Personal blogs from the members of Capture Paranormal

Sleep Paralysis

-Bryce Giroux

I was lying in bed one night, just starting to drift off to sleep, I could feel the void clawing at my consciousness, and my subconscious had already begun its job of weaving some tales to take me through the night. It usually takes me a while to actually fall asleep, as I tend to lay in bed at night and dream up stories, or run through conversations I've had or I'm about to have, that sort of thing. But, suddenly I felt it. My arms and legs were numb, and a sensation of terror fell over me as I could feel the coldness around me. I was terrified, and unable to move, my breath grew ragged in fear, and all I could muster was to look down my body to the foot of the bed. Standing there was a shadow nearly seven-feet tall, looming over me, as though coaxing my very soul from my body. I was petrified with fear. I tried to scream out, but I could only mutter. I took a deep breath, and as suddenly as it hit, the sensation left me. The Presence, too, was gone as though it had never been there.

I was convinced I was visited by a supernatural entity that night. And he, or it, would come again for me another night. That time, I would be lying on my side, facing the window, again drifting off into slumber when I would get the sensation of deep panic fall over me, and there he would be, beside my bed, looming over me, and demanding my own soul. I learned later that what I had experienced was not paranormal in nature, but a misfiring in my brain as I tried to sleep.

I was introduced to the phrase "sleep paralysis with hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations" in my 30s, but I had suffered from the experiences long before that. It was on an Internet forum where people were talking about their most terrifying experiences where someone brought that up. I was curious, so I did some research into it, and discovered that what I had experienced had an explanation to it.

Sleep paralysis occurs when your brain triggers the deep sleep stage too early or ends the stage too late. It's a common myth that you only dream during REM sleep. Studies have shown that you, in fact, dream all night, several hundred dreams each night. Most are mundane dreams, recounting the day's events, and cataloguing your experiences with past experiences, and disregarding information that's not relevant. It's during REM sleep, though, that your conscious brain wakes slightly and you experience some of your most vivid dreams. For people who suffer from SP/HHEs, though, this can be triggered either too early in the sleep cycle (hypnagogic) or too late in the cycle (hypnopompic), and the paralysis occurs because your brain triggers chemicals that prevent your motor functions from working properly so you don't act out your dreams. Too little, and you sleep walk. Too much, and you experience sleep paralysis which is when you wake up slightly and are aware of your body, but you are unable to move it. SP only lasts a few seconds, but to the person suffering it can seem to last minutes, or hours.

Your brain can also do some very strange things during the hypnagogic or hypnopompic stages of a sleep paralysis episode, and I have run the gamut of them. The Presence is one of the most common, where you feel you are stricken with fear so deep and so primal, that the sensation can last with you for days, months or years in some cases (I still get terrified of the Presence when I lie down in bed at night, wondering when he will show up again). Another experience that I've also had is known as the "exploding head syndrome", where just as you are drifting off to sleep, you hear a loud bang that actually causes the sensation of a concussion explosion, like a loud firework or cannon going off beside your head, starting you awake. Personally, I've only experienced that once or twice. Another is known as the "tangled sheet syndrome", which can also be terrifying. I have been drifting off to sleep when I suddenly find it difficult to breath only to realize that the bed sheets have become twisted around my throat, and as I try to pull them away, they only get tighter and tighter to the point where I am in full-on panic mode, when suddenly in the next second I am awake to find myself in bed with the sheets draped loosely across my chest. It's a bizarre sensation to have. I have also had a few experiences where I was certain that I walked downstairs, got a drink of water, spoke to people in the room, and then returned to bed because I was too tired only to find out that none of that happened. Yet, I could feel it, the fatigue in my legs, the quenching of my dry throat from the water.

Over the years, I began to identify what causes it. Certain medications, alcohol, fatigue, stress are all major culprits and most of them can't be fixed. It's also suggested that sleeping on your stomach or side reduces the frequency, but I have found that that is not always the case. I taught myself to identify the sensations that I experience to remind myself that I'm only asleep, and that I need to just wake up. Sometimes I've been met with success, but lately I've found that my subconscious is onto me. The last time I experienced it, I realized I was undergoing an SP episode, and I forced myself awake only to realize I was still asleep when I didn't recognize my bedroom in anyway. So, I forced myself awake again, and again I realized that I was in an unfamiliar place, so I pushed again where I turned to my wife and told her what was happening only to realize that I didn't have a wife. So I pushed myself awake again through great effort, and grabbed my tablet and posted what was happening. When I woke in the morning, I found the post and realized that that was the final layer of it: 4 levels deep, my post said. I'm sure my friends had no idea what I was going on about, but it was affirmation to me that I was in fact awake that time.

Do I completely discount SP/HHEs as non-paranormal? I'm not sure. After I had moved into my current house (which the previous tenants told me was haunted), I did experience a presence again. This one was different, though. It fit the perfect storm of what would cause a SP/HHE episode, where I had had a few beers before bed, I was still sore and exhausted from moving into the house, and the house was still unfamiliar to me. But, I was lying on my side that night when I saw a woman standing beside my bed. I still can remember exactly what she looked like, right down to the black patent-leather shoes and horn-rimmed glasses. I told her that she didn't belong here and to leave me and my children alone, and that was the last I ever saw of her. Talking with other tenants of the house, they mentioned that their daughter had seen the old woman who haunts the place, and when the daughter described the woman to me, it was exactly who I saw in my room that night.

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