Brian is so tired. He is almost 28 years old but he feels him as 100-year-old man with the biggest burdens ever. Brian can´t sleep or at least he cannot sleep normally. His life is not anymore life; it is just a shadow of the life this young man once used to have. He was popular baseball player, beloved among girls, very handsome and successful consultant in Brown Brothers Harriman & Co, with the office directly located on Broadway. That was long before everything started rolling down, dragging him into the abyss of fear and hallucinations. Brian Cliff suffers from sleep-time paralysis and nobody can help him.


However, Brian is not the only one but the one that shares the destiny of 8% of people with this sleeping disorder. Some reports even come up with the 28% of humans that face with the scary sleep but all is still in the domain of wandering and wondering. The medicine is not yet capable to offer the solution for this harmless disorder that turns people dreams into the real nightmares.

What we know about sleep paralysis so far? According to experts, sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak in the moment of waking up or simply falling asleep. It occurs to every person once in a lifetime or even twice but to some people it happens regularly and it causes severe problems, in spite of fact that is considered as benign phenomena:” During an episode of sleep paralysis you may: find it difficult to take deep breaths, as if your chest is being crushed or restricted; be able to move your eyes – some people can also open their eyes but others find they can’t;have a sensation that there’s someone or something in the room with you (hallucination) many people feel this presence wishes to harm them; feel very frightened. The length of an episode can vary from a few seconds to several minutes.” After that episode, the life should be back to normal but not many people can feel themselves happy after they have experienced the horror of waking up or getting asleep. Some have fear that the same will happen again and some are stuck in the world between sleeping and being awake, trying to find the way out.

Sleep Paralysis

The main problem is that majority of human beings is very fragile during the sleep time and that the feeling of fear is always more intensive: „Sleep paralysis happens when parts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occur while you’re awake. REM is a stage of sleep when the brain is very active and dreams often occur. The body is unable to move, apart from the eyes and muscles used in breathing, possibly to stop you acting out your dreams and hurting yourself.” In other words, based on scientific approach, the sleep paralysis occurs when the person is awaken before the cycle of REM is complete. There are two chemicals in the brain, GABA and glycine and they are responsible for switching on and switching off the neurons that make muscles active. If one is awaken before the body is ready to be moved, he or she may experience the sleep-time paralysis. In ordinary sleepers, the body is ready before the mind is active. In sleep-paralysis experiencer, the mind is active before body is on.



The background of the sleep paralysis is under research in medical field but also in the area of demonology and paranormal phenomena. The question is why someone hallucinates during this scary phase. The doctors believe there are three types of those hallucinations: The presence of an intruder, the pressure on the chest and levitation and out-of-body experiences: The first, sensing an intruder, may be caused by the combination of lower sensory detection thresholds and high activity in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. Breathing difficulty is due to paralysis of the muscles in the upper airways that causes feelings of choking and suffocation. Lastly, out-of-body experiences are associated with structures in the brain known as vestibular nuclei that co-ordinate body movements. The feeling of viewing oneself from outside the body occurs because of a connection problem between brain activity and body control.”

This factual explained sleep paralysis confronts the folklore, urban legends and the thrilling chapters from the book of demonology. In ancient age, the people have believed in evil forces that attacks individuals during their sleep. It has been known as “ghost oppression”, especially in Chinese culture while Turkish demonology calls it “the dark presser”, Germans claim there are “passing witches” and British talk about “Stand-stills”. Every culture has its own expressions of bad spirit that endangers innocent people in their sleeping moments. Nowadays, some patients have reported that they have been victims of dark energy presented around them, while they have been limited in their moving and breathing. It is always the same evidence that some evil spirit is hiding itself or even crushing the breathing mechanism, causing the panic attack and fear in targeted people. The thriller movie “Dead Awake” from 2016 has elaborated this problem and shown the nature of sleep paralysis through the supernatural dilemmas. Unfortunately, instead of entertainment, the story of this quality leads public into the deep water of misunderstanding and illogical fear. The person that experiences sleep paralysis on daily level is enough scared because of the neurological disorders and the impact of hallucination makes things worse for the state of spirit. The imbalance between body and mind that indicates sleep-time paralysis is stressful and frightful in spite of fact that is harmless. The natural heed of every single living being is to breathe, to be able to survive and live. In the cases when that is impossible or limited, the person is scared and project the first level of hallucinations and illusions. The old, primitive fears, imprinted in humankind genetic code, is just a trigger for the individual under panic attack. Instead of common sense, the fear brings demons and witches, letting them to make theater of horror.


