The state you might find yourself in, if your mind awakens while your body is still asleep. While you are asleep your body is always paralyzed, to stop it from acting out your dreams and perhaps hurt you in the process. You are normally just not aware of it, since you are unconscious. When this malfunctions you get sleepwalkers.

Sleep paralysis may often be very scary indeed; to wake up and not being able to move at all could drive most people into panic. Often it is also accompanied with loud, roaring, screeching, hissing "sounds" and/or vibrations in your body. Feeling presences and hearing voices, often evil-sounding, is also common.

However, these things are illusory, the frightened mind´s interpretation of the unknown. As a matter of fact, sleep paralysis is an excellent springboard for the wonderful thing known as Out-of-Body-Experiences (OBEs).

While doing research to find out if epilepsy runs in my family, I spoke to my mother about seizures. She claimed she had them. I did a bit of research on the net and discovered it's sleep paralysis (which is not a seizure). Dervak's done a pretty good job, so here's some info I can contribute:

Causes: I've reworked this since I've learned a bit more. Sleep paralysis is not a disorder unless it's isolated (i.e. doesn't occur with other symptoms, most notably excessive daytime sleepiness or cataplexy)). 6% of the US population will experience it at least once, but if it is recurrant, it is often symptomatic of a sleep disorder, most notably narcolepsy ... so bear that in mind before you say "I wish I could have out of body experiences." (Also note that incidence of narcolepsy is about 1/1600 - in other words, of the 6% of Americans who will experience sleep paralysis, only about one out of every hundred of them has narcolepsy). The causes are unknown, but seem to have something to do with interference of hypocretin(sp?) aka orexin (sp?) levels in the sleep mechanisms of your brain. Sleep paralysis is atonia (loss of muscle tone that prevents you from acting out your dreams) typical of REM sleep, so sleep paralysis is often accompanied by hypnagogic hallucinations. In other words, your body goes to sleep before your mind and ears (and often eyes) do.

What to do if it happens to you: It's normally not a problem if it only happens once or twice. If it happens often, it's usually not even a problem then. You may find it happens more often if you work nights or stay up late. In these cases, just get a more normal schedule. However, you should bear in mind that it is a sign that your sleep cycles are disrupted, and it can cause permanent damage, so you should get your sleep cycle back on track. However, since I am not a doctor, don't take my word for it (though family practice doctors tend to not to be familiar w/ it). For good research material, /msg me and I'll add it to this writeup.

Symptoms: These are my personal symptoms and it should be apparant why I don't like it. I hear a buzzing/ringing/screeching sound that's pretty indescribable -- it's like what the pins and needles you feel when your foot goes to sleep would sound like. Speaking of sleeping feet, feeling that same feeling over your entire body is quite normal. I sometimes experience a sharp pain in my lower back and/or kidneys (or thereabouts). Feelings of dread are very common, as are those of being accompanied or watched by a "presence" (and also often happens in my case), and hallucinations are common as well (remember, folks, this is REM -- everybody hallucinates in REM). I've had exactly one OBE. I'm not sure how common it is, but I've also noticed if motion occurs, it happens very slowly -- like a movie playing one frame every 2-3 seconds.

Prevention: Certain antidepressants can help. <updated>I am actually not sure if MAOIs cause or prevent. Tricyclic antidepressants and SSRIs do help if it is related to cataplexy (i.e. you have narcolepsy), and as I understand it, so do MAOIs, but this latter class of antidepressants is no longer widely used. The reason why they help is that sleep paralysis is a malfuntion of the normal REM mechanism (certain events in your brain happen out of order: suppress REM with happy pills and the SP goes away). As I understand it, the REM suppression occurs whether or not you actually have narcolepsy. But talk to your doctor if you decide you want to change your medication </updated>

The easiest non-drug way to prevent seems to be to change your sleeping position. In the forums I've visited, most people have found varying their positions lessens or eliminates sleep paralysis. Most people (I've read about) experience it on their backs. Lying on the stomach is less common, and I haven't seen anybody complain about sleeping on their side. (Incidentally, that's exactly the case w/ me -- I never sleep on my back anymore, and I didn't even learn this consciously!)

How to wake: According to some studies I read, the best way is to move your eyes and try to flutter your eyelids. Trying to move your fingers apparantly also helps. According to most people with the disorder I've read in various forums, attempting to shout and rolling your shoulders seems to work best. I do the latter. Remember to vary your sleeping position when you come out of it, otherwise it seems to generally (in my case and most others I've read) recur within a very short amount of time (a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes)!

