sleep paralysis cause

What is Sleep Paralysis?: The Ultimate Guide

Sleep paralysis can be just a minor annoyance or have a total crippling effect on your life. Experiencing this can obviously be stressful and sometimes even terrifying. Many people even swear that they have seen, heard, or even felt sleep paralysis demons.  

Have you ever felt like you were awake but were unable to move or speak? Have you ever felt like someone was holding you down when you were trying to wake up? These are the most common ways sleep paralysis is described.

So what’s this all about? There are many questions that come to mind when you first hear about or experience this phenomenon.

I have compiled all you need to know in this ultimate guide on sleep paralysis.

  • What is Sleep Paralysis?
  • What are the Sleep Paralysis Symptoms?
  • What Causes Sleep Paralysis?
  • Why is Sleep Paralysis Scary?
  • Is Sleep Paralysis Demon Related?
  • Can Sleep Paralysis Cause Death?
  • How do you Stop Sleep Paralysis?
  • What is Difference Between Sleep Paralysis, Nightmares, and Night Terrors?

What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is not being able to move even though you feel that you are awake and aware. Sleep paralysis will occur either in the process of waking up or falling asleep. Generally during the occurrence a person feels as if they are aware or partially awake.

There are two different technical types of sleep paralysis: hypnagogic and hypnopompic.  

It is called hypnagogic if the paralysis occurs when you are falling asleep.

Otherwise, if it occurs when you are waking up, it is called hypnopompic.

When you sleep your brain will normally force your muscles to relax. You transition back and forth through rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

Most of your sleep time will be NREM sleep. This is where your body focuses on healing and restoring itself.

Dreaming happens while you are in REM sleep. These cycles somehow overlap and are disrupted, and that is when sleep paralysis occurs.

What are the Sleep Paralysis Symptoms?

The most common sleep paralysis symptoms experienced are described are:

  • Total or partial paralysis
  • Mild to extreme panic or fear
  • Feeling as something is holding you down
  • A sensation of pressure on the chest
  • A choking feeling or sensation of pressure on the throat
  • Sense, belief, or recognition that another person or spirit is in the room
  • A disturbing sensation through sight, hearing, or touch (hallucination)

After fully waking with total consciousness some may experience:

  • Continued or increased fear, stress, and anxiety
  • Spasming, tingling, or pain in the limbs
  • Drowsiness

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

The main cause of sleep paralysis seems to be the interruption or overlapping of the REM and NREM sleep cycles.


The following can all also be considered causes or contributing factors for sleep paralysis:

  • Stress / Anxiety
  • Lack of Sleep
  • Disruption of Normal Sleep Schedule
  • Substance Abuse
  • Medication
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Mental Conditions
  • Sleeping on your back

Gender doesn’t seem to increase or decrease your chance of experiencing sleep paralysis. Often times, but not always, it first happens during the teenage years. The age-range most commonly affected is from late teens to early thirties.

It has been suggested that certain cultural beliefs may increase the occurrence and/or worsen the effects of sleep paralysis. These beliefs may spread causing many of the symptoms listed above. This can obviously lead to increased cases and have a snowball effect. For more info on these causes and more check out The Top 3 Sleep Paralysis Causes.

Why is Sleep Paralysis Scary?

There are three main things that makes sleep paralysis so scary.

1. Paralysis – As explained above, a person is not able to move and even can feel held down during an episode of sleep paralysis. Being restrained against your will is never fun, even while your are fully awake. 

2. Hallucinations- 

  • VisualSeeing things that aren’t really there. (Dark presences, spirits, or demons)
  • AuditoryHearing sounds that don’t really exist. (A pop or buzzing noise is often reported to be heard during sleep paralysis)
  • TactileFeeling any touching sensation that is not actually real. (Feeling restrained, or held down with a chest and/ or throat pressure)

3. Fear of the Unknown- For those experiencing sleep paralysis, for the first time especially, it is just the not knowing what is going on the is scary. 

Is Sleep Paralysis Demon Related?

During sleep paralysis, a person may feel, hear, or see things that aren’t actually there. Some just swear that they feel something “dark or evil”. For many these experiences are all too real.

So, is sleep paralysis demon related? There are certainly a good amount of people that believe this to be true. There is also a decent amount of info in history that suggests that this has been a question for a long time.

Obviously, for most, we need physical evidence to definitively say yes or no.  As far as we know, of course, there is no actual verified proof of this actually being the case. The evidence is just what people believe they experienced. Proving or disproving the sleep paralysis demon relation totally, seems unlikely . It is not necessarily impossible, but not probable.

Looking back into history and even today you will find many cultures who have some sort of belief surrounding sleep paralysis and sleep paralysis demons.The article Sleep Paralysis Demons Around the World, a collection of these stories and beliefs, shows the recognition of sleep paralysis and its’ demons in many different cultures.

Can Sleep Paralysis Cause Death?


One main reason sleep paralysis is linked to death because of the fear of the unknown. There are many cultures throughout history and today that believe that sleep paralysis demons can attack. It is in fact a fairly common belief that they can even kill.

Sleep paralysis may have been blamed because it was a fairly common thing that many experienced. It was a scary experience that could be easily related to cultural beliefs. On many occasions people had no way of knowing what killed an otherwise healthy person.

So can sleep paralysis cause death? Experts do not believe that it can be a direct cause of death. It is not usually considered to be a dangerous thing and it is also not a guaranteed sign of a worse disorder or condition.

Sleep paralysis definitely does no favors for the body. It can cause increased stress, anxiety, and fear. It can aggravate existing health issues and make things worse.

 How to Stop Sleep Paralysis?


In most cases you can stop sleep paralysis from happening without seeking medical treatment.

You don’t have to keep worrying about because there are things you can do that work.

Here is a list of ideas on how to stop sleep paralysis:

1. Learn all you can about it

Learning what it is, may help identify the cause and help reduce worry

2. Focus on relieving stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can make it worse so take time to relax by winding down before bed.

3. Improve your sleep schedule/ sleep habits

Plan your sleep, and keep track of it. Avoid long day naps, and/or sleeping in. Kindly ask family or roommates for cooperation and help.

4. Try different sleep positions

Try to avoid sleeping, if possible, on your back because it is believed that back sleeping will increase your chances of having sleep paralysis.

5. Seek treatment for any other problem that may be causing it

For example, substance abuse and other health issues.

Do you need help stopping sleep paralysis? – How Stop Sleep Paralysis: 7 Great Ideas

What is Difference Between Sleep Paralysis, Nightmares, and Night Terrors?

  • An adult or child can often remember a nightmare and sleep paralysis, but not usually a night terror. 
  • Children are more likely to experience night or sleep terrors than sleep paralysis.
  • Sleep paralysis seems to occur more often early in the morning hours closer to the time of waking.
  • Nightmares and night terrors usually occur in the early part or middle of the night when a person is more deeply asleep.


  • Reducing stress and having a good uninterrupted sleep schedule can possibly reduce the frequency of these unwanted nighttime events.
  • Sleeping in the supine position, meaning on your back, may increase the likelihood of sleep paralysis.


Sleep Paralysis: Being unable to move, in a state of temporary paralysis, while waking or falling asleep.

Nightmares: A scary, or very unpleasant dream.

Night Terrors: Periods or fits of fearful screaming, flailing, and panic while sleeping.





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