Sleep Paralysis demons seem to be known in most cultures around the world and throughout history.
Sleep paralysis is literally feeling as though you can’t move, but while being or becoming conscious and aware. This usually occurs when a person is in the process of waking up or falling asleep.
You may have heard that sleep paralysis is linked to or caused by demons. This could be due to the fact that is just a scary experience and it happens during a partially aware state of sleep.
Most people describe their experience with sleep paralysis their own way. It not hard, however, to see the striking similarities in these accounts.
We have compiled these beliefs and stories of folklore from around the world.
DID YOU KNOW– To stop sleep paralysis and nightmares, many people learn how to lucid dream. Lucid dreaming is the awareness, or consciousness, that you are having a dream while still dreaming. People learn to develop their awareness and control to eliminate or reduce the effects of bad dreams.
In Salem, Massachusetts, during the witch trials, Bridget Bishop was the first person to be sentenced and hung for witchcraft.
It was alleged that she and other witches were responsible for attacks during the night often related to sleep paralysis.
In Newfoundland, Canada there is a myth of the Old hag. Also know as the night hag, it is recognized as a malevolent old woman similar to the mare. It is said the old hag exits her physical body to visit and lay or sit on victims’ chests.
This usually causes them to wake up in fear and/or be stuck with sleep paralysis. There is also belief it may be summoned to attack another person.
Sleep Paralysis is believed to be caused by spirits of the dead, in Mexico, that climb upon you while you are sleeping and make it hard to move.
Brazil has the legend of the Pisadeira. This translated means, “she who steps.” Most accounts depict her as a tall, thin, bony old woman.
She has a horrifying appearance with crazy hair, long nails, and sharp teeth. Her laugh is terrifying as well.
She supposedly targets those who go to sleep on a full stomach. Psiadeira then pushes or stomps down on the victim’s chest till suffocation or waking occurs.
In some areas of Southeast Africa, there is a belief that sleeping on your back is a direct cause for you to be attacked by a jinn. They refer to it as jinamizi and it may strangle you as well as cause difficulty breathing.
In Ethiopia it is believed that an evil spirit that can possess you while you sleep. It is closely tied to the word dukak, which means “depression”.
Their main belief is that it is all caused by quitting an addictive substance. The evil spirit of dukak is offended by the person that quits, and punishes them for it.
Parts of Nigeria describe demonic nighttime disturbances as ogun oru, which means “nocturnal warfare”. It is believed to be closely tied to a battle between a persons’ earthly spouse and a spouse in another spiritual realm.
In Moroccan culture, sleep paralysis is referred to as bou rattat. This means, “a demon covering and pressing your body while you can’t move or speak”.
The word for nightmare in Finnish, painajainen, is formed from the word painaja which means “presser or pusher”.
In Iceland if you experience sleep paralysis it is usually called having a mara. A succubus, or a seducing demon in the form of a woman, is usually blamed for the attacks.
The pesanta is a legend in Catalonia. The pesanta is a huge dog that goes into people’s homes, crawls on their chests, causes breathing problems, as well as awful nightmares.
A story originating somewhere in Scandinavia tells us of the belief in the Mare. A cursed old woman, she is said to wander and sit on people’s chest and ribs when they fall asleep. She causes sleep paralysis and nightmares.
In Latvian folklore, sleep paralysis is considered torture by a lietuvēn. A lietuvēn is believed to be the spirit of either a hanged, drowned, or strangled person. This spirit is said to not only attack people, but animals as well.
There is a remote part of Italy where there is is a belief in a ghoulish creature called ammuttadori. Along with chest sitting and suffocating, this demon is also said to scratch and to rip skin with its nails.
-Middle East/ West and Central Asia-
Sleep paralysis, known as ja-thoom, translates from Arabic to mean, “what sits heavily on something.” It is believed to be an evil spirit that sits on top of person and chokes them. Sleeping on your right side is said to help possibly prevent these attacks.
In Turkey there is a belief in a demon known as a jinn, who holds the victims down in their rooms. It does this hard enough that they can’t move at all and then may try to suffocate or strangle that person.
The Kurdish somtimes refer to sleep paralysis as motakka. This sleep paralysis demon is believed to prefer preying on younger victims. It is said to steal their breath and hold it out of reach.
Persian culture suggests there is a ghost-like demon that sits on a dreaming persons’ chest. It is known as a bakhtak.
In Pashtun culture there is the khappasa, a ghost without thumbs. Like other descriptions this one tries to suffocate by pressing or sitting on a person.
It is said that the missing thumbs are the reason it can’t ever be fully effective and finish the job.
In all these cases theses demons or creatures are believed to cause breathing issues for the victim.
Sleep Paralysis is taken very seriously in the Hmong culture. They believe that the dab tsog sits on sleepers chest and can strangle them.
There was a strange phenomenon where over 100 Hmong men died in there sleep during the 1970s and 1980s. Their deaths were officially said to be caused by Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome (SUNDS).
All the symptoms these men were said to be experiencing directly resemble those of sleep paralysis before their deaths. We talk more about this in another article called can sleep paralysis cause death?
The Chinese variations of sleep paralysis translate into “ghost pressing on the body or bed.”
The translation of the Japanese term for sleep paralysis, kanashibari, means “bound or tied in metal.”
Called gawi nulim in Korea, sleep paralysis translates to, “something frightening pressing down on you during a dream.”
Phi Am, is the name for the ghost that causes the discomforts of sleep paralysis in Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. It is claimed that the Phi Am may actually leave bruises on some victims.
What the Vietnamese call sleep paralysis roughly translates to “being held down by a shadow or ghost”.
In Mongolian culture most experiences related to nightmares and sleep paralysis are referred to as kara darahu. This phrase means “to be pressed by the black or darkness”.
Have you had similar experiences to these stories. Do you think sleep paralysis is demon related?