The Presence and Hallucination – Sleep Paralysis and Night Terrors Revisited
I wanted to revisit this blog. Last night I as I lay in bed and began to drift off. I could feel a presence almost coming through the walls of my bedroom and watching over me. I recognized this presence and feeling. I did not recognize who the presence was but what the presence was and what I was experience. I was in absolute terror and mustered all my energy to get up in bed and open my eyes and look around. I had to double check that I not only believed that I was awake but that I truly was awake.
This continued to happen three more times through out the night until I finally turned the lights on in my room and decided that I was probably only going to have a light sleep for the remainder of the night. Sleep terrors or Pavor Nocturnus are indeed mystifying to me and to most.
My twin and I had only been discussing them two nights before and I actual her a podcast on them the night before on Mysterious Universe. Mind you, I’m not one to be easily swayed by suggestion. I’m pretty sure that we have a genetic predisposition to them and the intense amount of stress I’ve had this past week and exhaustion must have played a part.
I had also heard of the phenomena of Shadow People recently. Sinister individuals that flicker in and out of our existence and prey on our fear and hover or watch us during our sleep. I’m not sure if I can say I felt it was a shadow person but it definitely was a menacing presence that was in my room which was there for me.
Most of our are aware of the sleep paralysis and night terrors. The state between wakefulness and sleep where we find ourselves paralyzed in our bed, terrified, with the feeling of a presence in the room with us and fully conscious of the event, or so we think.
Having been recently laid off, I have naturally found myself under stress and with some anxiety. It is natural to fear the unknown and to embark in circumstances with some trepidation. I forgot how active and expressive the unconscious mind is when sorting out stress.
One night last week, I decided to go to bed early. I had so much on my mind and was understandably worn out. I was tossing, turning and would stare at the light coming from the hallway through the slightly opened door. I then felt someone was in the room. I tried to call out to Marshall but nothing came out of my mouth. I tried to turn my body to see who was in the room with me but I was paralyzed. I could not move any part of my body.
I could feel my heart pounding and the fear come over me. I mustered every ounce of energy in my body and yelled out, “Marshall, help! Help me!” I could hear him running upstairs and into the room to my safety. The next thing I noticed was that Marshall was not in the room, the door had never been opened, and there was no one in the room with me. What had just happened?
I have had sleep paralysis and night terrors as a child and adolescent but I could not remember having one as an adult. I had actually been dreaming the whole sequence of events. I was safe in my bed and there was no intruder. I was still a bit beside myself. I waited a few minutes and text Marshall to come upstairs. He ran up and I was alright. I returned to sleep.
Sleep paralysis is paralysis associated with sleep that may occur in healthy persons or may be associated with narcolepsy, cataplexy, and hypnagogic hallucinations. The pathophysiology of this condition is closely related to the normal hypotonia that occurs during REM sleep. When considered to be a disease, isolated sleep paralysis is classified as MeSH D020188. Some evidence suggests that it can also, in some cases, be a symptom of migraine.
Symptoms and characteristics
Physiologically, sleep paralysis is closely related to REM atonia, the paralysis that occurs as a natural part of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Sleep paralysis occurs either when falling asleep, or when awakening. When it occurs upon falling asleep, the person remains aware while the body shuts down for REM sleep, and it is called hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis. When it occurs upon awakening, the person becomes aware before the REM cycle is complete, and it is called hypnopompic or postdormital. The paralysis can last from several seconds to several minutes “by which the individual may experience panic symptoms”. (described below) As the correlation with REM sleep suggests, the paralysis is not entirely complete; use of EOG traces shows that eye movement is still possible during such episodes. When there is an absence of narcolepsy, sleep paralysis is referred to as isolated sleep paralysis (ISP).
In addition, the paralysis may be accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (hypnopompic or hypnagogic) and an acute sense of danger. Sleep paralysis is particularly frightening to the individual because of the vividness of such hallucinations. The hallucinatory element to sleep paralysis makes it even more likely that someone will interpret the experience as a dream, since completely fanciful or dream-like objects may appear in the room alongside one’s normal vision. Some scientists have proposed this condition as an explanation for alien abductions and ghostly encounters. A study by Susan Blackmore and Marcus Cox (the Blackmore-Cox study) of the University of the West of England supports the suggestion that reports of alien abductions are related to sleep paralysis rather than to temporal lobe lability. Some authors have warned of the possible misconnection between child sexual abuse (CSA) and hypnagogic/pompic phenomena and have noted that some clients after having described such an event to a fortune teller or psychic that the psychic may have suggested CSA.
Several studies have concluded that many or most people experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lives. A study conducted by Sedaghat F. et al. has investigated the prevalence of sleep paralysis among Iranian medical students. 24.1% of students reported experiencing sleep paralysis at least once in their lifetime. The same result was reported among Japanese, Nigerian, Kuwaiti, Sudanese and American students.