The supernatural stuff: I was once attacked by some etheral creature (I hate to say demon). I was once attacked by a lion. I was once thrown from my bed by an invisible force (I woke up still in bed). Other people report being stabbed, abducted by aliens, burned, and all other manner of torment (and mind you unlike normal REM, you are conscious -- this hurts!). It's not too easy to get around this (for me), but apparantly it can be done once you realize it's not real (of course, you're in REM mode, so this can be difficult!). It's just a dream. Relax, and if it's not bad, you can try to go with it (OBE), or if you don't enjoy it, try to get out using the techniques above. It is also (apparantly) possible to self-induce this state (even without a history of it) through meditation, if you're into that kinda thing (of course, I didn't choose this -- it chose me). One buddy of mine tried medatation and quit because of this! ("I don't like it! A thousand fingers touching me!")

Two flavors: Hypnagogic occurs before you fall asleep (I get this one most often). Hypnopompic occurs after you wake up -- the dream within a dream. I've had only one of this variety, though its actually the more common variety. I believe these terms technically refer to the accompanying hallucinations rather than to sleep paralysis, but I've often heard them used to describe sleep paralysis as well.

All I know about this phenomenon is what has happened to me. I have had incidences of sleep paralysis countless times, but here I will discuss the two most extreme times. I am not the type of person to investigate anything too deeply when these types of occurrences greet me, I suppose because I am very questioning and fanatical by nature, and do not want to delude myself into believing anything through my passion. Together with that, I am used to scientific friends just setting things like these aside. So I tend to do the same. I'd like to make more of an effort to be appreciative for the collection of outlandish things that happen to me individually, and to research them as far as possible, but I find it hard with all the New Age bullsh!t out there, credibility-wise.

Incident Number 1: At this stage of my life I was a healthy sleeper; I could go to bed and not wake up until morning. This particular night, I kept being woken up for some reason. After a few awakenings (I couldn't be sure of the spaces of time in between these: during sleep, a second can be an hour, and vice versa) I heard the doorknob rattle, and found that I couldn't move. I wasn't specifically terrified, I just couldn't move. I opened my mouth to try and speak, to ask who I assumed to be my brothers, what they were doing (my door was locked). But I couldn't speak. I must have blacked out, because the next thing I knew I was awake again before I was even aware I had been asleep again. This time I heard the doorknob rattle again, and then I heard the key (which was stuck in the door from the inside of my room), slowly edge its way out of the keyhole, and fall on the floor. By now I was confused, and I was struggling inside to move an arm, a leg, anything, all I could move were my eyes. And then I heard the door creep open, but before I could try to move, I blacked out yet again.

There are a great many strange things about this scenario. Strange Thing Number 1 would be that the key and lock were very old school and hefty; there was no possible way that the key was falling out of the lock onto the floor on its own, and I also knew for sure that it was impossible to push the key out of the lock from the outside of my door. I knew this because my brothers used to torment me daily when they were younger and they'd chase me into my room where I'd lock the door and they'd spend a while sticking knives and pens and miscellaneous objects into the keyhole trying to retrieve the key by means of making it drop on to a piece of paper they had slipped under the door, ready to be pulled towards them, so they could open my door and ravage me.

The next morning I awoke with the distinct feeling that I hadn't been to sleep, and that things had been 'going' on, that I couldn't quite remember. I saw that my key was not in the door, or even on the floor where it had allegedly dropped. I rushed out into the loungeroom and I asked my mother where my brothers were; they were playing outside she said. I went out and asked them if they had come into my room last night and they hadn't. I went back into my room and sat baffled for a while, before resigning to the fact it must have just been a dream (conveniently ignoring the very real dilemma of the missing key).

A couple of hours later I found the key on the other side of my room. I don't know what this means. No one in my family could have done it. No one could have done it.

Incident Number 2: I was at home during the day; I was reading on my bed. I lay down and closed my eyes, expecting to sleep, and suddenly I was thrust into this.. tunnel, if you could call it that, these lucid, sporadic, swirling and queasy lights, blinding, all colours, not at all psychedelic or amazing, just terrifying.. it was all going so impossibly and sickeningly fast and then a noise built up in my ears, it began very tolerably, a humming sound, but it got louder and louder, and more tinny and sireny and shrill, it was piercing my body and it was as though there were a few dimensions to this one sound, and the noise horrified me, I 'knew' it was going to do.. 'something' to me..

It started getting louder and screamingly painful and I thought I was going to die, that it was going to kill me, this sound which went out of the boundaries of that which human ear drums can handle, I started trying to scream in pain, I thought I was screaming but I couldn't hear myself over the noise, I couldn't move, I couldn't see anything but the colours.

I must have blacked out because I woke up later, refreshed but a little sleepy and delirious and confused, my ears stung, and I went out to my mother and asked if she had heard me screaming. She said no. My ears hurt for the next three days. Ever since then, I kept periodically getting ringing in my ears, and this sound that gives me the sense that something is 'tuning in' to my brain somehow? I used to joke that the aliens were keeping track of me, but I really don't know what it means. I get the ringing even now, but I just discount it.

