Gyrus from Dreamflesh made this connection between false awakenings and sleep paralysis: in both of these altered states, we feel like we are “awake” and aware of our surroundings. In a false awakening, this certainty of “awakeness” turns out to be a lucid dream about where we are actually sleeping. In sleep paralysis, we also feel awake but the situation is a little more complicated. Here our self-awareness is active and we may even have eyes open, but our bodies are still under the paralysis of REM sleep. The more we struggle, the more it feel like we are being “held down.”
I wrote about the creepiness of night terrors about a year ago on my culture shock blog, so I won’t go on at length here. Even though the REM paralysis is probably what is happening on the “exterior” levels of our reality, we really can’t reduce the entire experience of night terrors to biomechanics. After all, many people throughout history have described intense visitation dreams that follow from the initial feeling that “someone else is in the room.” These night visitors have ranged from dead relatives to benign ghostly apparitions to scary demonic entities to figures of light and peace.
These meetings have provided countless dreamers with deeper understandings of the psycho-spiritual realms that may be open to them. From my perspective, this isn’t evidence of the “supernatural” but an indication that we still need a more radical materialism to account for what is natural.
So rest assured that the experience of night terrors doesn’t have to be nightmarish. The best thing to do is to try to relax as much as possible, and if that doesn’t work, dig deep into your belief structures and find a way to trust in the moment. The experience will open up like a flower and you may find yourself in a whole kind of new dream.
I just spilled pickle juice all over myself so I gotta run.
Update: check out the comments to the previous post for Gyrus’s clarification about the distinction between these two states of consciousness.
The Terror That Comes in the Night by David J. Hufford
Wrestling with Ghosts by Jorge Conesa Sevilla
Trying to awaken says
I just recently started experiencing sleep paralysis about a couple of years ago. It started out as feeling a presence in the room just as described in this article. The fear of not moving or never being able to move again, enveloped me more than the “presence” that I perceived was in the room.
I read an article about SP with suggestions on how to alleviate it. One of the recommendations was to try and fall asleep on your side. This eliminated most of my SP problems.
Another article I read suggested learning to “astral project” during an SP occurrence. The article suggested to attempt to ‘levitate’ out of your physical body to assist in alleviating the fear that encompasses most SP experiences. The last time this happened to me I tried this. I was able to raise it a few feet above my body all the while thinking about all the stuff my family would have to go through if I was really “dying”, lol. This was my mistake. There is something about the fear experienced during an episode, which (with me) made this situation worse.
I just had this happen to me last night. It was horrible. I could swear that I was awake , but knew that I could never conjure up any of these thoughts awake so I had to be dreaming. It was so scary that I thought I was hallucinating or something. This time the noise of something like a tornado in my bedroom and not being able to move was making me think omg another tornado is hitting this area again, what am I going to do ?? I can handle nightmares, what bothered me was the sense of no control that freaked me out. I realized that I have had these before for many years. But for some reason last night was the worst. I made myself wake up but I didn’t get out of bed to splash my face or anything and went right back into another horrific nightmare ! I was so exhausted getting out of bed was something I didn’t even think I could physically do. It did make me google this in the am to see if there were other people who experienced this because it really shook me up. Thank god I wasn’t alone. I feel much better now. Thanks for enlightening me on sleep paralysis.
thanks for commenting – do you remember where you read the article about this? sounds interesting.
Trying to awaken says
Unfortunately, I read it about a year ago, after googling Sleep Paralysis. I find it I’ll be glad to post a link.
Trying to awaken says
This isn’t the same article I read, but if you google ‘old hag syndrome and astral projection’, you’ll find a bunch of info. It was while I was researching it that I discovered quite a few people were experimenting with astral projection and SP. Basically in attempt to rid themselves of the fear that is experienced during an episode.
thanks for the article link. this is pretty creepy territory, and another reason why lucid dreaming isn’t all about butterflies and all the sex you want. Shadow figures have a lot to teach us but we have to learn how to behave in the dream first. this whole topic is scratching at me so look for a post about lucid dreams and NDE and OBEs sometime soon.
“From my perspective, this isn???t evidence of the ???supernatural??? but an indication that we still need a more radical materialism to account for what is natural.”
I love this line of reasoning. I find the “stereotypical idea of materialism” lacking in its ability to account for odd experiences like night terrors and whatnot, yet I don’t think invoking supernatural causes really makes sense.