In each natural situation, there is a safe corner for supernatural imagination. In that way, the mind can overcome the accumulated pressure and uncontrolled stress, blaming for all the outer negative entity and washing hands from own responsibility. It is easy to discuss these phenomena from the rational level as a normal sleeper but I personally share the belief that fear is the biggest myth ever and must be defined and demystified so the people could be able to have lives free from their own inner darkness and fragility. If we make to understand all from the logical base, we will be able to defeat all obstacles through the logical and available methods.

The person that has SP must be willing to try to detect underlying struggles and to replace them with positive solutions. The first step is to stop problems to influence the sleeping peace. The second step is to work on the problems during the phase of activity and to protect the routine of coming sleeping. If the sleep paralysis goes further, it is necessary to be advised by professionals who will offer the appropriate treatment and not drawing the demons on the wall.


The sleep paralysis is common, happens to all people sometimes and it is definitely not caused by Devil´s legion but by certain neurological processes and mental difficulties. It is not meant to be eternal burden but to be solved through the active and passive medical approach, adjusted to the needs of the individual that is facing it.

We must stop searching for evil spirits in some far away world, accusing them for all bad luck we have. In 21st century, the myths are made to be broken and to be forgotten through the advanced strategy of science. Remember, every demons has its letter in science. Everything could be explained, everything could be expounded, sooner or later. We do not need demons outside of us to show us that they have been inside of us all the time.

It is evening and Brian Cliff  is learning  how to chase his own demons away and to not let them win. Not in sleep and not in life itself.



  1. Naturally, Sarah’s brilliant article brought to mind the Gothic painting ‘The Nightmare’ (1781), by the Anglo-Swiss artist Henri Fuseli (1741-1825): a young woman in deep sleep with her arms thrown below her, and with a demonic and apelike incubus crouched upon her chest.

    The painting’s dreamlike and haunting erotic evocation of infatuation and obsession was a success: after its first exhibition (i.e. The Royal Academy of London, in 1782), critics and patrons reacted with horrified fascination and the work became widely popular, to the extent that it was parodied in political satire and an engraved version was widely distributed. In response, Henri Fuseli produced at least three other versions.

    Interpretations vary: simultaneously, the canvas seems to portray a dreaming woman and the content of her nightmare. The incubus and horse’s head refer to contemporary belief and folklore about nightmares, but have been ascribed more specific meanings by some theorists. Contemporary critics were taken aback by the overt sexuality of the painting, since interpreted by some scholars as anticipating Jungian ideas about the unconscious.

    The early meaning of ‘nightmare’ included the sleeper’s experience of weight on the chest combined with sleep paralysis, dyspnea or a feeling of dread. The painting incorporates a variety of imagery associated with these ideas; depicting a mare’s head and a demon crouched atop the woman. In Old English, the name for these beings was ‘mare’ or ‘mære’ (from the proto-Germanic ‘marōn’; cf. Old Norse ‘mara’). Thus, comes the ‘mare’ in the word ‘nightmare’.

    The painting ‘The Nightmare’ influenced Mary Shelley (1797-1851): there is a scene from her Gothic novel ‘Frankenstein’ (1818). She would have been familiar with the painting, because her parents, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, knew Henri Fuseli. The iconic imagery associated with the Creature’s murder of the protagonist Doctor Victor Frankenstein’s wife seems to draw from the canvas: ‘she was there, lifeless and inanimate, thrown across the bed, her head hanging down, and her pale and distorted features half covered by hair.’ The novel and Henri Fuseli’s biography share a parallel theme: just as his incubus is infused with the artist’s emotions in seeing Landholdt marry another man, Mary Shelley’s monster promises to achieve revenge on Doctor Victor Frankenstein, on the night of his wedding. Like Frankenstein’s monster, Henri Fuseli’s demon seeks to forestall a marriage.

    The North American writer Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) may have evoked the painting ‘The Nightmare’ in his short story entitles ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ (1839). His narrator compares a painting hanging in Usher’s house to a Henri Fuseli work, and reveals that an ‘irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame, and, at length, there sat upon my heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm’. Edgar Allen Poe and Henri Fuseli shared an interest in the subconscious: Henri Fuseli is quoted as saying “One of the most unexplored regions of art are dreams…”


  2. Another educational article, Sarah !

    Sleep paralysis and all diseases, be they physical or psychological, can be explained scientifically and logically. Ascribing this or any other disease to the presence or doing of spirits or ghost is nothing but irrational !

    The patient has to try to meditate and to bring himself/herself to a state of awareness and control over oneself. I totally understand and appreciate that this is easier said than done, however, the person has to both try medication and believe in it ! Believing in something is key, as it invokes positive thinking, which leads to cure !

    Thank you so much, Sarah, for your research and educational articles ! We learn so much from them ! And, as always, the writing is excellent and the illustrations are great !


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !