Ever wonder what the sensation of dying in your sleep might be like? Oh, and with an obscure presence by your side? And what if this figure resembled one of your fears? A physical feeling of entrapment, sleep paralysis is a troubling sensation that one may experience while waking or falling asleep. A type of parasomnia, sleep paralysis is frightening, feels supernatural, and, worst of all, absolutely wrecks your shit without consideration of you having to get up at 6 am. Usually accompanied by hallucinations, you may see disquieting images as your mind is active while your body remains asleep. And unfortunately, the only cure is an exorcism. Just kidding; it's harmless. Ish.

Much has yet to be discovered about this spine-chilling nuisance. What is known is that while dreaming, the mind is at rest and the body's muscles relax as a means of not harming itself in case you dream about snapping your pinkies in half to see what'll happen. When the paralysis creeps in, it causes a disruption in our REM cycle and awakens the mind while the body remains confined in a paralyzed state (cue the horror music). You'll want to scream but can barely contort your face, and no one would hear you.   

Originally thought to be a condition of people being "possessed" … 

Henry Fuseli

… many of the symptoms include seeing things that are not physically there. For example, "you might mistake your cat sleeping at the foot of the bed as some sort of goblin," and as ridiculous as it sounds, it's the truth. As someone who has recurring sleep paralysis, I've "seen" it. 

In middle school, I had an Elvis poster up in my bedroom (Big time poseur. Still don't know why I chose Elvis to impress kids in the early 2000s.), and I remember his image poking out of the poster, half Elvis/half stranger with long black hair and a threatening skillet in hand. Guess he wanted to fry up a PB, banana, and bacon sandwich after murdering me?

Bud Care/Wiki Commons

“You only got turkey bacon? I'm double murdering you.”

The scariest of hallucinations is referred to as the "intruder" and is just what it sounds like, a sensation of an intrusive figure at your side. Mainly, it has been reported that this sense manifests itself as "the sounds of doorknobs opening, shuffling footsteps … a shadow man." Trust me when I say I've seen giant tarantulas edge slowly toward my bed, floating hands pushing open my bedroom door with a creepy whisper calling my name, amongst a plastic knife that sadly attempted to cut me open (and obviously didn't work because it's plastic cutlery in the context of a dream.) 

Though why is it that demon-like figures and unpleasant images are seen during sleep paralysis? Well, when your mind can't get your body to move, it's common that amidst that panic, you will start to imagine worst-case scenarios. So, your body is essentially motionless, and seeing your fearful dreams being projected in front of you, which is the reason it appears that you're watching your dream in front of you, eyes half-open while trying to pry them awake, rather than in your head so to speak, like a regular, totally normal dream about cupcakes and roses.

In my experience with sleep paralysis, it's a lovely thing to sense a presence of danger as you lay there, frozen helplessly in the dark. You don't have a darn clue what to do because you can't do anything. One theoretically cause is unbalanced sleeping patterns, so the best advice to treat it seems to be: Get more damn sleep. 

For more of Oona's sarcasm and attempted wit, please visit her site, oonaoffthecuff.com.

Top Image: Sergey Mironov/Shutterstock

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