This has happened to me about half a dozen times. Today/last night was the most recent, and it is the first time I have really become conciously aware of it (at least the first time I’ve given it much thought). I will try to describe the experience as best I can.
As I was sleeping, I woke up to see my familiar surroundings but with an image of what I perceived as a person’s body from the neck down in front of me.
My body was completely paralyzed. I felt a feeling of sheer terror and panic. I felt an overwhelming desire to move, thrash about, scream, but could do nothing. In my head, I was screaming “No! No! Leave me alone!” (or something similar), and could feel my vocal chords vibrate, but nothing but a muffled hum was coming out. I suspect my lips and mouth simply weren’t moving so I couldn’t produce the sounds.
I definitley felt “awake”, and my surroundings appeared completely real. After a few seconds, I fell back into sleep, and then woke up “normally”. I realized when I woke up that what I had perceived as a person’s body was actually the arm of the couch next to my bed.
The first time this happened the image that appeared was a young girl. There couldn’t have actually been a girl, since I have never lived in a house with a young girl. But it was dark enough my mind could have constructed the image from the various shadows etc. The other times, the image was a little more abstract and I have trouble recalling them all. But the key points that consistently occur are:
I wake up and see my familiar surroundings, with some sort of foreign image added in.
A completely enveloping feeling of terror.
A total physical paralysis.
An incredibly strong urge to move, get away, or scream, that cannot be expressed due to aforementioned paralysis.
The episodes seem to last anywhere from about 2-10 seconds, then I fall back asleep. When I wake up again, I feel “normal”.
Also, 2 other tidbits that may or may not have relevance:
I had a job interview today and I was feeling a fair amount of anxiety last night.
After I woke up normally, it was still earlier than I needed to wake up so I fell back asleep, and had one of the most intense sexual fantasy dreams I’ve ever had.
I get it too, and it’s way less scary (IMO) once you realize it’s common. It happens to me most when I am extremely physically tired and yet not sleepy, like when I’ve had plenty of sleep but been working hard all day long.
Hmm, interesting. Somehow reading that doesn’t quite satisfy me. I guess I’ll have to do a little more extensive research, but thank you for helping me give it a name and realizing I’m not the only one it happens to.
One thing that came to mind as I started thinking about it was ancient tales of “succubi” visiting people at night. Could this phenomenon have been what they were reporting that led to those tales?
Yes. Sleep paralysis. This question is asked on a regular basis.
Roughly when you dream, your body is paralyzed (so that you won’t “act” your dreams, walk around, etc…). Normally this paralysis dissapear before you wake up. But for some people, sometimes it doesn’t work properly and they wake up while still paralyzed and still dreaming.
For some reasons the hallucinations (when people experience them, it’s not always the case) seem to be always frightening and essentially always include seeing a monster, person, devil, ET, whatever… When there’s no hallucinations many people have the “feeling” of a frightening presence. Some also think they have a hard time breathing or that something is on their chest (apparently because they’re still breathing in “automatic mode” like you do when you sleep). Similarily, people apparently often hear someone breathing right behind them (they’re probably hearing their own breath).
I remember someone mentionning once that this problem is sometimes associated with a medical condition (epilepsy, if I’m not mistaken) but normally, apart from being frightening, it’s nothing to worry about, nor physically nor mentally. You just get a problem with your sleep cycle. Note that you’re lucky : some people experience this on a regular basis.
Sleep paralysis is probably the basis of many “supernatural” experiences (seeing ghost, ET abductions, etc…).
Make a search on this board. You should be able to find a number of threads on this topic, generally started by someone who experienced it for the first time like you, and assumed they were the only one to whom it happened (*).
There’s also a whole site dedicaced to sleep paralysis that you should find easily with google.
(*) As an aside, it’s surprising how often a post mentionning some poster’s very unusual experience/condition/quirck/whatever is followed by a number of “me too”. Our issues or blessings are very rarely unique.
I’ve had it a few times. Usually it’s me conscious but my body still asleep. Occasionally it’s been some-part-of-my-brain conscious and aware, but some other part of my brain still dreaming. It’s sleep paralysis.
Haha, well in my world it is new, strange, and terrifying. Kind of like the way everything is in the world of a child.
