You’re lying awake in bed when suddenly something clicks in the back of your brain. You feel different. “They’re here,” your mind says, but you don’t quite understand why. What does that mean, “They’re here?” You start to get up, but find you are completely frozen in place. A light floods into the room and you suddenly remember who “They” are. You freeze in terror as several shadowy silhouettes with black eyes appear above your bed. Memories of years of abductions suddenly come flooding back to you. Soon you find yourself on a brightly lit ship and”¦ you wake up the next morning with no memory of the previous night.
Sleep paralysis, as it is called, is a condition associated with several sleep disorders including narcolepsy, cataplexy, and hypnagogic hallucination. In a sleep paralyzed state, a sufferer will actually enter a state similar to REM complete with dream sequences and the release of chemicals provoking the victim to dream. It should be noted that several abduction cases have been suspected to be sleep paralysis, but not all. And the interpretations of causes is as diverse as the history and cultural interpretation of the condition itself. When a sleeper goes into a dream-like state, the brain shuts down the body’s ability to move about thanks to a function called REM atonia. This atonia distinguishes mental interpretations of real world muscle movements and perceptions of the such, allowing you a vivid alternate life within your mind.
Nineteenth century painter Henry Fussli depicted several scenes in which a victim of sleep paralysis was being sat upon by an unknown often malevolent entity to symbolize the affliction. In Africa, sleep paralysis is called “The Witch Riding your Back.” It was associated with demonic forces in ancient China, where stories had it that sufferers would be bound to the bed by ghosts who would hold them down. In Iceland the condition is known simply as a “Mara.” The Mara is a female goblin who is supposedly the bringer of bad dreams. In fact, the word nightmare owes its origin to this figure. In the Southern United States a “hag” keeps you from being able to move just before sleep, and whispers to you bad things that will happen in the future.
Several factors influence whether a user will have a sleep paralysis episode, including sleeping with your face upwards, subjecting yourself to sleep deprivation, undergoing a sudden increase in stress, lucid dreaming, quitting smoking, starting smoking, sleeping with the head tilted backwards, napping, and environmental changes. While not always terrifying, sleep paralysis is generally thought to be uncomfortable and there are a number of homeopathic remedies available. The best remedy reported, however, is to change the position you sleep to on your side. Avoiding chronic sleep deprivation is also reported to be a major factor.
Is this the answer to the alien abduction phenomena? Considering the uniformed description of aliens the world over, and how cultures have reported similar creatures plaguing them throughout time, it’s doubtful. What sleep paralysis can account for are some abduction cases, and some other specific phenomena. Interesting that hallucinations and dreams associated with sleep deprivation manifest differently from culture to culture, but uniformed within.