What is Sleep Paralysis: A Demonic Attack Explained By Science

what is sleep paralysis

I can see you, but you think I’m asleep.

I can hear you, but there is nothing that I can say.

I will try to rise and greet you, but my body does not respond to commands.

Sleep paralysis can be an extremely scary experience for those who have never encountered it before.

It is a complete conscious paralyzing event that happens when the mind wakes up immediately from the depths of rapid eye movement [REM] sleep, but the body doesn’t quite catch up right away.

We are all locked into motionless sleep at the REM stage. It happens to everyone at some point every night.

Sleep paralysis stories: My First Experience With Sleep Paralysis 

I can remember that it was a warm day. The sun was shining brightly, but I was feeling a bit more tired than usual.

During a break in the day, I decided that a short nap was in order. I crawled into bed and let sleep overtake me.

In an instant, I found myself awake. I had no idea of how much time had passed from falling asleep to this moment. Moving my arms and legs proved to be impossible.

I tried to open my eyes because I felt awake, but my eyelids wouldn’t respond.

I could do nothing.

Then a strange sensation began to take place. It felt like I was being licked. It was on my cheek, a little rough like a dog’s tongue, and there were even licking sounds that I could hear.

It even felt like there was something on my face at certain moments.

I frantically tried to make my body move. It seemed like an eternity, lying there in bed, feeling the licking on my face.

In reality, it was only about 30-60 seconds that had elapsed between my mind waking up and my body coming back under my control.

There was no one in my room. There was no demon sitting on my face, licking me like a dog.

I’ll be honest: my first immediate thought when sleep paralysis hit was that there was something evil in my room.

This is the nature of humanity. Something that is unknown and scary is automatically associated with the devil or demons. After that incident, I began to research sleep paralysis, why it happens, and what can be done when it happens.

Take it easy – it isn’t a demonic attack.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis? 

Humans are creatures of routine. We get up around the same time, brush our teeth in the same way, and enjoy having Spaghetti Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays.

The routines makes us sync up our internal clocks with the external environments that are around us.

When sleep paralysis happens, it is like moving to a new time zone. You still follow your same routines at the same time, but the first couple of days are awkward because something feels wrong about the routine itself.

This is because you’re going through your routines at a different time even though it is the same time on the clock where you are.

If someone lives in Los Angeles and they usually wake up at 6am to get their day started, what would happen if they took a trip to New York City on the other side of the country?

The real time in New York City might be 6am, but to their body, it feels like 3am.

When the routines of life get disrupted, the chances of sleep paralysis rise.

Lack of sleep, sleep disturbances and shift work – all these factors can also increase the likelihood of experiencing sleep paralysis.

Is Sleep Paralysis Dangerous? 

Is sleep paralysis dangerous

50% of people will experience at least one incident of sleep paralysis during their lifetime. About 6% of the human population experiences sleep paralysis on a regular basis.

These experiences can be disturbing, but they aren’t dangerous. This is because of what the mind is doing during the period of REM sleep.

REM sleep is essentially the deepest meditative state that our bodies can experience. It allows the mind and body to recharge.

Dreaming during REM sleep allows the subconscious part of the mind to express itself. Some even say that this is the “core” being of who you are.

Many people will take the stresses from their day, their worries, and all of their other problems and stuff them down as deep as they can into the bucket of the subconscious.

Eventually that bucket overflows. The problems must find a coping mechanism to stay mentally healthy. This is where the fantasy worlds of the REM sleep cycle are so beneficial.

How many times have you felt like hours, days, or even weeks have passed while dreaming? For someone sleeping 7 hours, they might spend 20-30 minutes in the deepest REM state.

That’s the same amount of time that is recommended for daily meditation.

Whether it is demonic licking, ghost visions, or other hallucinations that come one’s way during an episode of sleep paralysis, what is really happening is that the mind is beginning to cope with an overflowing bucket of internalized concerns.

The combination of too much stress and a disrupted routine are the most common reason that sleep paralysis occurs.

