since I was about 14 or so (I am now 38 yrs old). Every time this occurs, I feel like I am awake but in a dreamlike state. …

Weird Dream-like State Right After Sleep Onset 
Occasionally (a few times per year) after what seems like only minutes after going to bed I will have an intense sensation (I assume a dream-state) of …

Wind-Like Paralysis - What Happened To Me!? 
My name is Kaitlin, I am 15 years old and I am from Australia. Last night I woke up at almost 1:00am. I turned on my light, sat up and checked the time …

Very Interesting Sleep Paralysis Experience 
My name is Joe, I just had my second experience with Sleep Paralysis last night. I remember having a similar experience several months ago but I didn't …

Wiggle your toes... 
I get sleep paralysis pretty often and have stopped being freaked out by it. When I realize what's happening I just slowly start trying to wiggle my …

Wrestling With The Unseen - My Body Falling Asleep But My Mind 100% Awake 
A story of sleep paralysis | Read more stories here One Sunday afternoon on a bright beautiful day, I went in my bedroom to get some comfortable …

Sleep paralysis, lucid dreaming, and hypnopompic imagery 
I am 34 years old, and I have been experiencing sleep paralysis / lucid dreaming / hypnopompic imagery episodes for over 20 years. Years ago I was …

Click here to write your own.

My Sleep Paralysis - Panic and Trouble Breathing Before Learning To Relax 
I get Sleep Paralysis from time to time. In most cases, for some reason I get it when I'm trying to go to sleep when I'm not tired. I have experienced …

SP Happens To Me All The Time... Using Prayer To Overcome The Fear! 
Hi there. I experience sleep paralysis on a relatively regular basis. Most of the time, my body just becomes paralysed while my mind is fully alert, …

Bleeding Walls, And Conversations With The Devil In Black 
For a long period of time I was very stressed and unhappy with my life. During this period of time very often I would wake up completely immobile , and …

Terrifying Experiences of ASP 
I experience ASP ( admin: awareness during sleep paralysis ) on a somewhat regular basis and I'd truly like to understand it more. It's made my sleep …

Thought I Was Alone In This! 
I am doing research on sleep disorders for my psychology class and came upon one of the stories posted here. It was exactly what had happened to me only …

I Know I'm Awake 
I was sleeping at a friend's house that I had never been to. We were planning on holding a paranormal investigation because of some strange goings on …

Can't Move, Can't Talk, Can't SCREAM...Im Scared To Sleep! 
My Name is Meghan. I have been experiencing episodes that I now think I can link to sleep paralysis . I have yet to figure out if I'm actually dreaming …

Just Discovering What's Been Up Lately With Me - Sleeping Paralysis 
I think I have been experiencing sleep paralysis since I was 5 years old--at least that is the earliest episode I can remember. I was laying in my bed, …

SP - It's So Scary 
Hello, My name is Gloria and I'm 17. When I first experienced SP I was 15 and I was sleeping next to my mother due to family staying at my house. As …

What Do You Hear During Sleep Paralysis? 
Kevin's Response: Hey Hue, thanks for the question. What people hear during an episode of sleep paralysis varies completely, from nothing at all to terrifying, …

Mortal Fear 
A Sleep Paralysis Story I woke up...and I heard a witch who was repeating that: "You can't wake up, I'm going to kill you..". I was trying to move, …

Two Sleep Paralysis Experiences In The Same Night 
It was a normal day and this was the first time it ever happened to me. I didn't do anything out of routine. I went to sleep that night at about 10:30 …

Scared to Sleep  
I consider myself a normal 42 yr. old female, other than my lack of healthy and restful sleep. I have suffered from Sleep Paralysis since I was 15 yrs. …

Sleep Paralysis: ALL OF MY LIFE!!! 
I am a 26 year old male. I have been fighting with sleep paralysis since I was 5 years old. In my search for answers I began researching the web. I …

Confused and Paralyzed During Dreams While Waking Up 
I don't know how to explain it, but a few times I have dreamt that I am laying there awake and paralyzed or keep going in and out of dreams, but I don't …

Is Sleep Paralysis Linked To Sleep Apnoea? 
What a great site!! I've just been reading about Sleep Paralysis and it mentions Narcolepsy . I'll have a look at that, but it's actually Sleep Apnoea …