One of the lines in your article resonated strongly with me:
“From my perspective, this isn???t evidence of the ???supernatural??? but an indication that we still need a more radical materialism to account for what is natural.”
I wholeheartedly agree with you. There is so much that science has yet to explain, but that doesn’t mean science will never be able to explain the things we currently label as supernatural. A quick look at history demonstrates how often events labeled as paranormal or supernatural were ultimately explained by new developments in science. Perhaps science eventually will provide explanations for the mysteries we still haven’t uncovered. (Though, I do hope a bit of mystery remains when all is said and done. It makes life more interesting.)
i’m a big fan of mystery too. but as you say Kris, mystery isn’t permanent and science may explain many unknowns later down the road. but when folks ignore a mystery because the data doesn’t fit their paradigm, then scientism – not science – is the result. be sure to check out Allan Wallace’s Taboo of Subjectivity for a great read on the culture of science.
I am amlost 30 and have been suffering from SP since I was about 5. It started to hit me the hardest in my mid-20’s and now that I am 29 it happens I’d say about 2-4 times a month. I battle with this constantly. I also sleep long hours day and night. I can’t stop sleeping. I probably have a sleep disorder, but like most Americans don’t have health insurance to solve the problem. Anyhow I’ve learned to recognize when I am in the state to wake myself or make enough “sounds” (i think i’m talking, but am not) to have my husband wake me. If you have anyway to help me or know of a study going on, please let me know.
Zensen, thanks for commenting and sharing your story. There are a few things you can do to help with sleep problems without spending too much. First off, you may want to take this simple questionnaire that measures the general level of sleepiness:
It’s not a diagnosis of any condition, mind you, but it does help with walk-in visits to free clinics in your area.
Besides free clinics, there are also support groups for people suffering with excessive sleeping. If not where you live, probably in the nearest city. Try searching on google something like: sleep disorders free clinic Your Location.
As for dealing with sleep paralysis, I really recommend Wrestling with Ghosts by Jorge Conesa Sevilla. He discusses methods of letting go of fear while in sleep paralysis and transforming the experiences into positive dreams. Sevilla’s practices are a great self-help method if you don’t have access to medication. (Of course, I’m not a doctor so this is not medical advice.) Sleep apnea and narcolepsy are also correlated with these symptoms, so getting a diagnosis at a free clinic is the first step.
Check out the National sleep Foundation for more information:
I know everyone doesn’t believe in the supernatural but I have had SP happening 2 me since I was 13 & I am now 19. It’s a supernatural thing in my case bc besides SP happening 2 me I have the strangest things about me. I can get a good reading on how someone is by looking at them or just having one conversation (that might be y I am so picky about who my friends and associates are) and I also have deja vues like crazy. But back 2 the point, I have actually had visions and pains happen while I was captured in the grips of SP. But there is a difference in levels of spirits (demons or whatever they maybe) that visit you at night. In my case it doesn’t matter if I sleep on my back, side, or stomach they would still be able 2 attack me. I have gotten worse over the years…at first it started off with me being able 2 see the apparitions…and then moved up 2 to them actually attacking me 2 where I could feel pain and that’s when I started fighting back. Mines also doesn’t have a specific time that it happens it can just over take me whenever I sleep. But I noticed the more it happened 2 me the more my strange abilities grew. 2 years ago I recently developed a 6th sense 2 feeling when things are going 2 go wrong back home or here where I am (I’m military). I’m just gonna give everyone the same advice my mom gave me…Don’t fear it just fight it and if you feel comfortable enough try 2 understand what’s going on because little do you know you can communicate with them. This is kinda hard 2 explain here but I will try…beware of the intity you talk 2 because demons will lie 2 get you…you will just have 2 trust your own judgement…and whatever you do don’t let evil spirits win the fight because little do you know that could turn into a possession(depends on the person) or it can cause minor changes in your tempor or other things among that and trust me I would know that because it has somewhat changed me at one point in my life when I wasn’t fighting back but I realized what it was doing 2 me and I changed it through praying of course. Also one more small note…careful who you hang around because they may habor a spirit that may want 2 cling onto you because you are more aware of there presence than there current host…but if anyone has any questions feel free 2 ask?
