Have you ever had that experience where you are conscious of your environment, you can hear sound but for some reason, you can’t open your eyes and you cannot rise from the bed? Or does it feel like someone is pressing you down thus  preventing you from rising? If this is the case, then what you are experiencing is Sleep Paralysis. Contrary to popular belief, there is no supernatural being sitting on your chest, there is a good explanation for this.

Sleep paralysis occurs during waking up or falling asleep, a person is aware but unable to move or speak. During an episode, one may hallucinate (hear, feel, or see things that are not there), which often results in fear. Episodes generally last less than a couple of minutes. It may occur as a single or recurrent episode.   sleep

Sleep paralysis is not life threatening but can cause anxiety. It can happen alongside other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy-a neurological disorder that affects your control of sleep and wakefulness. Sleep paralysis often starts during adolescence and it becomes frequent during ones 20’s and 30’s although, It is not usually a serious condition.

Sleep paralysis is a parasomnia or an undesired event that happens just after falling asleep or upon waking up in the morning; episodes are often accompanied by hypnagogic experiences which are visual, auditory and sensory hallucinations.

Sleep paralysis can occur during the transition between sleeping and waking and they consistently fall into one of three categories:

  • Intruder: Here the person affected feels like there is an intruder in the house as there are sounds of doors opening, footsteps and a sense of a threatening presence in the room.
  • Incubus: Here the person feels pressure on their chest, an inability to breathe properly with a sense of being smothered, strangled or sexually assaulted by a malevolent being. The individual believes that they are about to die.
  • Vestibular-motor: A sense of spinning, falling, floating, flying, hovering over one’s body or another type of out-of-body experience.

Sleep paralysis experiences have been documented for centuries as people from different cultures have had similar experiences.


Factors that have been linked to sleep paralysis include:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Irregular sleeping patterns, due to jet lag or shift work.
  • Sleeping on your back
  • A family history of sleep paralysis

It can be a symptom of medical problems such as clinical depression, migraines, obstructive-sleep apnea, hypertension and anxiety disorders.


They include:

  • An inability to move the body when falling asleep or on waking, lasting for seconds or several minutes
  • Being consciously awake
  • Being unable to speak during the episode
  • Having hallucinations
  • Feeling pressure on the chest
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Having a near death experience feeling
  • Sweating
  • Headaches, muscle pains and paranoia


Although not considered a medical diagnosis, but if symptoms are of concern, you should see a doctor. It may help when:

  • Sleep paralysis occurs regularly
  • There is anxiety about going to sleep or difficulty falling asleep
  • The individual falls asleep suddenly or feels unusually sleepy during the day.


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