Commentary: Sleep paralysis, leave me alone

Ingrid Rodriguez, Staff Writer

It is 3 a.m. and the room is dark. My dog begins to bark. I open my eyes and stare at a dark figure standing by my feet.

I try to shout but nothing comes out and when I try to move, I am frozen. My heartbeat accelerates and all I can think about is getting up but since I can’t, I just lay there hoping it will all soon fade away.

This has happened to four out of every 10 people while in their sleep and it is called sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis affects most of your body and can last a few seconds up to several minutes.

When this happened to me, I was terrified. I did not know how to wake myself up. I knew it was a dream but it all felt very real.

This usually happens when we barely fall asleep, which is known as hypnagogic or predormital sleep paralysis, or when we are waking up, which is known as hypnopompic or postdormital sleep paralysis.

Most people report seeing a shadow figure at their bedside. Some also see witches, ghosts, fairies or cartoon characters.

Some people think animals can see or feel the presence of something other than human.

This makes me even more scared because my dog was barking at the shadow figure in my dream.

In many religious cultures, the hallucinations involved during sleep paralysis are thought of as an evil presence or the devil himself.

There probably really is some evil force in the world that likes to hold you down while you are asleep because that is the only place it can control you.

After flying saucers and unidentified flying objects became popular in America, many people who experienced sleep paralysis began to believe that it was aliens who had abducted them and caused them to become paralyzed.

Sleep paralysis is probably not alien abductions because I am sure they would erase your memory after they finish with you and since people still remember what happened during their dream then I doubt it was that.

Sleep paralysis is commonly seen in the teen years but may occur at any age. A main cause of sleep paralysis is sleeping on your back.

Some of the other causes are lack of sleep, changes in a sleeping schedule, stress, substance use and use of certain medications. It may also be tied to other disorders like anxiety or narcolepsy.

A couple of ways to stop sleep paralysis are to attempt to wiggle fingers and toes, try to move lips and facial muscles, constantly look around the room and try to focus on relaxing thoughts.

I know what you are thinking, this is impossible to remember to do this while panicking, but you have to remember to remain calm in the process of being controlled by an evil presence.

There is no actual treatment for sleep paralysis because it may only happen once in a person’s life, although it happened to me twice.

A way to prevent this from happening is obviously sleeping in a different position and to have at least six to eight hours of sleep.

If you have not experienced sleep paralysis then you are one blessed soul, but if you have then you know how scary this paranormal event may be.

Ingrid Rodriguez, a sophomore journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at

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