I am having almost the exact same situation with SP… last night was the first time I ever felt like I was paralyzed and toward the end, before my partner woke me up from my loud whimpers and whines…I was over come with DREAD..that SOMETHING evil was on my back, sniffing me…actually smelling me. I could hear it snorting… I could sense the evil and knew I DID NOT want to know or see it ..I just wanted to wake up..I was completely aware that I was sleeping and just wanted to wake up for the soul fact that I did not want to learn of the evil that lurked. When I woke up I realized the same noise was coming from the overhead fan..but a bit different…Anyway, I’m very into out of body experiences…I’ve always wanted to learn… but lately my SP has ONLY made me fearful because I sense evil..or at least a very negative vibe that something dreadful is in the room with me… however lastnight was the first time I’ve ever felt like I couldn’t move. I forced myself to cry out loud for help. ????
Thanks for sharing your experience, Dee. I moved safely away from similarly painful and scary experiences by focusing on reducing my fear and intending to find protection that is based on my own personal beliefs. I wonder if you have tried similar techniques? Openness to the dreamstate (the imaginal realm, the astral plane, etc) is a double-edged sword – both the light and the darkness come through. It’s important as you say to learn how to fight (also known as ego-strengthening) as well as learning how to surrender (letting go of control in total trust that you are safe).
I’am here in Wisconsin workin and I have been haveing the same dream. I had the same dream 2 times in one week and i fell like something is lookin at me.When i wake up then when i fall back asleep it fells like something moving from my feet to my chest and holding me down.And i can’t move or talk i can’t do anything! Is this the samething as SP or NT?
Anthony, that sounds like it could be SP. Are you getting less sleep than normal, or working a night shift? Sometime when we disrupt our normal sleep patterns, SP becomes more common. Be sure to check out the sleep foundation link (above in comments) if you are having other symptoms that could be related to sleep apnea or other sleep ailments.
I’m an MA student in transpersonal psychology who has a personal and academic interest in hypnagogia and sleep paralysis. I’ve been trying to find information on sleep paralysis experiences that is not purely materialistic, nor purely “supernatural”, but somehow relates the two. I’ve studied neurotheology and recognize that no matter how much we understand about spiritual experiences corelating with neurological changes, we simply cannot determine which is causing which– are people having spiritual experiences which change their neurological functioning, or is a neurological function being perceived as a spiritual experience?
I think sleep paralysis falls under much the same question. Certainly there are brain chemistry and brain wave pattern states associated with sleep paralysis and “visitation” experiences, but are those neurological functions CAUSING the sensations or are we having experiences that are affecting our brain?
I had an immediate aversive response to this comment:
“From my perspective, this isn’t evidence of the ‘supernatural’ but an indication that we still need a more radical materialism to account for what is natural.”
I dislike materialism when it justifies scientism, but when I got over my prejudice against the word materialism, I think I agree with you. This commenter furthered the issue:
“I love this line of reasoning. I find the “stereotypical idea of materialism” lacking in its ability to account for odd experiences like night terrors and whatnot, yet I don’t think invoking supernatural causes really makes sense.”
The problem with calling something “supernatural” is implicated in the very word– we think it’s somehow outside the realm of “real” or explicable phenomena. What if or when will we discover that what we think of as “supernatural” phenomena are actual “extranatural”– explicable, but extraordinary experiences of reality?
Also, in some further research, I just found this interesting tidbit that sheds some further light on the materialistic aspect of SP and hypanogogia:
“Within REM periods a distinction is sometimes made between a background tonic state (TREM) and bursts of phasic REM (PREM) every 16-120 seconds and lasting from 2-9 seconds (Aserinsky, 1971, Molinari & Foulkes, 1969). Specifically, PREM is characterized by bursts of rapid eye and middle ear movements and characteristic cortical and hippocampal EEG patterns. PREM is associated with, and may be preceded by, ponto-geniculo-occipital EEG waves (PGO spikes in animal preparations) originating in the bilateral, dorsolateral pons and projecting rostrally through the lateral geniculate nucleus and other thalamic nuclei (Hobson, Alexander, Frederickson, 1969). It has been conjectured that the most vivid dreams, or most vivid events within dreams, are associated with PREM (Molinari and Foulkes, 1969). ”
Ryan Hurd says
thanks for the great thoughts, Wendy. most important from my perspective is that we value our empirical observations (ie the “first-person” experience) of SP by not reducing them to the physical correlates that we are just beginning to map. In other words, an ancestor giving advice during a SP experience is not an attempt to make order out of a random PGO spike.