Witnessed My Own REM Sleep 
I had a disturbing dream of an elderly voice calling on the phone, repeating the phrase “hello? hello? somebody there? hello?” (only in my native language, …

I Am On The Inside Looking Out!! 
I came home after yet another grueling day, in the middle class labor work force. I got home had supper with my wife and then decided to relax on the sofa …

Multiple SP Incidences In One Night... 
I remember this moment because it was wildly different from my previous episodes in that I had about five or six experiences every time I closed my eyes; …

The World That "WAS" 
I have had these experiences off and on since I was like, 10 years old, but my most recent experience was different from the rest. I just had a baby …

My Boyfriend Calls It The Sleep Monster 
I've been having them since I was 14 years old and never been to the doctors. You can't take a pill or anything for it to go away. So, I just deal with …

Family History Of Sleep Paralysis 
I am a 31 year old female that has had a history of SP since my childhood. I have uncles, cousins, aunts that all have the same thing. My question …

Extreme Tiredness and SP? 
It's kind of funny, really, it happens to me almost everyday. I think it happens when I sleep where I am very tired. If I sleep wherein I really want to …

Get Yourself Out Of Your Paralysis 
I had wrote in an earlier post but forgot to mention that a way I know for sure I am in an episode is if I pinch myself in the dream. If you pinch yourself …

It Was Like I Had Died And My Spirit Had Left My Body 
A few years ago one night I was asleep and I woke up to a feeling of not being able to move . I remember struggling and feeling like I was fighting to …

Click here to write your own.

Sleep Paralysis and Anger 
I'm a 23 year old Male and I've been having these sleep paralysis episodes for years, the earliest one that I can remember being when I was 8 or so. …

Something Evil Being Sexual 
It first happened about 5 years ago. I was sleeping on my couch during the afternoon, and woke up because i could feel something sitting on the couch with …

Can SP Be Passed From Person To Person? 
I have never heard of or experienced SP until I dated my crazy Russian ex-boyfriend after high school. His name is Serge and he would always talk about …

My First SP Experience 
This morning my dream had an episode when I was opening a locker and finding things I made when I was a child (drawings, etc). (This locker now seems to …

Car Accidents. Zombie Dreams. Don't Get Up Just Yet. 
I'm a 23 year old white male for the record. I was about an hour into my sleep when I had my "episode" I suppose. Which I don't think falls into REM sleep. …

It All Started When I Was Very Young 
Although I do not have SP episodes anymore, i do remember when I was at the age from 4ish to 9 years old I had the obvious symptoms of waking up and …

Sleep Paralysis Related, But A Little Backward 
Thank goodness I've never had frequent nightmares, and they occur even less often as I get older, but there was a time, several years ago, when I experienced …

SP For 50+ Years 
First episode when I was 10 or 11. I'm now 64. It takes different forms with me and sometimes doesn't happen for periods of years. I've also had two …

Learning About My Sleep Paralysis 
When I was in college, I didn't know what was happening, was I abducted by aliens? If I let the "buzzing" overtake me, I would be paralyzed and frightened. …

Finally...An Explanation! 
I guess what you could call Isolated Sleep Paralysis started a few years ago. The first time it happened was in the morning. I had gotten my daughter …

My Scary Sleep Happenings 
I have been having these dreams for a long time but can't really remember when they started. They are always scary. I fall asleep and wake up around …

SP And Radio Screams 
This has only ever happened to me once when I was about 13/14 years old and i was staying at my grandparents house. I'd alwaya been scared of sleeping …

Weird But Nice! 
I was in bed last week and very cozy and warm. My two boys were playing in their room and I had fallen back asleep. All of a sudden I woke up but found …

I Was Being Scolded... 
I woke up yesterday morning, I was on my back and the first thing I see is my computer desk and chair. Sitting on the chair, however, was a girl, someone …

No Sleep 'Til Sunrise 
Last night I had my first experience ever with Sleep Paralysis . I was in the midst of a really frightening dream, and I remember I was trying to yell …

Happened To Me Just Last Night... 
This isn't anything new to me as it has happened many times before. Last night though was even more intense than previously experienced. It normally happens …

Sleep Paralysis Off And On For 8 Years 
I've been dealing with sleep paralysis for about 8 years. It really is a terrifying experience. This week alone (today is Tuesday) I've already had about …

