It’s happened to me several times, so I decided to do some research into sleep paralysis. A combination of nightmare, hallucination and physical terror, sleep paralysis is when you wake up (or think you’ve woken up) in the middle of the night with the feeling that something sinister is in the room, on the bed, or sitting on top of you. The fun part is that your entire body becomes frozen so that you can’t see what it is or fight the danger. Sometimes there are hallucinations, physical sensations such as tiny pinpricks all over the back, and even levitating and flying. I have had all these things happen to me in various episodes. Sleep paralysis may explain some cases of hauntings or alien abduction.
I found a surprising humber of articles both in the library and on the web – even an site devoted to sleep paralysis. I am waiting in a library queue for a book called Terror that Comes in the Night – behind about three others. Various articles quote statistics that anywhere from 10 to 40% of the population have had at least one episode of sleep paralysis in their lives. I’ve had it five times so far, both my sisters have had it, and probably my mom too. It might be genetic.
It could be caused by stress and anxiety too – each time I have had a case of “the Old Hag” (as it is sometimes called), it was during some kind of scary change going on or sleeping in a new place.