Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
Home Artist Blog About Me Life in Alaska Purchase Site Index Speak
Home » Archives » February 2005 » REM Paralysis

[Previous entry: "Interesting Class for artists/writers"] [Next entry: "Bridal Shower"]

02/25/2005: "REM Paralysis"

Ever since I was little I've suffered from terrible nightmares and something worse than nightmares...the experience of waking up, being conscious, and not being able to move. It was different all the time, sometimes I could sense an evil presence in the room, sometimes it felt like someone was sitting on top of me, sometimes I felt like I was being lifted towards the ceiling. The experiences were very real to me because they happened when I was awake!

My family was extremely religious and demons and sprits were real to us; when this happened, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was some kind of evil spirit attacking me. I was afraid to fall asleep, that's when I first starting suffering from insomnia. It had a huge impact on my life even in college, if this happened I would have to sleep (in the same room) with one of my roommates because I was so afraid to be left alone.

Well, last night I watched Peter Jennings’s special "Seeing is Believing" where they interviewed alien abductees and then doctors who talked about REM paralysis. I knew that we become paralyzed when we're in REM sleep, so we don't try to act out our dreams, but I didn't know that there is a common phenomenon associated with it. The following excerpt is from Better Sleep Now ( a specialist's response to a woman who had similar experiences as mine whenever her husband went out of town on business:

"The lighter sleep that you experience when your husband is away (you do not sleep as deep, and sleep with “one ear open”), is causing you to occasionally feel this paralysis of your body during REM. Other common sensations during REM paralysis are pressure in the chest area, feelings that you are being held down or pushed into the bed, difficulty breathing or calling for help, and also feelings that you are elevating or levitating off the bed.

The cure for “REM Paralysis” dreams is knowledge."

I can't even begin to explain how liberated I feel at this moment. I only wish that someone had told me about this sooner.

Replies: 10 Comments

on Friday, February 25th, holly said

When my son was a toddler, they called this phenomenon "night terrors"- like a nightmare, but one that happens when awake. I lived alone with my son, and one night I heard him calling out--not quite screaming, but almost. I walked into his room without turning on any lights and went to his bed. He was sitting absolutely frozen, wide awake. He pointed to the far corner of the room (this was an old house- big, too) and said, "Get that man out of here." The hair stands up on my arms just thinking about it. Of course, there was no one in the room. He also claimed that a big brown rabbit ("full of badness," he claimed) peeked at him through his window at night and made him unable to move (he used to say it was so he couldn't run away). Not a cuddly bunny, but some kind of scary bunny monster. Finally, I moved his bed to a different part of the room, away from the window and the bedroom door and it seemed to take care of the problem. Must be horrible to have your sleep affected like this as an adult.

on Friday, February 25th, Dio said

Its freaky stuff if it happens to you, but when you look into it you can see how all the UFO abduction stories, and in older times the succubus stories more than likely came from this condition.

I have had them twice in my life, and both times they were directly relating to the stuff I had been infusing in my environment throughout the day. It doesn't take a great leap to see how stuff you've subconsciously been absorbing through the day helps to form the fabric of these events. Rows of books and reams of TV programmes on the UFO phenomena and occult and biff - awake, paralysed, dreaming but awake - aliens are prodding you and you're trapped.

The one time I was paralysed in the bed we had. I has spent the day on the beach (must have been about 7 or 8 at the time) and woke up in the night, surrounded by jellyfish, alive and there in the room, creeping up on me. It was so real as well - I was there in the caravan, locked solid whilst these creatures slowly made there way towards me. I can recall it now and it still makes me shudder.

The second time I was a lot older - maybe early 20s, and had been out for the night to a gig, surrounded by people in a musty club. I woke up in my bed, the bedroom was full of revellers and I got cross - they were wrecking my stuff and causing a rumpus. Not so scary, but still I remember how vivid it was because I was awake and it was my room.

It's not happened again since - and I'm sure it's only happened twice, but maybe I had the odd minor episode as well that has slipped back into the recesses. I can't stress enough how real it seemed at the time - and it was a few years after the 2nd instant I read Carl Sagan's excellent 'Demon Haunted World' and put two and two together - as it mentioned the condition and link with alien abduction stories and I suddenly could see how those events related too my own.

But compared to the problems it's caused you, I'm sure I've got off lightly.

on Friday, February 25th, Elise said

Holly, I’m sorry to hear that happened to your son. I have had night terrors as well, but I’m pretty sure that they’re different from REM paralysis (ASP, Awareness during Sleep Paralysis). Here is what distinguishes them according to

"ASP occurs during REM sleep (Stage 1). Night Terrors occur during nonREM sleep (Stage 4 or Delta sleep).

ASP experiencers have excellent recall --- often in excruciating detail. NT experiencers often recall nothing or only a single frightening image.

ASPrs are unable to move. NTrs can flail about and sometimes sleepwalk.

The sounds ASPrs make are barely audible to others. The screams of NTrs are often heard by others.

The median age of onset for ASP is 14. Night Terrors are most frequent in children 3 - 8.

Others have no difficulty awakening an ASPr; a touch is often sufficient. Parents report great difficulty awakening a child from NT.

ASP experiencers can learn to direct the course of their experiences into a pleasant lucid dream or OBE. This is not known to happen with NT experiencers.

About the only thing Awareness during Sleep Paralysis has in common with Night Terrors is that both may be promoted by stress."