Many people who commonly enter sleep paralysis also suffer from narcolepsy. Some reports read that various factors increase the likelihood of both paralysis and hallucinations. These include:
Sleeping in a face upwards or supine position
Sudden environmental/lifestyle changes
A lucid dream that immediately precedes the episode.
Excessive consumption of alcohol coupled with lack of adequate sleep.
In The Terror That Comes in the Night, folklorist and behavioral scientist David J. Hufford argues that sleep paralysis is related to an anomalous experience known in Newfoundland as “the Old Hag.” According to Hufford, the Old Hag is “an experience with stable contents which is widespread, dramatic, realistic, and bizarre,” and elements of the phenomenon cannot be fully explained either by psychology or culture. His works have explored the connection between the Old Hag and parapsychology in what he labels the “experience-centered approach” to hauntings.
Treatment starts with patient education about sleep stages and about the muscle atonia that is typically associated with REM sleep. It is recommended that patients be evaluated for narcolepsy if symptoms persist.
Many perceptions associated with sleep paralysis (visceral buzzing, loud sounds, excited mental state, presences, and the paralysis itself) also constitute a common phase in the early progression of episodes referred to as out of body experiences. Mental focus varies between the two conditions; paralysis sufferers tend to fixate on reestablishing operation of the body, whereas subjects of out-of-body episodes are more occupied by perceived non-equivalence with the body.
A night terror, also known as a sleep terror or pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia disorder that predominantly affects children, causing feelings of terror or dread.
Children from age two to six are most prone to night terrors, and they affect about fifteen percent of all children, although people of any age may experience them. Episodes may happen for a couple of weeks then suddenly disappear. The symptoms also tend to be different, like the child being unable to recall the experience, and while nearly arisen, hallucinating. Children who have night terrors are usually described as ‘bolting upright’ with their eyes wide open, with a look of fear and panic, and will often scream. They will usually sweat, breathe fast and have a rapid heart rate (autonomic signs). Although it seems like children are awake during a night terror, they will appear confused, will not be consolable and will not recognize others. Strong evidence has shown that a predisposition to night terrors and other parasomniac disorders can be passed genetically. Though there are a multitude of triggers, emotional stress during the previous day and a high fever are thought to precipitate most episodes. Ensuring the right amount of sleep is an important factor. Special consideration must be used when the subject suffers from narcolepsy, as there may be a link.
Though the symptoms of night terrors in adolescents and adults are similar, the etiology, prognosis and treatment are qualitatively different. These night terrors can occur each night if the sufferer does not eat a proper diet, get the appropriate amount or quality of sleep (eg. Sleep apnoea), is enduring stressful events in their life or if they remain untreated. Adult night terrors are much less common, often trauma-based rather than genetic, and often respond to treatment in the form of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication or treatments to rectify causes of poor quality or quantity of sleep. There is some evidence of a link between adult night terrors and hypoglycemia. In addition to night terrors, some adult night terror sufferers have many of the characteristics of depressed individuals including inhibition of aggression, self-directed anger, passivity, anxiety, impaired memory, and the ability to ignore pain.
Since night terrors are most commonly triggered by being overtired, sometimes no treatment is necessary except for a bedtime schedule that ensures proper sleep. If the night terrors are more frequent, however, it has been suggested that the sufferer should be awakened from sleep just before the time when the terrors occur most to interrupt the sleep cycle.
For more infomation:
Sleep Paralysis: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis
Night Terrors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_terror
Addition to Blog:
Shadow People are supernatural shadow-like humanoid figures that, according to believers, are seen flickering on walls and ceilings in the viewer’s peripheral vision. They are often reported moving with quick, jerky movements, and quickly disintegrate into walls or mirrors. They are believed to be evil and aggressive in nature, although a few people consider them to be a form of guardian angel.
In 2010, the apparitions were described as one of the most regularly reported paranormal phenomena in the United States. This is attributed to occasional reports on the Coast to Coast AM show, where paranormal researcher Heidi Hollis has been interviewed several times on the subject of shadow people. Hollis believes that shadow people have always existed, that they feed upon emotions of fear, and that they can be repelled by thinking positively. Others believe that shadow people may be the extra-dimensional inhabitants of another universe.
The stories of shadow people have been compared to those of the Raven Mocker, a witch from Cherokee mythology who sometimes appears as a shadowy phantom, and the Islamic Jinn.
Several scientific principles can be used to explain reports of apparitional experiences such as shadow people. These include optical illusions or hallucinations brought on by physiological or psychological circumstances, drug use or side effects of medication, and the interaction of external agents on the human body. Another reason that could be behind the illusion is sleep deprivation, which may lead to hallucinations.