Sleep Paralysis ~ Psychological or Spiritual?

pexels-photo-271821.jpegby Mark Rockeymoore

There are a lot of experiences that we have as Souls residing within contiguous spiritual space that we take for granted, or that we never talk about with people because we’re not sure how they’re going to react. The seemingly dichotomous nature of our perceive reality (black/white, good/bad, us/them) makes us seem isolated in our minds, alone in the world. Sometimes these experiences may even seem wierd, or out of place, even though we’re the ones experiencing them! And, they even seem like something that will mark us as crazy or, Heaven forbid, different.

One of these experiences is something that is called, as defined by Stanford University no less, sleep paralysis. The official definition of the term (from the website) is:

“Sleep paralysis consists of a period of inability to perform voluntary movements either at sleep onset (called hypnogogic or predormital form) or upon awakening (called hypnopompic or postdormtal form).
Sleep paralysis may also be referred to as isolated sleep paralysis, familial sleep paralysis, hynogogic or hypnopompic paralysis, predormital or postdormital paralysis.”

The phenomena has been studied by Clinicians and Doctors using human test subjects in sleep labs. Simply stated, people go to sleep, their REM (random eye movement) is monitored – as are their alpha, theta and delta rhythms/waves – which are endemic to the sleep and near-sleep-states. These doctors even say that sleep paralysis is closely related to narcolepsy, which seems to be an inability to regulate sleep on a consistent basis.

But the real truth is, while much of what is stated by these researchers is applicable on the surface – and according to the most obvious and psychologically appropriate aspects of its occurence – these facts are by no means the entirety of the story. There is more to what goes on in our bodies than can be fully explained by dry, clinical theories regarding the transport and transformation of different chemical combinations and energy exchanges.


A more holistic form of truth is, that the psychiatrists and others who relegate the experience of sleep paralysis to the fully material (incarnate spatial) realm, don’t really know what they’re talking about. Because, for the most part, they haven’t experienced it. They haven’t explored it. They haven’t related it to the thousands of years of spiritual and mythological documentation which is, really, quite explicit on the topic.

Sleep paralysis is nothing new, nor is it a purely physical reaction that consists of the misfiring of some nerves or the failure of some mechanism designed to keep you from harming yourself. But it is a mechanism of sorts, one that is recognized across the world in many cultures.

So, in that vein, I’m going to share a few of my experiences, since I consider myself somewhat versed (experientially) in this one particular area, if no others.

My earliest memory of sleep paralysis occured at about the age of eight. My family lived on the island of Crete, Greece at the time, because my father was in the Air Force and there was a base there, Iraklion Air Station, which has since been turned over to the Greek government.


As a precursor to the story, I’ve been an insomniac since my earliest memories. I clearly remember, around Kindergarten age, being up, awake, quite often when nobody else in the house was. As a result, night – the darkness – has always been my friend and many things associated with this state, spiritually and psychologically, have been an integral part of my own sojourn and experience within this body and this life.

That night I was in bed, just lying there before falling asleep, when, all of a sudden, my body began to take on a leaden quality. At a very quick rate, it seemed that my limbs were getting heavier and heavier and it took an increasingly strong mental effort of will to move at all. Accompanying this feeling of paralysis was an intense fear that increased as the idea seeped into my head that I wouldn’t be able to move, and yet, I would be still be awake! So I fought it with everything I had, and continued to fight the paralysis and the fear for the rest of my childhood.


I experienced sleep paralysis often. A few times a week, for most of my life, I’d average. Back then, my remedy was to fight it and then wiggle my body around for a while, until the feeling left me, because when it happens, you can’t just lie right back down, it’ll come back. The feeling itself is significant; it’s like vibrations that come over your body, at first, lightly, then increasing in strength, and as the vibrations increase, your body gets heavier and heavier. Needless to say, for a young child, this is terrifying.

And yet, I never told anybody until I was a teen, at which point I told my mother, who, being the wonderful Christian Saint that she is, promptly told me that if I leave my body I’ll be possessed by demons.

Throughout my youth, this was the pattern. I had no idea what it was, but it was the same every time. Paralysis, fear, me fighting. Paralysis, fear, me fighting. Paralysis, fear, me fighting.

There are many ideas about sleep paralysis; from it being just a plain old sleep disorder, to it being something more. Some people call it “The Hag”, because people who experience it often have a feeling of the presence of a malevolent spirit, a woman’s spirit, sitting upon their chest. They find it difficult to breath. Other times, other ‘evil’ spirits are associated with it. You can hear voices during the time of the paralysis. Loud noises, and audio hallucinations have also been reported.


Sleep paralysis is something else altogether, but it is something real. My awakening, as it were, came when I was in my early 20s, stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany. I’d found a book called Journeys out of the Body by Robert Monroe, which described the feelings that I’d been having since I was a small child perfectly. When he told me that sleep paralysis was a precursor to Out Of Body Experiences (OOBEs)! I felt, at the moment of reading this, as if my entire life had been illuminated, and my first thought was why, why, why had this been happening to me for most of my life??? From that point on, I began using sleep paralysis as a tool to explore the inner life, to bring on lucid dreamstates and to attempt to ‘get over’ and ‘move past’ my childhood fear of the unknown.


I expect to write more about the experiences that I’ve had over the years, dealing with sleep paralysis, and to talk more about the details of cultivating OOBEs and Lucid Dreams, if there is interested in such. There is so much more to say about this, but I’ll end this write with this thought:

There is more to existence than our waking lives, and we have an innate ability to access other Realities through our own volition, if only we will it to be so. Being relegated to one experience of the world during our waking hours is a choice that we make. To make another choice is to move into uncharted realms of inner experience that will amaze, scare and enlighten us all, if we dare to make it so.

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 Mark Rockeymoore is a writer, poet and mystic and he can found on his blog, Sacred Space in Time.

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