If you have an incident of sleep paralysis, then remember this: it is another tool your body can use to your benefit. Try to relax, let your body wake up, and then continue on with your day.

Sleep Paralysis Can Happen Any Time We Wake Up 

The second [and only other] time that I experienced sleep paralysis occurred under similar circumstances to my first experience.

The day was warm and sunny and I had taken to bed for a nap. Upon waking up, I couldn’t open up my eyes again.

I waited for the licking of my face to start again. Those silly demons and their licking… 

Except it didn’t happen. Because of the research I had been doing, it only took a couple moments for me to realize that I was experiencing sleep paralysis.

I imagined myself taking a deep breath, trying to relax. 

I even tried to let myself go back to sleep instead of fighting the experience of sleep paralysis. 

In about 30 seconds, I was able to open my eyes and start my day. By keeping calm, I was able to enjoy the experience as much as possible, even though the feeling of not being able to move will probably always be disconcerting. 

It happens with me during periods of napping, but for my friend Ed, it happens to him in the middle of the night.

He’s got four young kids, so his sleeping schedule is sporadic at best. He often tells me of falling asleep at night, feeling completely exhausted, only to wake up at some point and feeling like he can’t move. 

Ed says that sometimes it feels very strange during these incidents because there seems to be someone in the room watching him. A presence, if you will. Not necessarily evil or demonic, but someone in there watching. 

Then Ed will laugh. When he can get his body to move, what he usually discovers is that one of the kids is staring at him.

In one incident, when he felt a weight on his chest and a strange vibration in his body, it was the cat purring. 

In a state of exhaustion, however, the mind grabs at any straws it can to make sense of what is happening.


Why Is There So Much Fear During Sleep Paralysis? 

sleep paralysis demon

In a 2014 study of Egyptians who regularly experience sleep paralysis, one interesting piece of data was published: people who are more religious tend to be more fearful of death when the experience strikes. 

In this study, many felt like they were being attacked by a jinn.

It is the activation centers of the fight or flight complex that feeds the survival of each human that come to life. What would you do if your greatest fear came to life? 

“By experiencing it,” Baland Jalal, a UC San Diego neuroscientist, told Discovery Channel, “you would have more fear – and then, you have all these cultural ideas of what it is added as well, and now you are even more scared of it.”

For most people, their greatest fear is death. This is why those who are religious are often feeling like they will die.

Faith is ultimately a belief in the things that are unseen and unknown. They may be blessed because they don’t see and yet still believe, but not when sleep paralysis happens.


Can Anything Be Done To Make Sleep Paralysis End? 

The problem with sleep paralysis is that the mind is awake, but the body is not. There is a delay in the signals that are coming from your brain to the rest of your body.

Most incidents of sleep paralysis are only going to last for about 60 seconds at most, but locking in your mind, that can feel like an eternity. 

You can hasten the process. One of the best things to do is to keep trying to make some part of your body move.

Try wiggling your toes, opening your eyes, or try to say something to the presence you may feel in the room. This can take your body off of cruise control to allow your mind to take over driving it once again. 

Keeping a positive state of mind helps enormously as well. Stay as calm as you can. Think about what you will do during the coming day.

Let the racing thoughts come in, but don’t allow the fearful thoughts to take over. 

These actions may even make it possible to use sleep paralysis as a unique coping mechanism should it occur.


Have You Ever Considered Lucid Dreaming? 

sleep paralysis treatment

Religion dominates every culture that humanity has ever developed throughout time.

Sometimes the human leaders of that culture were seen as gods. Sometimes multiple gods were worshiped.

The three major religions on the planet today all worship the same God, though they all give him a different name or role. 

This is often why we believe there are demons, witches, vampires, or other evil creatures in the room with us when sleep paralysis occurs.

The fight between good and evil is taught to all of us from a very early age, even if we don’t believe in such things. 

This battle plays out in the mind. We are good and the outside experiences are bad. You can use this perception to your advantage. 

