Have you ever had a dream that was so frightening that when you awoke from it and tried to yell for help you were only able to whisper? No matter how hard you strained to yell you were barely able to raise your voice beyond a cat's purr. It usually only last for a few seconds, once your body is finally able to completely wake up your given your voice back and able to scream for mom as loud as you please. But during those few seconds, it seems as if there is no escape, that whatever it is you were so afraid of is going to get you, that this is the end of the line for you. It is one of the more terrifying ordeals to experience from a dream and you might think that nothing could be worse than a nightmare. But what if i told you that you were wrong...
If you thought nightmares were frightening, pray that you never experience the phenomenon known as SLEEP PARALYSIS.
According to Wikipedia, the definition for Sleep Paralysis is as follows...
"Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon in which a person either during falling asleep or awakening, temporarily experiences an inability to move, speak, or react. It is a transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, characterized by muscle atonia (muscle weakness). It is often accompanied by terrifying hallucinations (such as an intruder in the room) to which one is unable to react due to paralysis, and physical experiences (such as strong current running through the upper body)."
Now that sounds bad and all but it doesn't do justice to the actual experience. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, my experience was bad, but nowhere near as bad as some of the experiences i have read about other dreamers online dealing with. So for the sake of authenticity, I will stick to my own experience.
Mine started like any other day, I got home from High school exhausted of course because ya know... High school. So i laid down on my couch to take a nap. It was the middle of the day, sunlight coming through the window, spongebob on the TV, i closed my eyes and fell asleep. Or at least i tried to. It felt like a blink, as if not a second had gone by between the time i closed my eyes and then opened them again. As I'm laying on the couch looking at the ceiling and catching glimpses of Spongebob out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the episode had continued from exactly where i had left it so I must not have fallen asleep. I realized that no time had gone by so i thought to myself "oh well, I'll just get up I guess," and that is when i noticed something was wrong.
As I tried to get up I found that i couldn't. I felt heavy, made out of lead. I couldn't move my head let alone a finger, i could move my eyes around and blink but that was all. I didn't understand what was going on and at this point i wasn't afraid.. That was until i noticed i couldn't breathe.
I felt like i was holding my breath. As if i was at the bottom of a pool. As i tried to exhale and inhale and found that i was unable to I started to get concerned. I thought to myself "okay maybe I AM asleep, I'm going to wake up soon." Just like in any bad dream, you always wake up right before you die, so i waited for it.. and I waited.. and I waited.. And soon, I came to the conclusion that wasn't going to happen, that i wasn't going to wake up... because i wasn't sleeping, I was awake, and frozen on the couch.
With my breath getting shorter and shorter i struggled to move but had no success. At this point I am terrified beyond measure. My eyes are darting around the room, looking for someone to walk past me, someone to notice I'm suffocating, someone to notice that there is something seriously wrong with me. But there is no one around. My air is running out, i can feel my body aching as it searches for air. At this moment i realise the worst, at this point I'm starting to feel as if I'm going to die. Something is seriously wrong with me, maybe I'm having a stroke or a brain aneurism and I'm going to suffocate on my couch unable to move or call for help. I have absolutely no air left in my lungs now, I feel like I'm going to pass out, I'll close my eyes and never open them again.
I'm trying to gasp for air but i can't let any in, even if i could i can't open my mouth to even try. Then I feel what seems like adrenaline, pumping through my body, i feel strength returning to my muscles. I'm still unable to move my limbs but i think maybe i can roll. So i attempt to roll and feel myself twisting. I tried to roll straight towards the floor so that i would fall but I don't have enough strength or momentum to do it in one movement. So i started rocking myself, as if i was on a swing in the park, slowly gaining momentum from left to right I'm rocking, getting closer and closer to tipping over.
My body is still stiff as a board but I'm rolling. Finally I gain enough momentum to roll off of the couch. On the last rock, when i know I have enough momentum to finally fall off i think to myself "this is it, I'm going to hit the ground and hopefully i make enough noise for someone to notice, hopefully someone can come and save me." With absolutely nothing left in my lungs I give my all to this last roll, i see myself roll off the couch, i see the ground coming closer and closer, and then...
I never hit the ground, as I open my eyes expecting to find myself lying on the floor i realize that I'm still laying on the couch. Still in the exact same position, with spongebob back to the moment I had left off on, as if only a second had gone by. It could't be I thought to myself, how could this be happening, i was struggling for well over a minute, i felt myself lose all the air in my lungs, i heard the stupid TV show playing in the background of my torture. I lay there for a moment in disbelief of what just happened, gasp and take a huge breath, sit up, and almost start crying in relief.
At that point i realized it was all just a dream, albeit the most lucid, vivid, and terrifying dream i had ever experienced. But still, it was just a dream. I was so relieved.. Relieved to be alive.
It was the scariest dream, no, the scariest moment, I had ever experienced in my life. I don't suffer from any sleep disorders, I had never had an experience even close to as serious and terrifying as this one and it wasn't even real. How could something like this happen? Was I the only one? It was all so new to me and I was filled with questions. So i jumped on the computer and looked up any information i could find.
I found out that i wasn't alone and that this experience is one that millions of people have experienced. I found that my personal experience fell into one of the 3 categories that define SLEEP PARALYSIS. After reading about the other two categories I was thankful that mine was so mild. Although to me, it was the single most terrifying moment of my life. I consider it a near death experience. Eventhough i was never in any real danger, even though it was all just a dream. It was so real, so vivid. I KNOW that i was unable to breath and that i was running out of breath, I felt that i was going to die. It sounds crazy, because it was all just a dream ya know. But I would bet that if you were to ask someone who has gone through this terror that you find a similar answer emotional response.
The other 2 categories include feelings of intruders, and even sexual misconduct, as well as floating and experiencing an out of body experience. Some describe it almost like being abducted by E.T.
There is a newer movie on Netflix now called "The Nightmare" which does a really good job of portraying the events of a few individuals who experienced Sleep Paralysis first hand. If you watch the movie and realize that this is not a Hollywood script but something that these people actually experienced it can be pretty disturbing. The movie doesn't really explain how or why SLEEP PARALYSIS happens in the first place but it is still very entertaining. There are many different theories that try and explain the phenomena, but that we will leave for another post.
What I'm more interested in is Your experience. Have you ever had sleep paralysis? If so what was it like? How scared were you? Please comment your own ordeal in the comments section below and let me know!
So for now, SWEET DREAMS EVERYONE!