I had a hunch I wasn’t the only one, but it was so exciting to me I couldn’t resist the urge to share the experience. Thank you for answering me anyway. Besides, I wouldn’t have known what to search for. Now of course “sleep paralysis” seems like a perfectly logical term for it, but at the time it was so unusual to me that that sort of logical thinking just wouldn’t have occurred.
I have had it my whole life as well. It is probably the most terrifying sensation that I know of. Unfortunately, I used to have sleep apnea as well (I had surgery). With sleep apnea, you can sometimes start breathing again if you wake and a you just move to a different position.
Combine the two and you wake up not breathing AND you cannot move at all to get out of it. That means that you have to lay there and suffocate enough so that your bodies anti-suffocation reflexes kick in and fling you into full panic mode. I used to lay wake up on my back not breathing and paralyzed and then be standing on my feat in full panic gasping for breath a minute later.
It happened when I was very fit and very young as well. It is just a true design flaw in a few systems and a strong argument against “intelligent design”.
It’s common enough (I’ve had it a couple of times) to have a name. A Google turned up Old Hag Syndrome. I remembered something about people thinking it was a witch (or hag, I guess) setting on their chest.
The first time it happened to me, I was POSITIVE that there was and old woman very close next to me in bed, so close that the covers were tight enough I couldn’t move. I was scared as hell. And I can remember it vividly, years later, not like a fleeting dream. It seemed very real, and I felt like I was very awake.
It happened not more than a couple of weeks ago when I went to sleep in a recliner. I woke up and flat couldn’t move, but no Old Hag this time…
Are you taking any anti-depressant drugs? I’m taking an antianxiety drug called “Buspirone” and the doc said that the drug woud cause what he called “vivid dreams”
He was right and I do have them often. But I understand what’s happening to me and deal with the dreams.
I also have a friend who has severe back pain and takes a drug called Oxycodone or something like that. He has regular panic attacks, I think because of his medication. They don’t sound like much fun at all.
That’s interesting, I’ve never heard of that but I got some Oxycodone prescribed when I got my wisdom teeth removed and have been taking it occasionally lately. (the pain from the operation has long since passed but that stuff is some fun drugs)
First time it happened to me, maybe 15 years ago, I was terrified and utterly disoriented. Really freaked me out.
Now it happens about every other year–always in the middle of the night, always when I’m sleeping on my back–and it’s not scary anymore because it’s old hat.
(Which is weird, because the salient feature for me is that I usually see a menacing, motionless figure a the foot of the bed watching me when I have that paralysis. But I actually groggily think to myself each time:
"Can’t move my arms, legs or neck ? Check. Menacing Dude is at the foot of the bed? Check. Hmph. Must be that sleep paralysis again… " Snore)
It’s freaky as hell the first couple of times. You’re awake (for the most part), you can’t move a muscle, you feel like you’re suffocating, and you see, feel, and hear strange things that seem 100% real. The first couple of times it happened to me I was convinced I was going insane or I had a brain tumor.
Now that the experience has become routine and I’ve read some of the literature, it’s a mild annoyance at worst. If it happens again, the best tip I can offer is don’t fight it – the more you try to force yourself to move, the more panicked you become and the more likely the episode will turn into a waking nightmare. If you relax and ride through it, it’s more likely you’ll drift back to sleep after a few seconds without incident.
I’ve read that some people can rouse themselves from this state by shifting their eyes side-to-side (apparently you’re eyes are the only body part you can consciously control during sleep paralysis). It’s never worked for me.
I used to have episodes of sleep paralysis on a regular basis. I also have sleep apnea, and as Shagnasty says waking up to paralysis and sufforcation can be a terrifying experience.
When I got a CPAP machine for my cleep apnea, the sleep paralysis stopped as well. I suspect in my case what was happening is that the sleep apnea was waking me up just enough to be aware of what was happening, but not enough to be able to move.
This happens to me, too, although it’s usually when I nap during the day, not when I sleep at night. It is truly a terrifying experience. It’s hard to tell afterwards if you were really awake and unable to move, or if you just dreamed it.
I’ve had that twice in my life. I can clearly remember the last time it happened- I dreamt that there was someone sitting on the bed right next to me, looking down at me… with a huge, evil grin. shudder I still get chills thinking about it.
I don’t remember the paralysis, though- I clearly levitated straight up about four feet, so nope, no paralysis.