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Sleep Paralysis

Sleep Paralysis occurs when the brain is awakened from a REM state into essentially a normal fully awake state, but the bodily paralysis is still occurring. This causes the person to be fully aware, but unable to move.

Causes of Sleep Paralysis

Little is known about the physiology of sleep paralysis. However, some have suggested that it may be linked to post-synaptic inhibition of motor neurons in the pons region of the brain. In particular, low levels of melatonin may stop the depolarisation current in the nerves, which prevents the stimulation of the muscles.

There is also a significant positive correlation between those experiencing this disorder frequently and those suffering from narcolepsy. However, various studies suggest that many or most people will experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lives.

Some report that various factors increase the likelihood of both paralysis and hallucinations. These include:

  • Sleeping in a supine position (facing upwards)
  • Irregular sleeping schedules; naps, sleeping in
  • Increased stress
  • Sudden environmental/lifestyle changes
  • A lucid dream that immediately precedes the episode


Cultural references

Sleep Paralysis and hallucinations

Many report hallucinations during episodes of Sleep Paralysis. The features of these hallucinations generally vary by individual, but some are more common to the experience than others:

Most common

  • Vividness
  • Fear


  • Sensing a "presence" (often malevolent)
  • Pressure/weight on body (especially the chest). See for example the painting in the beginning of this article, which is due to this phenomenon.
  • A sensation of not being able to breathe
  • Impending sense of doom/death

Fairly common

  • Auditory hallucinations (often footsteps or indistinct voices, or pulsing noises). Auditory hallucinations which are described as noise instead of hallucinations of legible sounds, are often described to be similar to auditory hallucinations caused by Nitrous Oxide by persons who have experienced both.
  • Visual hallucinations such as people or shadows walking around the room

Less common

  • Floating sensation (sometimes associated with out-of-body experiences)
  • Seemingly seamless transition into full hallucinations or dreaming, also associated with out-of-body experiences
  • Tactile hallucinations (such as a hand touching or grabbing)


  • Falling sensation
  • Vibration

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


This web site is intended for your own informational purposes only. No person or entity associated with this web site purports to be engaging in the practice of medicine through this medium. The information you receive is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other health care professional. If you have an illness or medical problem, contact your health care provider.


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