Dreams – Sleep Paralysis and The Old Hag

thenightmare

The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli – 1781

I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. I can still remember a couple of my dreams from early childhood, and several from different points in my life. I’ve always wondered what placed certain people and places into your dreams, and I find it extraordinary how much about dreams is still unexplained.

I’ve had dreams that were:

Weird (an early childhood dream where a king had a giant throne in our living room, and when he scraped his arm he bled yellow)

Violent (shooting someone I went to high school with that I barely knew and hadn’t thought about in years)

Supernatural (the night my mom passed away she comforted me in a dream)

Funny (Hi, John Goodman! Say, why do you live in a loft in this public restroom?)

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a true, honest to goodness nightmare. I’ve had some scary dreams, but nothing that had me crying out or waking up in a cold sweat. So when I got the idea to incorporate some aspect of dreams/nightmares into my work in progress, I started doing research and became fascinated with one particular aspect of dreams/nightmares – sleep paralysis.

This is some freaky stuff.  With sleep paralysis, people who are either beginning to fall asleep or starting the waking process have the inability to move. So they feel awake, but can’t move and often have trouble breathing. That’s kind of freaky on its own. Oh, and did I mention that the paralysis is accompanied by terrifying visions?!? So you’re basically having the worst acid trip of your life, plus you can’t move and can hardly breathe. One of the recurring visions people report seeing is a witch (called ‘the old hag’) or a demon sitting on their chest, or feeling someone or something on their back if they sleep on their stomach.

So, to summarize, you feel awake but you can’t move, and you’re having trouble breathing. You either see horrific things around you or have an overwhelming sense of unbearable dread, and can’t do a thing about it. I’ve read some recollections of people who have sleep paralysis, and it sounds terrible. Some people claimed to be able to get it under control, even take charge of their dreams and change their surroundings (known as ‘lucid dreaming’), but at least those first few times it must feel like you’re losing your mind. Crappy for actual people, but great for my protagonist. 🙂

If this sort of thing interests you, check out some of the stories from people who suffer from sleep paralysis here. This is a fairly run of the mill episode someone shared online:

I’m a 21yr old healthy male, currently at university. I recently went home to see the family, and stayed in the guest room. Normal day, normal sleep time, nothing out of the ordinary.

I wake up, at what I would imagine is around 4am, just as it is getting light, my eyes are open and I am looking at the wall that the bed is against, away from the corridor and the door. I hear some noise in the corridor and think that I must have been woken up by it, not thinking much I try to fall sleep again, until this noise turns into screaming.

This screaming is terrifying, its like a woman absolutely screaming her lungs out, not really human sounding, terrifying. I try to move and just cant, I’m lying on my front facing the wall, eyes open, not able to move.

This screaming travels down the corridor until its outside my door, I hear my door open and the screaming continues across the room until I feel this thing climb onto me, kneeling on my back. There is this incredible weight on my body, this thing is literally kneeling on my back screaming in my ear, its deafening too. At this point I remember grinding my teeth horrendously and waking.

This was absolutely terrifying, it still scares me now. I’m guessing it was Sleep Paralysis, sounds similar, what do you think?

I think I’m grateful I don’t have sleep paralysis! Does anyone out there suffer from this or know anyone who does? Feel free to comment and share your stories.

And if all this doesn’t creep you out enough, here’s one last dose of nightmare fuel for you. Sweet dreams!

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6 thoughts on “Dreams – Sleep Paralysis and The Old Hag

  1. I have horrific nightmares, although less often than I did when I was younger. I also suffer from sleep paralysis. I hate that shit, not to put too fine a point on it. It is the most terrifying experience.
    My nightmares generally involve impending doom of some sort. I had one where I was shot in the head. I could feel the bullet passing through my skull.

  2. Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    I have horrific nightmares, although less often than I did when I was younger. I also suffer from sleep paralysis. I hate that shit, not to put too fine a point on it. It is the most terrifying experience.
    My nightmares generally involve impending doom of some sort. I had one where I was shot in the head. I could feel the bullet passing through my skull.

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