Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Sleep of the Weird

I had two sleep paralysis attacks last night. I've had them before but never two in one night. And it's been a while since I've had any. These two were actually pretty frightening, and given that I'm alone in the house at the moment with Lana gone for a few days, it didn't help me get a good night's sleep.

Sleep paralysis comes in two varieties. The most common type is when you wake up completely from a dream and find yourself still paralyzed from the neck down. You probably know that your body becomes paralyzed when you dream to keep you from acting out your dreams. In this type of sleep paralysis, your eyes are open and you are aware of the world around you as it normally exists. This type usually lasts only a few seconds to a few minutes, but it can go on longer. I've had it, but never for more than a few seconds. I don't know of any case where it has ever become permanent, but I'm sure it is frightening for those who experience it. It was for me, although I understood exactly what was happening and that helped.

I don't typically have that kind of sleep paralysis, though. In the kind that I have, you 'think' you are completely awake but there are still dreaming events taking place. However, you are aware that you are paralyzed, and you can't break the paralysis simply by willing it. You are unaware of exactly which experiences that are happening to you are real, and which ones are dreaming. And often the experiences are quite frightening. Being rational about the events can help but it doesn't completely eliminate the fear. At least for me.

I've had some doozies when it comes to sleep paralysis experiences. Last night's were neither the most frightening, nor the least. In the first experience, I "woke up" to find myself paralyzed and in complete blackness. An entity was present and it kept brushing against me. The feeling was kind of like being brushed by wings. I couldn't see it but had a sense of it being malevolent. My first terrifying thought was that something was trying to possess me. Then my mind cleared and I realized I was experiencing sleep paralysis. I tried to will myself to sit up and could not move more than a twitch. I then did what I've learned to do to break the experience. That is, instead of struggling, I will myself to completely relax. The paralysis broke almost immediately and I sat up. It took me a while to get back to sleep.

In the second experience, I again "woke up" in blackness and found that the "entity" had returned. It seemed to be all around me. The nearest I can come to describing it is that it felt like a strong breeze blowing against me. There was nothing rational about my initial response. I snarled at it, then shouted that it wouldn't get me. The paralysis immediately disappeared and I woke up for real. I knew the shouting had only been in my head. I think this is about the closest I've come to the experience that people have called "A Witch Riding Your Back."

Sleep paralysis occurs most frequently when people sleep on their backs, and this has been the case in just about every such experience I've had. The first attack last night I wasn't completely on my back. But I was the second time because I was still afraid from the first attack, even though my rational mind understood what had happened. Even though I didn't really want to turn on my side after these experiences, I made myself do so to minimize any further chance of attacks, and I managed to avoid any.

I did, however, have one other interesting dream experience last night. I actually had a deja vu experience within a dream. I dreamed I was talking to Lana and she was telling me about a bunch of ants in a big garbage bin, and I was thinking, 'we've had this conversation before,' and then I woke up. That one was good for a laugh, which was a welcome change from the other two experiences of the evening.

19 comments:

Victorian Barbarian said...

For me, if I'm in the middle of one of these, the clue to realizing what's going on is when I'm trying to turn on a light and the switch doesn't work--about 80% of the time I will then become aware that it's sleep paralysis. The rest of the time it's just terrifying until I come out of it. Luckily I don't usually sleep on my back these days.

Cloudia said...

You have such a rich imagination, Charles!

Angie said...

I've heard of sleep paralysis, of course, but I've never had the experience. I think I'd like to, just once, to see what it's like.

What you wrote about sounds like an awesome seed for a horror story, though. :)

Angie

pattinase (abbott) said...

I was a sleep walker as a child and my father had a sort of paralysis. You could not wake him up from a bad dream-which he had often after serving in the second world war.
I still wonder if I ever sleep walk now. Sometimes I find things in the strangest places. Sleep is a mysterious thing for being so common.

oscar case said...

Charles, you sure have an interesting dream life.

Snowbrush said...

This must be about as horrific an experience as a person can have for the short time that it lasts.

R.T. said...

I would be frightened if such events happened to me, but that's just my hypochondria speaking; however, my similar sleep disorders sent me to the medical folks for evaluations, and their diagnosis and treatment resulted in no more sleep disruptions So . . . perhaps the quacks in white coats ought to be visited. I wish you good rest, health, and no more terrors.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've heard others describe a terrible presence when waking with sleep paralysis. Since it happens to so many, I wonder what it means?

sage said...

I have had a few occasions when I woke with a sense of evil and unable to move and felt trapped. It is horrifying cause when I fully wake, I'm still scared. It seems to go away as soon as I pray--now I wonder if there is a scientific explanation to it all.

Charles Gramlich said...

Vic B: I find those kinds of events in the dream often trigger my understanding that I’m dreaming and switches me into lucid dream mode. The paralysis that happens with events like last night is very unpleasant, even though I eventually figure out what is going on.

Cloudia, fun and scary at the same time.
Angie, such things often show up as inspiration later. At the time it’s a different story. But hey, we suffer for our art.

Patti, Supposedly, Robert E. Howard would tie his ankle to the bed to insure thatthe didn’t sleep walk.

Oscar, it serves me well. 
Snowbrush, fortunately it is generally quite short. In my experiences at least.

R. T., I teach this stuff at school so I know there’s not much that can be done. It is typically stress related, or associated with lack of sleep. Sleeping on your back can make it more likely for those who are susceptible.

Alex, Certain areas of the brain, when activated by various processes, will produce a feeling of a presence. I don’t know if that’s invovled with sleep paralysis experiences but it seems likely.

Sage, the paralysis probably adds to the sense of evil or danger. The paralysis certainly has a scientific explanation but as for the subjective experience, I don’t know what might be involved.

G. B. Miller said...

Freaky indeed. I've woken from a few vivid dreams where I was still doing some kind of related action at the time.

Charles Gramlich said...

G. B., yeah that does happen when dreams intrude into the waking world a bit.

David J. West said...

I experienced it once. I was on my stomach and I looked the demon in the eye. Ugly mother F'er.

the walking man said...

I see where you said it could be associated with a lack of sleep. Damn Charles I am fortunate to get 4 hours a night and rarely as I have said are my sleep periods more than complete and total unconsciousness...I'd try this waking sleep paralysis thing but laying on my back (or side or other side or face) just hurts to damn much. I think you need to get some bedtime peyote. what the hell if you're going to be trippin' out trying to get some sleep may as well go on a spirit journey.

Charles Gramlich said...



David J., I didn't get a good look and I'm rather glad of that. :)

Mark, I also don't sleep as well as I used to because of aches and pains. So my sleep may be lighter and more prone to this kind of thing. A spirit journey indeed.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I have only heard of sleep paralysis and it sounds frightening. I get mild dreams, nightmares not so much, and I don't always remember them the next morning.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, most people don't remember their dreams well. There are plenty I don't recall either. But some...

jodi said...

Charles-You are the first person I've heard that suffers this. I sleep deeply and usually do not remember a thing! Good tat you can use it for your writing.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I know several folks who do. I guess we find each other.