One of the most common dreams I am asked about when on the air is the one where you are in your bed and a dark, sinister presence enters the room. It is so terrifying that you’re unable to move, speak out or scream. Very often it is difficult to breathe because the creature is on you, suffocating you! Some folks shake or feel like they are leaving their bodies.
People are horrified by this experience and , understandably, believe they have been haunted because it is very real and some swear they are awake.
The truth is, this is not a dream… nor is it a haunting. It is actually a fascinating physiological experience called Sleep Paralysis, or The Old Hag Syndrome! And there is not a thing one should worry about when it happens.
Here’s the deal, when we sleep and enter the REM state, which is when dreaming takes place, our brain releases a chemical that literally paralyzes our skeletal muscles so that we don’t act out our dreams. When we’ve had a fitful night of sleep or haven’t slept long enough, we will start to wakeup before our brain can re-activate our muscle control, which causes us to get “stuck” in that inbetween state of sleep and wakefulness. This is called Hypnogogia. Cool name, huh? In this state you are asleep and awake at the same time, which is why you are aware that you are in your room and in your bed. This is also why you can’t move, speak or scream… because you are still paralyzed!
Now, about that dark, frightening creature in the room. That is still a mystery to many researchers but I have a theory. We tend to have fitful nights of sleep because something is “weighing heavy” on us – hence the pressure on the chest. There is some negative force in our life that is keeping us from sleeping peacefully. It can be anything from debt, to relationship troubles. And in Dream Psychology, negative elements in our life often show up in our dreams in the form of a dark shadow, a monster or some other villainouscharacter. So when we are temporarily stuck in that Hypnogogic state, which is a hallucinatory state btw, it is no wonder that the very thing that is causing disrupted sleep would still be present in our mind. I have spoken to numurous people who have experienced this and when asked if was something heavy on their minds that night the answer has always been yes.
If this happens to you… fear not! It is mostly physiological and will subside in a moment or two. It is not harmful in any way and does not mean there is anything wrong with you. No need to call your priest or the ghost hunters! There is not a cure, as of yet, for Sleep Paralysis but journaling about any of your negative, worrisome issues before bedtime is a big help. Get it out of your psyche and onto paper. Try to sort out your thoughts about what is troubling you as best you can so you don’t take it into sleep with you. Also, making sure you have a regular sleep schedule and are getting enough good, solid sleep helps tremendously. I know. Easier said than done.
The next time you have this experience, now that you know what it is, it probably will not be as frightening to you. In fact, it’s a really cool state of mind, being asleep and awake at the same time, having a foot in both worlds. So take advantage of it! You can actually take control of it because it is essentially a lucid dream state, which means you can do anything you want! Will yourself to float up and out of your bed. Try flying through your house or walking through the wall. What I like to advise people to do is ask the presence in your room a question like, “Who are you?” “What do you need to tell me?” Or even, “What is the meaning of life?” and see what kind of answer you get! Odds are, you WILL get an answer.