I'm not sure what this means. Are they some sort of attack of psychosis? And if so, what of the misplaced key? And what of the ringing ears, although that could be disregarded as psychosomatic. Is it some psychological phenomena, some kind of manifestation yet unknown to humans? I have no idea..

I have had only a few experiences with sleep paralyis. All of which were drug-induced. A couple of years ago, I began habitually using hydrocodone tablets in order to get high, or to enhance the effects of other intoxicants. (I have thankfully since stopped using recreational drugs altogether.)

Sleep paralysis experiences ususally only occured when I had taken abnormally high doses, usually when I ingested dosages of 35mg or more. After I was done enjoying the high and was ready to go to bed, I would notice "floating" sensations, often associated with Phase 1 Sleep, as well as a relaxation of the muscles. Of course, I would still remain mentally alert throughout all of this.

Soon, I would begin to notice peripheral fluttering, or tunnel vision. By the time this started, I was usually completely unable to control my muscles, and often I would start hearing my heartbeat extremely loud. It was almost like like having a bass drum in my inner ear. In the next phase of my sleep paralysis experience, the auditory hallucinations became more vivid, more bizarre, and much more frightening.

I would hear high-frequency hums, screaming children, soft singing, and a sound which to me resembled a school bell. All of this was very vivid and very scary. I would also experience, to a limited degree, visual hallucinations, such as a red pulsing light. Eventually- usually just before I "woke up" or snapped out of it- I would hear my heartbeat, now louder than ever. It would begin to slow down, and I would notice that I was breathing less frequently. My pulse would continue to slow, with each successive beat lasting longer, until finally I awoke, gasping for air. When these things happened, I knew that I would be awake for the rest of the night.

I didn't realize how similar my experiences were to sleep paralysis until some time after I had quit using hydrocodone.

Previous noders have done an excellent job of explaining sleep paralysis but it seems that sufferers have differing experiences.

For example, a lot of people seem to experience hallucinations, out of body experiences or hear and feel things, whereas I have none of these. I simply wake up and can't move.

I started suffering from sleep paralysis about a year or so ago. My first experience was by far and away the worst. I woke up on my back unable to move with my tongue slipping down my throat until it started blocking my airway and I found it increasingly difficult to breath. Being fully conscious in my mind you can imagine how I felt at this point. Luckily I snapped out of it before the worst came to the worst. That was my introduction to sleep paralysis and after that I felt like the kids in Nightmare on Elm Street, terrified to go to sleep.

A couple of days ago I had double-sleep paralysis 3 mornings in a row. I term it this because it happened when I first woke up and I went through the process of snapping out of it, but then I went back to dozing, and it happened literally 10 seconds later again, very annoying.

It's not so frightening anymore as I have just learnt to lie there patiently until I snap out of it. Trying to move arms or legs simply feels like I'm pushing against a brick wall and after the effort I feel exhausted. I can wiggle my fingers and toes, but this doesn't seem to help to get out of it. I remember one time I did manage to move my hand up to my face and was trying to open my eyelids, but because my eyes were effectively paralysed and not working all I saw was a blur of colours.

If I had to give advice to sufferers, especially those who suffer symptoms similar to mine, I would say dont try and move, but learn to recognise when your mind and body have clicked back together, so when you do try to move, you can, and wont get as freaked out.

It would seem that information on sleep paralysis is not as readibly available as it should be (present company excluded), and I have actually met people who don't believe that this can happen. I experience sleep paralysis regularly myself, both in wonderous and terrifying ways.

But an interesting fact is that many stories of people who allegedly have been abducted by aliens actually are surprisingly similar to descriptions of experiences with sleep paralysis. I will here relate, in short terms, an example of an abductee's experience.
Judge for yourself if it is similar, or if I am just paranoid:

"I woke up in my bedroom. The room was completely still, and there was an odd 'crispness' to the air. All I could hear was a strange screeching noise that seemed to occupy everything.
I tried to move, but my entire body was completely paralysed. Suddenly, two figures appeared in the room, one beside me, and one at the foot of my bed. Both appeared to be looking down on me. Their blank faces and featureless eyes gave nothing away, but I could feel them staring all the same.
I felt myself floating from the bed, first upwards, and then backwards through my bedroom window. Here I was enveloped in a piercing white light..."

I can only speak for myself, of course, but to me that sounds suspiciously like a sleep paralysis with hallucinations. I find this particularly interesting since one of the of the major arguments for the validity of alien abductions is that most of the stories are so alike.

"How can so many people imagine the same thing?"

Just a thought.

