Tuesday, April 21, 2009

"In Thoughts from the Visions of the Night, When Deep Sleep Falleth on Men"

I suffer sleep paralysis. African-Americans call it "the witch riding your back," and they're right. It's a condition in which you wake from dreaming sleep, yet your body is still paralyzed. Awareness shifts from wakefullness back to dreaming sleep, and it is impossible to know if you are awake or dreaming. It's bad news. Sometimes I hear voices behind my back. My eyes are open, and I can move them, but not my head to turn and see who is talking. Some people report hearing monsters/boogymen/mass muderers threatening them, but they cannot get up to run. The witch riding your back indeed.

Sometimes these episodes lead into, or out of "false awakenings," when I dream that I wake, get up and start to go about, and then suddenly find myself paralyzed on the couch.

It happens most often when I'm napping, which these days usually only happens on Sunday afternoons. While I can't move or speak during an episode, I can "breathe funny," like Morse Code, and if M is around, she wakes me up. Mostly I've learned to relax and ease myself back into regular sleep and hope I can wake normally after that. It never happens at night. Once or twice when I have slept-in really, really late it has happened.

It's all very Matrix-like. Except it is scary and doesn't involve dodging bullets.

There all many myths to explain this sensation. Most cultures believed ghosts were sitting on the afflicted. Interestingly, if you are of the Hmong people, it may kill you. The rest of us seem to be immune from this fatality.

I'm not going to tie this in with something spiritual. But there are plenty of implications. Enjoy.


  1. Chris, Nicci, Gabriel & Amita said...

    I have exactly the same problem, but mine also happens at night. It is quite scary. I think this is one of the reasons I steer clear of all horror movies...

  2. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Yikes! I'm fortunate then.

    BTW, glad you intitially found this post. It had a publish date of a couple of weeks ago (long story), so it showed up on the site on an "older post" page. But I guess the feed picked it up anyway.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Brother Chris:

    How interesting we suffer from the same malady. I too have the exact same problem. It only happens when I nap during the day, and it is very unpleasant. My solution - I never ever sleep during the day anymore. Problem solved.

    Steve Anderson

  4. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Steve--let's blame chemicals in Isolation Dorm at the Sem.