Reading this article and comments has really scared me. I’m 41 years old and since I was 19 I have been suffering from sleep paralysis; It used to happened once to three times a week, but for the last two years it is happening every night and for the last three months or so it is happening as much as 10 times a night. It is 2 A.M right now and I don’t want to go to bed because I’m tired of the SP. When it first started, I would wake up and I would be unable to move, except for moving my fingers and toes, which I would do and still do until I get my mobility back. While experiencing SP, I would feel something shocking me by the neck or touching my private areas. I’m able to keep my eyes somewhat open, as I can see my wife sleeping next to me, but I cannot speak nor make noises.
The touching now is limited to my shoulder and/or back, but the touch is very cold, it feels like somebody is putting ice on me. Lately while experiencing SP I’ve been unable to breathe normally and can only take very shallow breaths that I feel that I am going to pass out and die. I always thought that these experiences were somehow created by my mind, but lately, I have been seeing shadows walk up to me during the day and night while I’m awake and working. There are four windows in my office, and sometimes I can see my reflection in the glass and shadows creeping up to within five feet of me. It is really scaring me now that I’ve read some comments where people described spirits and SP.
Maurizio: Don’t panic! A few things to keep in mind: If you’re waking up 10 times a night, you are sleep deprived. This can contribute to daytime hallucinations. Also, should there be truth to the idea of spirits related to SP, we don’t know that these spirits are necessarily malevolent. In fact, SP episodes closely mirror shamanic experiences. But the mind tends to react with fear to what it doesn’t understand– not many of us are as well-trained to deal with the spirit world as experienced shamen. Try to just breathe through these experiences and keep telling yourself that it is all okay.
Ryan Hurd says
Maurizio, thanks for commenting. I’m sorry to hear that this article scared you – I want to reassure you that SP in itself is normal and the visions can be dealt with by facing the unknown and having compassion and courage. however, sleep paralysis can also be a side effect of other more serious sleep disorders, including sleep apnea and narcolepsy. these sleep issues can lead to dream-like visions to intrude in waking reality. My recommendation is to take some online questionnaires to see if you may have some other sleep-related issues that could be treatable by a sleep specialist or a doctor. here’s where to get started:
Ryan Hurd says
thanks Wendy for the reminder to breathe!
Thank you all for the advice. I will do the online questionnaire and will follow up w/ a visit to my Doctor. I’ll keep you posted of my progress.
It is amazing, it has been ten days since I posted and all my bad experiences have seized. When I posted on the fifth, I was loosing it, seeing shadows approaching me, sp, and since that night, I have no more sp and the shadows have actually decrease to the point that I wonder if I even saw a shadow or the possibility that maybe I thought I saw one… …You cannot imaging the relief, as I was about to loose it when I posted! Ryan thank you for the advised to go the web site and take the questionnaire, at the time I agreed, but since then I don’t because I feel that if I take such a questionnaire or others like it (psychoanalytic), I’m more than likely that I would be prone to walk away with a positive diagnosis, regarless of whether or not the condition is likely to exist. Wendy, I’ll keep on breathing!
Ryan Hurd says
Maurizio, that’s great news, thanks for coming back with the update. Because sleep paralysis is so highly influenced by psychological factors, sometimes just reaching out can diminish the fear that sometimes accentuates the more terrifying aspects of SP. Now you know where to go if your symptoms return.
As for your fear of a misdiagnosis — that’s understandable. However, a questionnaire is not a diagnosis; it’s only a tool for accessing if you should see a doctor. And, unlike other sectors of the medical establishment, sleep specialists are known for their sensitivity and approachability. Sleep docs also are not tied in so deeply with the pharmaceutical industry so there’s no incentive for misdiagnosis for a condition that requires lots of cash to maintain.
