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Terrifying Experiences of ASP

by Jamie

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 very anxiety-inducing and causes a lot of fear and problems.

I understand that my body is essentially paralyzed though I am conscious, but I'd be interested in more of an explanations as to why we experience what we do. I experience extreme fear, sometimes floating, much of the time a presence and always hear something eerie: a male voice speaking in a strange language, whispering, laughter, footsteps, loud clicking noises, etc. I'd be very interested to know what is happening in the mind that causes us to sense a presence and then hear so vividly.

My experiences probably aren't that much different than others. I wake up, can't move, feel as if someone has entered my room and proceed to hear something that scares me until I wake up. I never have visual hallucinations, or good feelings. Though I know I am not in danger, it's not any less scary. I do notice that a sleep routine does help prevention. If I am napping, I can almost guarantee it will happen -- also if I am finally getting to sleep after being deprived of it for awhile (which is so annoying because then I can't sleep!)

I'd really like more to be understood about this horrible experience!

Kevin: Hey Jamie, thanks for writing in and sharing your insight with this. You definitely show a great intuitive grasp on what awareness during sleep paralysis is. One thing that you didn't mention that may help you better understand the emotions you feel during ASP is its connection to dreaming.

You may already know that the sleep paralysis you feel during an ASP episode actually serves a function at a different time of your sleep. The paralysis is known as REM atonia (named so because it kicks in during your various stages of REM sleep throughout the night) and serves to prevent the body from
acting out the dream scenarios your mind is experiencing. An ASP episode is most likely to happen then when one wakes up straight from a REM cycle, and the atonia just fails to shut down until a minute or two later. See an illustration of that here.

This also is relevant to why you probably experience ASP at the end of every nap you take. If the timing of the end of your nap consistently coincides with a REM period, ASP is that much more likely. If you haven't already, try mixing up the duration of your naps if you can--take a 20 minute nap one day, or a 1 1/2 hour nap the next, for instance--and see if there is any difference (20 minutes should be short enough to miss progressing to REM sleep, unless you are real sleep deprived).

Anyway, it's this direct link to REM sleep that we can likely point to as a cause for the dreamlike emotions and feelings that can come with ASP. Essentially, part of our body is still in dream mode. While that doesn't really give a crystal clear explanation for why one hears footsteps or someone else sees a demon or someone else feels a force press down on them during ASP, it is this connection with the dream world that sleep researchers think is key to these feelings. Much of the specifics, though, I think remain a bit of a mystery.

I hope this at least sheds a little bit of light on the matter for you, despite not being a perfect explanation. For more insight into the matter, I've heard that Ryan Hurd's e-book Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide is a very empowering and well written piece. I haven't read it yet myself, but plan to soon, as he is a scholar whose writing is very thoughtful and trustworthy from what I've seen so far.

Best of luck, and thanks again for sharing your thoughts. Feel free to ask any follow up questions using the "Post Comments" button below.


Comments for Terrifying Experiences of ASP

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Sep 21, 2013
Not in order... NEW
by: Tammy

Hey Kevin!
I read your comment on the previous post and understand what your saying about sp happening during the rem phase of sleep, but I don't understand why then do I have mine prior to going to sleep? I hear the very loud high voltage electrical sound while I'm awake, then immediately go into paralysis and all the other weird things that follow, but clearly I am not in rem sleep at the point it all begins, so that leaves me confused about your comment.. Do you have an explanation for that?
Also I have noticed that I have began to feel my body jerking, a pretty good jolt each time I get a buzz sound, but it feels like my heart is beating abnormally each time I get the jolt, that worries me, I wonder if you know if there is anything at all life threatening during these episodes? Every single time I have one I am absolutely sure this is the end, I know that I am dying!!! Still here so far, ha! Also who do you see for diagnoses and more info about this condition?
Thank you so much for this site!!!

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