How Do We Define Sleep Paralysis?

When we go to sleep, we aim to be relaxed and free from disturbances whilst sleeping. During sleep, your body repairs tissues, bone and muscles and there are two major sleep phases that rotate as we sleep: non-REM and REM sleep. During non-REM sleep, your body is getting ready for deep sleep and this lasts for 1- 40 minutes. REM sleep is described as when an individual is in a deep sleep with heart and body temperature increases and vivid dreams. This lasts for 10–60 minutes. It is during REM sleep that the activity of your brain increases. The events of your day and memories will develop as long-term storage in your mind. When you experience an intense dream, REM sleep also occurs more prominently.

Sleep Paralysis takes place when you are fully engaged, as determined by your brain activity BUT you will not be able to move your arms, legs, or any part of the body. As you sleep, you will be aware of the things going around you, but you will not be able to move your body. This state of paralysis takes place to stop the body from acting out its dreams.

What Are The Reasons For Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep Paralysis is a common condition that happens to 1 in 20 people worldwide, regardless of age, gender or cultural background. There are no explanations for the cause of sleep paralysis and no treatments. It has also been associated with of Narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that impacts the brain’s control of the sleep-wake cycle. Some people who experience Narcolepsy also experience Sleep Paralysis.

There are many factors linked to Sleep Paralysis, such as:

- Disturbed sleep cycles.
- Insomnia can also be a major cause of Sleep Paralysis episodes.
- Some mental illnesses and anxiety can also lead to Sleep Paralysis.
- Usage of certain medications will also hamper the sleep cycle, which will give rise to Sleep Paralysis.
- Sleeping on your back can also cause Sleep Paralysis episodes.

What Does Sleep Paralysis Feel Like?

People define Sleep Paralysis as an overpowering, vivid-like dream experience with frightening features that may include seeing entities, hearing different sounds and feeling sensations creating fear and terror. The experience is described as taking place in an alternative dimension.

They are not nightmares and can also include Astral Projection — a term that defines the soul/spirit/ethereal body/consciousness of an individual leaving the physical body while sleeping or meditating and travelling to other places according to their preferences. Some people intentionally astral project.

Sleep Paralysis And Its Relationship To Spirituality

Sleep Paralysis may scare some people, but many think it is a gift. They can develop psychic abilities such as communicating with spirits of the outer world during their Sleep Paralysis phase. They can also communicate telepathically with the positive and negative beings that are present with them. Some people describe those with Sleep Paralysis as God’s messengers, special agents sent to save humankind with their spiritual powers. Many popular beliefs and theories elevate the importance and occurrence of Sleep Paralysis.

The Presence Of A Familiar Spirit

Various reasons behind Sleep Paralysis come from different places in the world. Some people focus on the evil entities as something to connect with a familiar spirit or helper. The concept states that no matter what, there are many spirits around you, and they can be negative and positive. The negative ones will try to harm you, and the positive ones will try to communicate with you about the outer world during your Sleep Paralysis. The positive ones can be your guardian angels or spirit guides.

An Old Hag Culture

This is one of the common theories being suggested as the reason for Sleep Paralysis in Newfoundland, Canada. In Newfoundland, people believe that an old hag will choke a person and sit on their chest, and in Germany, people often believe that if a person is experiencing Sleep Paralysis, then a witch is riding on top of them. Different cultures portray Sleep Paralysis according to their spiritual perspectives.


Treatments for Sleep Paralysis are urgently needed. The treatment will help to remove anxiety, mental disorders, and allow the person to transition past the fear that it can create.

If you have sleep paralysis episodes frequently, consider seeing a physician. A medical or psychiatric doctor can guide you through ways to treat the underlying cause or develop ways to improve your sleep routine and prevent recurring episodes.

Originally published at on June 29, 2022.

Author's Bio: 

Sheila is passionate about illuminating the connection between sleep paralysis, spirituality and science. She does it through researching, educating and raising awareness so that the stigma surrounding it can be dismantled offering people improved health and well-being, support with their experiences and benefits from its positive aspects.

She also researches and educates people about extraordinary spiritual phenomena, so that they can connect to that Universal power to create energetic shifts, heal their souls, and manifest their best life!