I also suffer from sleep paralysis. Mine normally occurs just as I am falling asleep. It is as though while I am going to sleep, my brain forgets to turn off my conciousness before turning off voluntary muscle control and my sensory input. The result of this is that I hallucinate, am paralyzed, and hear extreme screeching in my ears. My heart rate also increases greatly. I also suffer from panic attacks. Increased heart rate is a trigger for my panic attacks. Therefore, my sleep paralysis bouts are often accompanied by extreme panic.

It is, TastyNinja, hypothesized that alien abductees are in actuality sufferers of sleep paralysis. I also hypothesize (along with others) that accounts of incubi and succubi and old hags have all also been induced by hallucinations during sleep paralysis.

Some of my hallucinations:
I was having an erotic dream of heavy foreplay with my future husband/lover, and once penetration occured my lover became a demon/satan. At that point, the erotic encounter became a rape while I was paralyzed and could not scream.

I experience the "normal" sleep paralysis, with just paralysis and the screeching noise. But then, I begin to hear whisperings and fire crackling. The whispering voice says, "now we've got her, here she comes, she's ours." I am being pulled down through my bed into a burning rocky chasm that I presume is hell.

I awake from dreaming, to find that I cannot move. At the bottom of my bed is a large, black figure. It is a witch-demon. She is sitting and waiting to slit my throat. As she crawls up my body, I struggle to scream and awake my sleeping husband beside me. Finally, I open my eyes and the witch turns back into a blanket piled high near my head.

I am dreaming of childhood. My old home in Germany. I am playing on the monkey bars when I look over at a trash bin. I get an extreme ominous feeling because I know that Evil is behind the trash bin. I am frozen with terror, the loud screeching screams into my ears, suddenly I am rushing through air and reconnecting with my sleeping body. I am on my bed, but still paralyzed and terrified. Eventually, I move.

Some advice:
If you do suffer from this type of sleep paralysis, I advise you to avoid thinking or reading about the condition. Often times, thinking and reading about the condition will trigger an attack. Also, if you spend too much time reading about alien abductions I have heard that will trigger attacks.

To help end an attack quickly and with the least amount of stress, try to relax. Breathe deeply and slowly. I often try really hard to open my eyes (even though they always feel open already), or sometimes it is wriggling my toes that will do it. Other people have success with wriggling fingers. As mentioned above, when you break the attack, be sure to reposition yourself before falling back asleep to avoid a subsequent attack.

Alright, that's enough from me, or I'll have an attack!

Wow, a lot of really good information here about sleep paralysis. I sadly know about this subject all too well. On average, every single night, this happens to me or maybe even more than once in one night.

The techniques I have used in the past to get out of it is wiggling my toes or fingers and that helps, but not all the time. More than often, I just have to jerk myself out of it.

The most recent occurance of this was just last night. I was having a nightmare where I was in my bed and there was this black thing on the other side, which was basically a ball of blackness. Well I stupidly went to investigate and it lached onto my long hair and that's when I woke up. I was on my back, in sleep paralysis so all I could do was lie there. While this is going on, it begins with just a feeling that something is about to get me, but then I actually do see something. Kinda like a small black creature by my door. By this point I'm basically panicing and I'm trying my hardest to move, fail several times, and then finally do move. When that happened, I looked to the creature to see it back at my door and it slid out of the room even though the door was closed.

This is nothing short of normal for me and has been happening for several years now. It's kind of upped in intensity and occurs more often nowadays though.

It has only ever happened on my back, but the quickest was for me to get to sleep is on my back so I exchange going to sleep quicker with most likely getting sleep paralysis later on. Also, if it happens and I get out of it, if I just lie there in bed, within a few seconds I'm already paralyzed again, so I always try to shift position and sleep on my side when this happens.

Of course, if I have just awoken from a particular horrifying experience, I usually quickly turn the lights on (which helps wake me up and the hallucinations leave quicker too) and just lie there in bed surveying the room, calming myself down. Eventually I will turn off the lights and go back to sleep, but if the hallucinations were incredibly horrifying, I won't sleep the rest of the night or it'll take me a while before I feel comfortable to turn off the lights again.

Almost always when this happens it's after I have woken up from a few hours sleep or even just a few minutes sometimes (which happened last night; only asleep 30 minutes and it already happened). And it's always accompianed by hallucinations which are always scary and vary in degrees of how horrifying they are. Last night's was pretty scary, but not too bad.

As I said this happenes on average once every night. So some nights I don't have it and others it occurs 3+ times in one night. In effect, I try not to think about it when I am falling asleep in fear that I may induce it. However, I'm not afraid to sleep; I value my sleep hours very much and if only I didn't have sleep paralysis, it would be very enjoyable for me.

It's most likely going to happen again tonight, but there's almost nothing I can do to stop it. I just have learned to live with it.

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