My First Sleep Paralysis Experience Last Night... 
It was around 2:30 am last night when I was in a deep sleep and experienced sleep paralysis . I had been on vacation for the last 4 days and had little …

I Told My Family Doctor After Experiencing This For Over 20 Years... Her First Question Was, "Do you have a family history of mental illness?" 
I was about 5 years old when I experienced my first one . My father has them also. I grew up with my grandmother telling me that I was psychic (which …

Sure Helps To Know What's Going On With Sleep Paralysis 
I've had sleep paralysis for years, but didn't know what it was. I heard the term a couple of years ago (now in my 50's) and knowing what it is has helped …

I've Been Having This For Over 35 Years 
They started when I was in my early 30's - oddly enough after I'd seen the Donald Sutherland movie, Day of the Locust. Coincidence? Mostly they have the …

It Said..."I'm Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!": A Tale Of Sleep Paralysis  
I'm a 24 year-old married male and I have experienced infrequent episodes of sleep paralysis for a couple years. I wouldn't say that I "suffer" from …

A Stranger In The Room 
Last night was the first time I have experienced this phenomenon , and it is truly terrifying. I remember having somewhat of a 'bad dream' at the time, …

Dorm Room Paralysis 
I just had my first true sleep paralysis experience (with hallucinations ), and was doing some research online to see what in the world just happened …

The Repetition Dream/Hallucination 
I experience these dreams once in a while, sometimes when I've been under a lot of stress or other times just out of the blue. Sometimes it will happen …

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What I Do To Help My Sleep Paralysis 
I've had sleep paralysis since i was about 7 years old, & i'm now 20. My case has progressively been getting more frequent over the years. One thing …

First Episode of Hallucinatory Sleep Paralysis (On Paxil) 
I am female, 33. I don't know if that information is relevant to anyone studying this, but there you go. My very first (and hopefully only...) episode …

Sleep Paralysis Leprechaun Attack!!  
I have an SP experience probably once every month or two. Most of the time, I won't actually SEE anything threatening me, but I will know that I can't …

Sleep Paralysis Is Annoying Me 
Hi, I am a 21 year old female. My first experience of sleep paralysis was at the age of 16 when I was in boarding school. Unlike most people this usually …

I Thought Spirits Were Trying To Contact Me... 
I have been experiencing sleep paralysis for a while now. But it never registered to me that was what I was experiencing. I would wake up and see …

Trying To Move But CAN'T!! 
Ok so my name is Krista and here's my story....the night before last night I slept in my room and had my iPod playing low on the speakers like always. …

Can't Move Or Scream Or Cry 
Sleep paralysis has happened to me before...more than once...more than I want to remember and wish I could forget. I am terrified to sleep...more so …

Napping On The Couch 
When I was in my early 20's (before children) and I had some free time in the afternoons, I liked to take naps on the couch. On several occasions, I would …

Do I Have This? 
I have a feeling that I may have this , I think I've actually had it for years and just thought it was normal, horrible but normal. It’s a very strange …

Freaked Out 
I believe I suffer from Sleep Paralysis . Every night right before I'm about to go to sleep everything slowly fades darker then it already is, it feels …

Witch Next To Me 
I normally sleep next to my spouse as usual and had a very strange experience as this has never happened to me before ... Woke up around 3pm and noticed …

Aimless (A Movie About Sleep Paralysis) 
THE MYTH It is not hard to see why demons, devils, and other beasties of the night have been blamed for these nocturnal 'attacks'. Virtually all cultures …

One Of The Scariest Moments In My Life 
Last night, I drove home from my Holiday break. It was about an 8 hour drive and I had an overload of Caffeine. When I went to bed, I was very tired. Before …

Sleep Paralysis Serious As A Heart Attack 
I've had these sleep paralysis episodes more than a few times. You can't seem to move even after trying to force yourself. Once it felt as if something …

"Help!" I Layed Down and Can't Get Up!!" 
It is a Christmas scene. The house has a gloves and cinnamon aroma, Christmas paper, scotch tape and unwrapped gifts lie on the floor while a blinking …

I'm Scared To Sleep Sometimes 
I always thought something was wrong with me, when I would go to sleep and all of a sudden I open my eyes and I hear noises and everything looks how it …

