Recently, in the wee small hours of the morning I’ve been waking up in a cold sweat, paralysed with fear, literally unable to move. Often, I may even feel that there is some sinister presence nearby, but that a heavy weight ways down on my chest and I am unable to move, scarcely able to eve breath. Nine times out of ten it is just Ailsa rolled on top of me and drooling in my ear but every now again it’s an episode of sleep paralysis.
I first had these experiences in my teens but since then they had been rare. Now, they’ve returned on a regular basis. Either the Greys have tracked me down and are back from Zeta Reticuli to abduct me for more anal probing and post-coital mind blanking. Or else my sleep patterns are slightly disturbed and I am regaining elements of conscious awareness whilst my body is still unable to move as during normal REM sleep. The accompanying hypnopompic experiences a post-hoc rationalisation of the strange physical sensation of being lucid and alert but unable to move a muscle.
Funny how the scientific explanation always sounds so boring and soporific. But once you know the real explanation for these events, the whole thing becomes rather good fun. And I have long known about sleep paralysis. So I am never to surprised or anxious during the experience, in fact I tend to find it entertaining.
I am generally dream very frequently and vividly. And as best as I remember, sleep paralysis most usually occurs at a transition from a state of almost lucid dreaming. () I get the impression that i have willed myself awake but don’t quite succeed. Since I am aware this is what is happening, I am not anxious and indulge the sensation of being paralysed.
There is an excellent description of the fear and mystery of sleep paralysis in Nikolai Gogol’s superb ghost story ‘The Portrait’:
Tchartkoff tried to scream, and felt that his voice was gone; he tried to move; his limbs refused their office. With open mouth, and failing breath, he gazed at the tall phantom, draped in some kind of a flowing Asiatic robe, and waited for what it would do.
Tchartkoff’s heart beat wildly as he heard the rustle of the retreating footsteps sounding through the room. He clasped the
roll of coin more closely in his hand, quivering in every limb.
Suddenly he heard the footsteps approaching the screen again.
Apparently the old man had recollected that one roll was missing. Lo! again he looked round the screen at him. The artist in despair grasped the roll with all his strength, tried with all his power to make a movement, shrieked–and awoke.
He was bathed in a cold perspiration; his heart beat as hard as it was possible for it to beat; his chest was oppressed, as though his last breath was about to issue from it. “Was it a dream?” he said, seizing his head with both hands. But the terrible reality of the apparition did not resemble a dream.
True, it can be terrible if you don’t know what is happening and your fevered imagination fears for the worst, but with a bit little knowledge of physiology it can be a wonderful thing.
A good place to start Al Cheyne’s Sleep Paralysis project