People who experience sleep paralysis are more likely to be able to control their dreams. Some even believe that lucid dreams and sleep paralysis are directly linked. 

My friend Ed would agree with that perception. Just the other day, he was telling me of a lucid dream he was having.

He found himself in a fire station. The alarm was ringing. He was about to get into one of the trucks when he spotted something on the floor.

It was his wife’s watch – one he had given her for her birthday that year. Then a thought exploded into his mind: the watch shouldn’t be here – I must be dreaming. 

Ed says that he immediately began trying to change the environment, but he couldn’t get anything to change. At that point, he says that he remembers looking into a mirror with frustration and saying loudly, “I might as well wake up.”

And he did – to an incident of sleep paralysis. 

What if that process could be reversed? What if sleep paralysis could lead someone back into a lucid dream?


Remember One Thing: You Are the One In Control 

Whether it seems like there is a demon in the room, UFOs trying to kidnap someone for experimentation, or the sensation of being watched from afar, it is important to remember that with sleep paralysis, you are still in control. 

It is your “self” that will dictate what you decide to do next. You can continue the process of waking up if you wish. You may also choose to allow yourself to fall back asleep.

When you bring yourself back to a state of sleep from sleep paralysis, then you have a strong chance of experiencing a lucid dream. 

Lucid dreams are an important coping mechanism. They allow the mind to safely process negative data in a safe environment.

They are supposed to be fun and adventurous instead of being a terrible nightmare. 

Researchers into the subjects of lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis believe that the mind builds an internal portrait of the body that is new every day. Think of it like a mental photograph. 

During sleep paralysis, that mental photograph being developed at that very moment doesn’t sync up with the previous photographs that have been taken. This is where your choices come into play. 

The mind will begin to create disturbances because it is trying to reconcile the tactile information it is experiencing.

Some even believe that the figure in the room, the evil presence that so many cultures talk about, is a mental projection of what the body is supposed to be instead of what it is during sleep paralysis. 

You are in control. You can dictate what you will do should sleep paralysis happen to you.

If you choose to enter into a dream state instead of waking up, you may feel more refreshed from a night’s sleep than ever before.


What Can We Learn From This Experience When It Occurs? 

For most people, sleep paralysis means that someone has gone outside of their comfort zone. It is a signal that the body needs some extra care so that it can function properly.

Practicing meditation for about 20 minutes per day can help to lessen the stresses of changing routines. Other forms of relaxation or reflection may help as well. 

We can also realize that the battle of good vs. evil isn’t going to occur in our bedroom or where we’ve fallen asleep.

The moment we can wrap our minds around the experience and realize that it really is a manifestation of who we are that is being experienced, the negatives can be turned into a positive. They can even lead to lucid dreams with enough practice. 

I experienced this change from my two experiences. Instead of a strange, licking sensation, I felt the passage of time in a period of calm.

Was it still a bit scary? Sure it was. If it would happen more often, however, I can see myself getting used to the experience.

I might even look forward to it because sleep paralysis provides a certain calmness that the raging storms of the world don’t usually allow. 

Sleep paralysis can be used for the greater good of each person who experiences it. If it happens to you, then don’t be concerned about the demon in the room.

It’s just your mind working hard to understand what is going on.

Images from Pixabay: demon, geralt, OpenClips,

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I'm interested in psychology & philosophy. I'm also an enthusiast of meditation & personal development. Thank you for visiting my blog and I hope that you'll find something interesting here.


14 thoughts on “What is Sleep Paralysis: A Demonic Attack Explained By Science”

  1. I used to get sleep paralysis quite a lot, but I don’t seem to get it these days. Unless I just can’t remember, like how we instantly forget most of our dreams.

    Years ago, a few times I had it with an experience where I felt a sensation of pressure on my chest. This was an intense sensation that was neither pleasure nor pain, but somewhere between the two. The more I focused on it the stronger it became.

    Other times I have had it where I have been able to roll out of my body and then turn it into a lucid dream. I once took a running jump at a window and flew outside!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Marcus.