Also, I think you’re right Dio, about the succubus/incubus experiences of old changing over time depending on the boogie man of the day. For example (and I know this sounds crazy) but one time I woke up and Freddy Kruger was standing in the corner of my bedroom, and he even spoke to me but it was like he was inside my head. I couldn't move for nearly a minute and when I could get out of bed I ran upstairs and slept in the bathroom tub.

And though I *love* (I can’t stress that enough) Carl Sagan's work…I haven’t read that particular book yet ...but now I want to.

Here’s what someone else wrote about REM paralysis on

"A number of people with severe sleep paralysis say they hallucinate while they're frozen, sometimes hearing frightening sounds or the experience of an "old lady" (Hag), sitting on their chest.

Sufferers have horrible nightmare type hallucinations. They see dark, hooded figures as they lie helpless in bed and some women report feelings of being raped. Others see bright lights and swear they were abducted by aliens while other's have reported hearing knocking sounds on walls, voices, footsteps, experience shaking of the body, ringing of the ears, or of being in a dream-like state, yet feeling fully awake.

(Before people claimed of being abducted by aliens, Sleep Paralysis victims would say they were being visited by spirits or dead ancestors)."

Anyway, knowing that there is a scientific/clinical explination for some of the most traumatic experiences of my life has completely shifted my world view. Sweet sleep, here I come!

on Friday, February 25th, holly said

Wow, Elise- thanks for that. Are these things hereditary? I was a sleepwalker as a kid-- I wonder if my boy got some of this from me. As for the shapes in the room, knocking on walls, etc.- I've experienced that kind of stuff my whole adult life. You'll never convince me it's not ghosts!

on Friday, February 25th, Elise said

I don't know if it's hereditary or not, my guess would be no but that's just a guess. No one else in my family ever had problems of this kind from what I know anyway.
Did you ever see "Altered States" which explored the possibility of genetic memories?

Anyway, I think the sleep paralysis experiences are unique in that they happen at night, while you're in bed asleep, and then you wake up and X happens.

If a person has supernatural or extraterrestrial experiences during the day or in a situation that's in no way related to sleep, then probably something else *is* going on.


I did have a friend who seemed to have a poltergeist following their family around and there are some wild stories I could tell you, but as I've become an adult, I question my memories. The only experiences that I am 100% certain of are all explained by the sleep paralysis condition.

Since I live alone, I'm just going to go with that reality from now on!

on Saturday, February 26th, Howard said

I have problems with sleep paralysis quite often. I think it's because I'm a light sleeper. I've read about it years ago and knowing what it is helps a lot. Sometimes I'm able to recognize what's happening without waking up and I'm able to allow myself to relax enough to fall back into rem sleep completly. Sometimes this leads to some pretty neat lucid dreams.

on Saturday, February 26th, M said

I use to have terrible reoccuring nightmares. They always involved Satan and his coming to get me and I would fight him off crossing my arms like a cross. Or that he woud come out of the floor and take me. I had these reoccuring nightmares for years and years, and got tired of it and I decided to fight back. I started reading my bible before bed and praying, so that my mind was in the right place before sleep. I also prayed and asked God not to let me have the nightmares any more. I gave my life to him and trusted him to take this away. I refuse to watch movies or read books anymore that might influence my mind. I started believing that God was my shield and I would no longer have the dreams. They are completely gone now. I have never felt paralysis, but the dreams were awful and even when I lived in different homes or places it reoccured. I am 45 now. I stopped having them when I was about 35. The mind is a powerful thing. I hope this helps in some way.

on Saturday, February 26th, Elise said

Lucid dreaming is something I want to look more into. There have only been a couple of times where I've been able to do that, and only for short periods of time but I know there are methods for learning how to do it more often. I will try it the next time the sleep paralysis thing happens...if it happens again. Now that I know what's going on I think I'm sleeping more soundly.

As for nightmares, I think they are pretty common, and tend to manifest our deepest fears. For example, I used to believe in the devil when I was younger and had nightmares on that theme but now that I don't believe, those dreams have stopped.

However, whatever helps people to live happier more peaceful lives is cool by me.

on Saturday, February 26th, subi said

hey elise, hope you can finally get some good sleep since learning all this new info... I don't think I've had the paralysis part but I have had very lucid terrifying dreams that I cannot wake from... or where I am paralyzed in the dream itself. Remember when I was watching that cabin outside of Homer... I really had horrible nightmares there...and at the time thought I saw ghosts (the short old woman who apparrently fit the description of the original homesteader Ma Russell)... so I definitely think we as humans have the ability to also pick up on vibes of a house or place as well and that can add to the experience/ reception of a said experience too. I am sleeping well these adays, probably from exhaustion! :laugh: I would love to read more about the idea of genetic memory... perhaps you have a good link?

on Sunday, February 27th, Elise said

Hey Subi Do,
I do remember staying at the Kilcher homestead and sleeping on that tiny bed and then the next morning you asked me if I had any weird experiences during the night and I had had those terrible dreams, as well as waking up with the feeling that bugs or little animals were chewing through the surface of the bed underneath me and then into my flesh, but I couldn't move. And you said that everyone that slept in that bed had horrible weird experiences and as you'll also recall, I got really pissed off at you (I'm over it now).

I believe that was the same weekend my truck got attacked by the wild horses on the beach so I wasn't in the best mood...

Oh, and speaking of horses, remember those horse drawings that Jewel had done, and the really terrible poems?

hee hee

Man, I haven't been to Homer in the longest time, I really miss it.

As for the genetic memory thing, I'll find you an article or two from reputable scholarly journals and send them your way.

How's the expat life treating you and Stella these days?