I have a history of “sleep paralysis” accompanied by “night terrors”, but what I experienced last night was so far beyond anything I have ever experienced before. Usually when I have these episodes, I am completely aware of the fact that I have fallen asleep and I am “dreaming,” but last night was something different. I was by all accounts awake and aware of what was going on around me. I could even still hear the episode of Criminal Minds playing on my TV. I closed my eyes and as soon as my eyes were closed, I heard the TV in the living room come on all by itself. I tried to get out of bed but I was completely paralyzed. I opened my eyes and my older brother was laying face down in my bedroom doorway and he was not moving. Try as I may I could not get to him. I tried to call out to him, but my tongue was just as paralyzed as the rest of me. As I lay there desperately trying to roll myself out of bed, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes again. I willed myself to snap out of whatever “phenomenon” was happening and when I reopened my eyes, the tingling sensation that had been coursing through my body was gone and I was able to move. I climbed out of bed but my brother was gone (of course he was never really there to begin with. It was 1:00 in the morning so he was in his own house sleeping in his own bed.) and the TV was not on in the living room either. I walked out to the living room, looked around and when I was satisfied that nothing was out of the ordinary, I went back to bed. Now, normally I would have attributed this incident to my normal sleeping problems (they happen quite frequently). However, when I laid back down and closed my eyes again, the same tingling sensation came over me and again, I heard the living room TV come on. I could still hear Criminal Minds on my TV in my room and again, when I tried to get up, I couldn’t. My brother was again laying face down in my doorway unresponsive. Again, I was unable to speak. I repeated the steps I had done not five minutes before and when I opened my eyes again, I was able to move and my brother was gone. The TV was no longer playing in the living room and nothing was out of the ordinary. This cycle repeated itself for over an hour before I decided maybe I would try sleeping on the couch in the living room. Once I laid down on the couch, everything stopped and I was able to drift into a peaceful dreamless sleep.
Now as I said, I have a history of things like this happening but this is the first time it has repeated itself once I have gotten out of bed and walked around the house. I have never gotten an uneasy feeling in this house before, it’s always been quite peaceful here, but last night I was absolutely terrified to be here.
I have read articles where SP usually happens when you’re lying on your back or on your stomach, but mine always occurs when I’m sleeping on my right side. What makes my incidents truly terrifying is the fact that I know I never fell asleep to begin with. This latest incident I can tell you everything that happened in the episode of criminal minds that I had on the tv…
Ryan Hurd says
fascinating Rose. I’m a little confused – were there two TVs on or one?
in any case – repeat SP experiences can be halted pretty effectively by doing some exercise to get your heart-rate up. for some reason, this lessens the chance you’ll jump back down into SP..
sp has never happened me but my ex bf had them, he has since died.
his last one was about 2 yrs ago. He lived nxt door 2 me and had 1-2 experiences spaced yrs apart, but he stayed @ mine 4 a while and he had 2 experiences in the space of 3 days which as he said was scarier and more often than he had b4.
he experienced paralysis in all instances and being scared but unable to shout out. There was also a scary shadowy figure coming towards him and pressing on his chest, then he found it hard to breathe. But in these he said he was fully awake!
the last one he experienced creeped me out cos she said after all that happened he was raised off the bed and was floating towards the wall but he said he was actively fighting against the force, he said he even tried to hold unto things and even scratch the wall to prove it actually did happen!
i dont want to scare anyone but im just wondering if this had anythin 2 do with his death and what exactly happened to him cos he was really scared when he told me. He wasnt the type of man to b scared easily, which made it more real 4 me.
I heard that its to do with sleeping patterns and dat its also to do with the brain. Then there’s the old hag theory.
I dont know wat 2 believe!lol
Ryan Hurd says
hey Ellie, I’m sorry to hear about your loss. Sleep paralysis is not a deadly condition in its own right; sometimes tho SP is a symptom of a more serious sleep issue such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea. the feeling of being lifted off the bed is a common sensation, and many people also experience out-of-body experiences that are triggered by the SP. if you’ve never had this happen before, it can be the scariest thing ever.
I have very intense dreams since I was a toddler. The first dream that I remember is when I was the age of two. I dreamt that I was pulling a wagon filled with children and that I was running away from an evil witch. I came to a mountain cliff and fell off the cliff into the night sky and was caught by a crescent moon. I felt safe and protected by the moon and as it craddled me I looked down where I saw a room and saw my body on a table and my chest was wrapped in white linen. I woke up from the dream and I was surrounded by family members and I particulary saw my father of whom I immediately started crying to so he would get my favorite toy-a mickey mouse piggy bank. I was given the toy and I stopped crying.
