Sleep Health

Unraveling the Science Behind Sleep Paralysis Demons

June 27, 2023
Christina Santisteban

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and found yourself immobile? Maybe you were starting to fall asleep but feel as if you’re still conscious? Perhaps you’ve felt a menacing presence or even seen something wanting to terrorize you during this period of immobility? This is a common-day occurrence for those with sleep paralysis. This condition can occur when you wake up or slightly fall asleep during the dream phase of sleep and may be accompanied by hallucinations during the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle.

But what makes sleep paralysis even more terrifying are these so-called perceived “sleep paralysis demons” that many people report seeing. These malevolent beings seem to be attached to the feeling of being trapped or held down and can be a nightmarish presence in an already frightening experience.

Despite the fear they inspire, sleep paralysis demons are just one of many unusual experiences our brains can create while sleeping. In this article, we will explore the mysteries and curiosities surrounding sleep paralysis and its “demons.”

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is when an individual temporarily loses control of their muscles, this can also be called atonia. This loss of muscle control can either occur when falling asleep or while already in a “dream like” state. This can contribute to abnormal behaviors or hallucinations while sleeping or falling asleep - many would see this paralysis occur during the REM phases while sleeping.

The paralysis that naturally occurs during dreaming is your in-built safety mechanism. It prevents you from acting out your dreams and potentially harming yourself. Of course, things can get a little confusing when you suddenly wake up, but the paralysis persists. You might feel trapped in those moments, like your limbs are no longer yours (Fry & Wright, 2022).

But don’t worry - it’s just your subconscious lingering in the dream world for a little longer. Soon enough, you’ll return to reality, and the sleep demon will be nothing hopefully than a distant memory.

What Triggers Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis itself already sounds like something from a horror movie. As mentioned earlier, it occurs when a person wakes up unable to move or speak and feels a weight on their chest or senses a dark presence in the room. This experience can be terrifying for some, especially when coupled with vivid hallucinations.

Although the exact cause of sleep paralysis is unknown, studies have revealed some factors that increase one’s chances of experiencing this phenomenon are:

  • Sleep Disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress
  • Inconsistent and disrupted sleep patterns
  • Drugs
  • Several medicines
  • Jetlag
  • Narcolepsy

How to Get Rid of Sleep Paralysis

Discovering effective tactics to interrupt sleep paralysis outbreaks is vital for those who suffer from the condition. Some potential methods from escaping from an episode of sleep paralysis include:

  • Making an effort to stretch your arms, legs, or body prior to or during the paralysis episode
  • Attempting to move the mouth or eyes
  • Being stimulated or woken up by external forces such as another person or alarm clock
  • Concentrating on both mental and physical relaxation
  • Praying or memorizing religious texts in your head

You can also take control of your sleep paralysis by mastering the art of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is the act of knowing when you are dreaming - giving them potential control of their subconscious experiences. Recent studies suggest that this could turn your terrifying visions into pleasant experiences. However, much more research is needed to understand the full potential of this method due to its abnormality and uncertainty. Still, learning how to lucid dream is worth a shot to make your nights more calming and restful.

What Are Some Causes of a Sleep Paralysis Demon?

The sleep-related hallucinations that come with paralysis can be terrifying, but understanding what causes them is key to finding peace of mind. Many experts believe that these “demonic” episodes occur when individuals experience vivid dreams while they’re consciously awake.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, there aren’t any exact answers as to why these hallucinations occur, but there are different factors that stimulate these hallucinations. Researchers have discovered the potential impact of hormones, mirror neurons, breathing changes, and brain survival centers. Explore the science behind these intense experiences.


When we wake up, hormones like serotonin help us become more alert and suppress dream-filled REM sleep. However, during sleep paralysis, these hormones are released while our bodies remain in the REM state. This can lead to unsettling hallucinations and activate the brain’s fear circuits (Pacheco, 2020). 

Mental Disorders:

Brain malfunctions may be the reason for hallucinations creating the “human-like” figures and the sensual nature and phantom sensations experienced during sleep. These disturbances involve the parts of the brain responsible for creating your own body image.

Breathing Patterns Change:

Sleep paralysis can cause breathing to become shallow and muscles to become paralyzed during the REM sleep cycle. This can lead to feelings of suffocation and pressure on the chest during sleep-related hallucinations and dreams. Being aware of this sensation can help individuals better understand and manage their experiences with sleep paralysis (Zhou et al., 2022).

Uncertainty and Terror Rounds:

When one becomes aware of their inability to move, it can cause an increase in fear and lead to panicked responses. These responses can intensify the disturbing nature of any hallucinations experienced during the episode.