Work Nights 
I have experienced this frequently. Interesting to now know why...@ times I have been awake and unable to move. My kids and husband would think I was …

Waking Up To Find Myself Completely Paralyzed 
The other day, after coming home from work, I decided to take a quick nap but when awaking from my nap I could not move, speak, or barely breathe! I was …

Dreaming/Awake...Trapped! 
I remember most of my dreams, and they are usually harmless. The is the 1st time I've experienced this type of dream, what I am calling a nightmare. I …

Really Tired, So Pleased I Saw This Site And I'm Not Alone 
I am 32 years old and for the last 6 months have had nightmares every night. They wake me up all through the night, sometimes my heart is racing so fast …

Interesting Enough To Write This... 
My story of sleep paralysis... Fell asleep on the couch watching a movie, woke up at 1:00 am was very sleepy walking to bedroom, but when i laid down in …

Can't....Move....Ahh! 
One night I was sleeping in at a relatives house. Since there wasn't an extra bed, I slept in the living room beside the kitchen and the balcony. In other …

How To Survive Sleep Paralysis 
Nameless presence, or Mara , how it's called in some parts of Europe, has been around mankind since start of civilization. First thing you have to know …

Just Happened 
I thought it may have been a ghost. I was having a really bad dream. Only to wake up to an extreme pressure on my back. I tried to scream but I couldn't …

Normal Scenery In My Sleep Paralysis 
I have sleep paralysis sometimes frequently..but have not had it in a while... Maybe in about 8 months....This morning I had it... It seemed as though …

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I had no idea what sleep paralysis was! 
My name is Hannah. I am at the age of 15 and I have experienced sleep paralysis twice. The fist time it happened to me was when I was 13 years old and …

Not Able To Scream, Not Able To Move!! 
I started having such thing from last 3-4 years. I am 26 now. Sometimes when I sleep I get a dream, then my mind will tell me that its just a dream and …

It happens to me all the time... But I'm not scared anymore! 
Hi there. I experience sleep paralysis on a relatively regular basis. Most of the time, my body just becomes paralysed while my mind is fully alert, and …

Sleep Paralysis While Staying The Night At My Friend's House. 
I remember it happened twice in one early day around 6 in the morning. My friend said she saw me standing in the hall with the light on, come back in, …

Frozen and SCARED to Sleep!! 
It has happened a few times I am asleep, and I have these dreams that I am fighting a very strong force. I can't really move it's too strong, it pulls …

Sleep Paralysis Room...... 
I'm not sure if it's common to have constant paralysis in one room, but I've lived in this house for 10 years. The first I heard of it was when me and …

30 Years Of Sleep Paralysis 
Since 1978 I have had about 70 or 80 episodes of sleep paralysis . The first occurred while I was napping at my job. I worked a split shift so I had some …

The Endless Dream That I Could Not Awake From 
This is not the frist time this has happened to me--it started when I was a young child. I went to sleep last night at 10:05. I don't know what happened …

I Try To SCREAM But Can't! 
I have experienced sleep paralysis from time to time since I was 13 years old, most often when I do not get enough sleep or am extremely tired when I …

Interesting - What Causes Sleep Paralysis? 
I experienced sleep paralysis twice so far. The first time it was a little scary just because I was like "WTF dude, I am totally unable to move". But …

Knowing What Causes Sleep Paralysis Helps Me Get Out Of It Faster 
I have never been to a doctor or anything for sleep paralysis but I know that I have it because it has happened to me plenty of times. I usually have music …

My Experiences With Sleep Paralysis 
I have been having problems with Sleep Paralysis as long as I can remember. I am 29 years old, in good health, with low stress, and a good sleep pattern. …

I Thought I Was Dead 
In my dream there was a set up to my being frozen; it's like my body knew I was about to experience sleep paralysis . The events aren't relevant until …

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About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

How This Site Was Made

In 2007 I discovered a guide to website building that would change my life. After learning from it diligently, it would eventually empower me to help Dr. Dement take his life's mission of spreading education about sleep health to the online world. Now, several years later, this site reaches over 100,000 visitors per month and counting.

The results are due in large part to the methods taught in that guide, and they are replicable for others who have knowledge of a subject they would like to share with the masses. I've detailed some of my journey here for those who might be interested.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.

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