Sleep paralysis and hynogogic hallucinations: Why only when I'm on my back?

For a few years now I’ve occasionally experinced the joy (read: cold sweat inducing terror) of partial sleep paralysis with merry little hallucinations. One night I spent several minutes staring in horror at a demonic, childlike figure with gaping black eyeholes who stared malevolently back at me from the corner by my bedroom door. On other occasions I’ve felt myself float down the hallway, or I’ve gotten up to check on the kids/take a shower/go to the bathroom only to realize later that I never actually moved. These episodes last for several minutes, during which I fight to move, scream, kick my husband, anything to make it go away.

My question is, why does this only occur when I fall asleep on my back, and only in my bed? I can sleep on my back on the couch with no problem, but God help me if I’m in my bed. This site mentions in passing that “attacks” (referring to stories of incubi or vampires) usually occur to people who sleep on their backs, but it doesn’t explain why. Several other (rather more reputable) sites I checked talk about how sleep paralysis/hallucinations can be a symptom of narcolepsy but is more commonly ascribed to sleep deprivation; they don’t mention anything about sleep positions. Can anyone help me out here? I miss sleeping on my back.

I think it’s related to sleep apnea. While on your back, you are probably snoring away happily until you eventually stop breathing. Your brain wakes you enough to gasp, choke and resume breathing, but not enough to become fully conscious or able to move your body.

Thus, the paralysis and hallucinations. I think a lot of thos historical reports were along the lines of “I felt like the (ghost, demon, etc.) was sitting on my chest” That seems to be correlated with breathing trouble.

My suggestion, try those “breathe right” strips. I know someone who was mostly cured of snoring by using them for a few weeks.


I posted a thread on sleep paralysis a couple months ago, but i cant seem to find it now. Anyway, i know this doesnt answer your question, but if you are having problems waking up during these events, try wiggling your toes. This usually brings me the ability to start wiggling my feet, which in turn slowly allows me to shake my legs, which slowly allows me to wiggle my torso, which usually wakes me up.

Also, I have started hallucinating during paralysis in a way that is not as scary yours, but is just as cruel. I see a very sexy, naked woman sitting on my desk, motioning for me to come to her. I try to speak and move, but i cant. When i finally wake up, i’m dissapointed to see that this woman is not actually there. Talk about cruel.

One of the questions they asked me, when I went in for sleep apnea treatment, was if I had “sleep paralysis.” Go to a sleep specialist! Sleep apnea can be treated very successfully. I’m a new person! I did not have the symptoms you are describing, however. I was almost narcoleptic, though. I could fall asleep anywhere, including while driving.

I hadn’t considered apnea to be a factor. I didn’t think I snored. After reading your responses, though, I asked my husband, and was quite surprised to learn that I was mistaken. That may also explain why this doesn’t occur when I fall asleep on the couch; the couch has big fluffy throw pillows on which I recline; I’m not flat on my back like I am in bed.

Huh. Maybe it’s time for a trip to the doctor. Thanks, guys!