How Do People Characterize the Demons?

More common than expected, those who have sleep paralysis are most likely to encounter its demons. These creatures take on many forms, such as faceless shadows and creatures with clawed hands - these demons can also be referred to as “night hags.” Even aliens and deceased relatives have been reported to show up as sleep paralysis demons (Vincent et al., 2022).

Different cultures have their own interpretations of these encounters and the personification of the demons. In Canadian Inuit culture, they associate paralysis experiences to shaman spells. Within Japanese folklore, the demon is considered a vengeful spirit that suffocates its enemies in their sleep. In Brazilian folklore, the demon named Pisadeira, is a crone who lurks on rooftops before walking on the chest of those who have had a big meal before sleeping (O’Connell, 2020). Sleep demons may be terrifying, but they undoubtedly make for an interesting topic of discussion among different cultures.

Does Sleep Paralysis Affect Men and Women Equally?

As we have been discussing, sleep paralysis is a frightening phenomenon that affects a significant portion of the world’s population. According to previous research, anywhere between 8% and 50% of people experience this sleep disorder at some point in their lives, with around 5% experiencing regular episodes (Suni, 2021b).

Interestingly enough, men and women are equally likely to experience sleep paralysis, and it is also not uncommon for these different paralysis experiences to occur during childhood. It is important for people to be aware of this condition and seek out the appropriate help if they are experiencing sleep paralysis on a regular basis. However, it concludes that anyone and everyone has the potential to undergo sleep paralysis.

What Are Some Prevention Strategies For Sleep Paralysis and Its Demons?

Been reading through this article and not wanting to deal with sleep paralysis and its potential creepy hallucinations? Posed are some strategies that can potentially help handle the underlying cause of these episodes:

Study up on sleep paralysis:

Reading up on the sleep paralysis demon meaning and comprehending the science of sleep-related hallucinations can eliminate fear and confusion with preparedness. Once you realize that these hallucinations, although fearful and unharmful, you can feel confident and at ease.

Never disregard apprehension or worry:

You can break the cycle of anxiety and sleep paralysis. Don’t let anxiety keep you up at night, and don’t let sleep paralysis cause you to fear falling asleep. Take control of your mental health by talking to your doctor or a mental health professional about managing anxiety so that you can sleep soundly and wake up refreshed (Suni, 2021a).

Unwind before going to bed:

Relaxation not only improves your sleep quality but also minimizes the possibility of experiencing sleep paralysis.

Altering your sleeping position:

Changing your sleeping position can help prevent sleep paralysis. Research indicates that switching from sleeping on your back to your side or stomach can make a difference.

Improve your sleeping habits:

By prioritizing your sleep hygiene, you can reduce the frequency of sleep paralysis episodes. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, winding down with a relaxing routine, steering clear of sleep-depriving substances like caffeine and alcohol, and keeping electronic device use to a minimum before bed can help to promote restful sleep (Oh et al., 2023).

Maintain a sleep record:

By keeping track of your sleep issues and daytime symptoms through a record, you can identify early signs of sleep paralysis and have more meaningful discussions with your doctor regarding your well-being

Among the various types of sleep disturbances, sleep paralysis demons contribute to one of the most unsettling and terrifying experiences someone can undergo. While some may dismiss this phenomenon as mere horror-movie fodder, the realistic experiences can be much more intense and frightening (Pacheco, 2020).

Seeking assistance from a doctor or health professional may be the most important step towards finding relief. By opening up a candid dialogue with your healthcare provider, you can understand your condition more effectively and get the support and guidance you need.


For those who have experienced sleep paralysis, the idea of a "sleep paralysis demon" can be terrifying. Many people report feeling intimidated in the room with them during the experience.

However, it's essential to understand that these sensations are actually a continuation of the dream you were having before waking up rather than the work of an actual demon. 

While feeling paralyzed can be scary, educating yourself about the causes and symptoms of the condition can go a long way in managing your fear. 

By learning more about sleep paralysis - and understanding that it's a relatively normal occurrence - you can help yourself feel more in control of the experience and less frightened by the sensations you may experience.

However, do you experience sleep paralysis frequently? Do you have terrifying nightmares that feel too real? The Miracle Night app has all the answers. The app gives all the insight, stories, and prevention tips on sleep paralysis. Say goodbye to unexplained ghost encounters and demon attacks. Get the peaceful sleep you deserve with the help of our app. 

Download Miracle Night today and have a sweet dream!

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