Sleep Demons

night-demonsThe Nightmare by Johann Heinrich Füssli

Originally Written: January 15, 2012

This post is about my son and his sleep issues. A number of my family members are plagued with these issues. Many of us have insomnia and wake early in the morning (3:30 for me this morning). Some of us have terrifying nightmares, and now my son is experiencing some specific problems.

He recently told me about a recurring dream that’s been haunting him. (Forcing you to read about my dreams isn’t enough. Now you must read about his.) When the nightmare (for lack of a better word) begins, he believes he is awake. He’s aware of his breathing, and he can see what’s happening in the room, but he’s paralyzed. He lies there helplessly, peering out of half-lidded eyes, as a giant spider inches his way slowly and malevolently toward him. The spider toys with him, prolonging his agony, as he relishes my son’s fate. This “event” culminates with him in the middle of the bedroom, flailing his arms and legs around in a wild panic and screaming like a madman. Can you blame him?

I stumbled across this article about sleep paralysis – Psychologists Chase Down Demons. It’s about a study by psychologists at Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania.

The general idea is …

Sleep paralysis is defined as “a discrete period of time during which voluntary muscle movement is inhibited, yet ocular and respiratory movements are intact. Hallucinations may also be present in these transitions to or from sleep.”

Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking. Sleep paralysis may accompany other sleep disorders“Less than 8 percent of the general population experiences sleep paralysis, but it is more frequent in two groups — students and psychiatric patients…” My son is neither a student (any longer) nor a psychiatric patient… so far. Source: WebMd

Alien abductions and incubi and succubi and other demons attack while people are asleep, or I should say these are sometimes the… um… victim’s… hallucinations during sleep paralysis. Understandably, some people dislike this experience, but others, remarkably, like it.

Anyway, I sent the link to my son, suggesting (only in jest… honestly) that sleep paralysis COULD be the culprit. I don’t think he liked my suggestion, and he offered his own suggestion that if he had another nightmare that night it would be my fault. What’s new? Isn’t that always the case. Mothers are responsible for whatever woes may beset their children. But Alien abductions and incubi and succubi?

Okay. I’ll own it.


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