    I don’t experience sleep paralysis any more these days either. I only had these two experiences in the past and that’s it. 🙂

  3. Sleep Paralysis has (thankfully!) never happened to me, but I can imagine how terrifying it must be the first time it happens. And also how frustrating it must be for those who get it regularly. Why do you think it has only happened to you twice but others seem to ‘suffer’ from it?
    This is a really informative, in depth post giving a lot of insight into the causes of sleep paralysis, and what to do/think when it happens. Very interesting, thanks 🙂

  4. Hi Jyl

    There are different reasons why people experience sleep paralysis, one of them is lack of sleep, or sleeping on the back, or some mental problems, or use of certain medications …

  5. I have been researching sleeping disorders for some time. My brother was a sleep walker and would often go outside. I have known my son to sleepwalk on 2 occasions. Recently I woke my son up in the middle of the night due to a family emergency and he appeared to be paralyzed…like he was awake but not awake. It seemed to me he was still asleep but when he did “come to” he said he could hear me but couldn’t answer me or move. I wonder is this what happened to him?

  6. Hi. I’m not 100% sure, but I think yes, he experienced sleep paralysis, because you woke him up unexpectedly.

  7. Nice to meet you Luke,
    After reading your experience, I realized I have not experienced sleep paralysis before… it sounds like really a really scary experience. I am glad to learn about it before hand, so I won’t panic so much if it ever happens.

    Thanks for the information.

  8. Hey! Great post you have created here, kinda scarry stuff, i like it! I never heard about this, I hope it doesn’t happen to me…if it does I won’t panic because of this article…
    I’m sure many people will find this article useful and interesting as I did.
    Thanks for sharing this and have a great day!
    Cheers and good luck

  9. I’ve had sleep paralysis twice – once when I was a teenager and it was very scary because I was wide awake but could hear voices in the room with me. The second time was only a few days ago, and I wasn’t fully awake yet so it somehow wasn’t as scary. It felt more like a dream, which probably helped. I didn’t even know it was sleep paralysis until I told my husband about it later. It just felt like I was trying to wake up from a dream but couldn’t, no matter what I did.

    Thank you for sharing an explanation of sleep paralysis and some tips on how to manage it!

  10. that is one spooky picture lol…
    I always wondered what sleep paralysis was… I’ve experienced it a few times and it was quite scary honestly. I could think and feel my body.. I knew I was awake but I just couldn’t move one finger… And some other times I felt like I was not in my body anymore but floating and feeling conscious… not a very pleasant feeling lol
    I am happy to see it’s not dangerous nor a demonic thing lol. I guess you are right about us being in control. Actually I am able to control my dreams so I suppose I could be able to control my body during sleep paralysis!!! =) to be continued…
    Cheers =)

    • Hi. It’s scary the first time you experience it and don’t know what’s going on.

      Once you learn what it really is there’s nothing to be afraid of .

      Although I must admit it’s a very unpleasant feeling.

  11. I have experienced both sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming. I used to get sleep paralysis a lot, and I found it very frightening.
    Once I began regular meditation, the sleep paralysis somehow turned into lucid dreams. I could sort-of control the direction of these dreams, which can be fun. Or terminate the dream if things are not going the way I want them.
    I see the lucid dream/sleep paralysis as a bridge between sleeping and waking. Now that I can lucid dream, I wake up feeling much more refreshed and without any panic.
    Do you find that meditation helps with sleep paralysis?

  12. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Clare.
    I found sleep paralysis pretty scary when it happened to me the 1st time.
    As for meditation, I’m not 100% sure, but it can be helpful. It can help you in the relaxation process when sleep paralysis occurs. You’ll be calmer and more in control of the situation.

  13. You know, honestly this subject is pretty creepy, but it makes it attractive, and it made me wanna be there, you know..
    As I was reading your article I got chills man! I have a couple friends who tried that and it sounds so real and so scary! Your story is fascinating, and I hate you cause now I want to experience some of that too.. lol

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