I would go on to have many vivid dreams and one time in my very young life I felt as if I was floating up, while I was awake. I grasped onto a table to hold myself down so I wouldn’t float away. I was so young at the time and it was difficult for me at times to determine if I was having a dream or if the an actual event really happened. However, at the age of two I did have an injury that resulted with two deep scars in the shape of a crescent moon on my chest. I did have a mickey mouse piggy bank, in fact I had my picture taken with it when I was two years old. The “floating” experience happened when my parents were getting a divorce. SP started during this time too and I had horrific nightmares. At the age of ten, I started having night terrors that I could never recall. When I sixteen I would start having the sensation of OBE during the time that my body was trying to wake up from sleep (again I was going through a tramautic event). A year later, I started having lucid dreams almost on a daily basis. I also suffered sleep paralysis but only when I slept in a particular room in a friend’s apartment.
One thing that has always been consistent is that these dream events happen when I am going through a tramautic life event and I strongly believe that at least in my case that they are related to PTSD and is the mind’s way of healing itself. Disassociation is very common during a tramuatic event and I do believe that it can be carried over to the dream state and in turn, cause someone to feel like they are having an obe. My last night terror was two days ago and came as a shock to me. The last one I was reported to have was when I was a teenager. This time my seventeen year old daughter heard me screaming in a state of anger that is caused by fear (my children know it too well because if I perceive them to put themselves in a dangerous situation I use the same tone of voice when I first stop whatever danger it is as I bring them to safety). Apparently, I was yelling at Soldiers and telling them to move quickly. I don’t recall what happened and the night terror obviously frightened my daughter more then it did me. Nor does it cause me concern because I did deploy and survive combat. I guess my subconcious is still trying to heal. I don’t believe them to be spiritual experiences but I do believe them to be biological ones that are actually just coping mechanisms of the brain for tramautic events that humans suffer and survive.
Ryan Hurd says
thanks Rhonda for sharing your dreamlife. I agree with you that one function of these dreams is to provide healing opportunities. in my mind, this biological event does not conflict with the “spiritual” content; they are separate fields of meaning. Meaning/significance/metaphor are crucial to our psychological comprehension of our place in the world, including the anomalous experiences of OBEs, contact with autonomous entities, and ancestral dreams.
I’ve been having quite a few sleep paralysis episodes lately and they seem to be getting scarier every time. I had my first occurrence when I was about 10 years old. It happened again when I was about 20 and then a lot more just in the past few years. I have been stressed a lot more lately due to my family arguments, my health and my finances. Is that probably one of the reasons my episodes of SP are more frequent now? They range from just a few seconds to seems like an hour of terror. They also range from not so scary to terrifying! Why do they differ sometimes? I would not wish these very unpleasant “dreams” on anyone. Are they considered dreams or what category is SP put in to? The episodes are the worst when it feels like “someone” is holding me down. Does being religious have anything to do with why I have SP and also how I may control it as well? I’m Catholic and pray every night. It seems that when SP comes to me, I try to yell for help from God. I know I am trying to scream, but I cannot hear anything come out. It seems to help when I do that. What do you think? Any suggestions to help me with SP would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Kevin
Melany Nokary says
Is it true what sleep paralysis can occur with each?
Ryan Hurd says
Yes and no Melany — you must be using a translator? Sleep paralysis is always unique for the individual and is based on your particular fears. but the larger patterns reveal similarities across cultures.
Hi. I’ve been having horrible dreams for the past 3/4 years but they are not regular and can happen months apart. Last night i again experienced the feeling that i was trying to wake up as i was being touched sexually by some presence. I immediately start to struggle. I pray in my mind and try to speak the words but that too is a struggle. I am aware of my surroudings but can not move. The feeling of being touched is so strong and on a few occasions i have felt them breathing on my neck and once i had the sensation of a fork like, slimy tongue being forced into my mouth. It feels so real and i am freaked out by them. I realise reading back through this that I sound crazy but i can assure you i am a normal lady who is at her wits end to try to understand what is occurring. Has anyone else experienced this and how can i get rid of it. Please help as I am starting to worry that maybe there is something wrong with me. I hate these dreams.
Ryan Hurd says
Hi Angela it sounds that you are have repeated bouts of a type of nightmare called sleep paralysis. there are ways to prevents these as well as ways to deal with the nightmare as it occurs. I assure you that you’re not alone in this! check out this article and download the free PDF at the end for more info. http://dreamstudies.org/2010/01/22/sleep-paralysis-treatment-wake-up-cant-move/