Sleep Paralysisis characterized by altered motor, perceptual, emotional and cognitivefunctions, such as the inability to perform voluntary movements, visualhallucinations, feelings of chest pressure, delusions about a frighteningpresence and, in some cases, fear of impending death. Interestingly, throughouthuman history, different peoples interpreted this scientific phenomenon under asupernatural view. Within each episode, humans would grasp in information thattheir own minds created in their half state conscienceless. People began toshare their stories, and humans have invented over time hundreds of differentexplanations, often a spiritual and religious one, to understand or find peaceon why Sleep Paralysis occurs. Consequently, with so many versions of the samephenomenon and shared stories of the creatures humans have encountered duringtheir episodes, new cultural supernatural phenomena have and continues to growwithin the realm of human reality. Alien abductions, witchcraft, vampires,insidious spirits and much more are just mere fantasy explanations for givinghumans closure on the topic. And although many can move on, some linger and areunable to cope nor understand their episodes and why Sleep Paralysis occurredto them.
Art, photography, films, andliterature are just a few of the many ways people who have experienced episodescould find restfulness or some serenity in their lives. The fact so many humanshave shared their own very similar stories through World ArtisticRepresentation is just proof on how real the Sleep Paralysis effects can haveon humans and how coping with it and creating our own explanations have givenand continue to give birth to new cultural supernatural phenomena. It is rathersimpler to fictionalize an occurrence than to rationalize it.*VIII.Conclusion * Withso many explanations regarding to a dissociative state that occurs mainlyduring awakening, it is very hard not to grasp ideas for our own World ArtisticRepresentations.
Many people who suffer from Sleeping Paralysisoften find a great difficulty in dealing or understanding their episodes, andso many find great comfort in art. One of the most famous historical example ofSleep Paralysis in art is Swiss artist Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting ‘TheNightmare’. The painting features many of the classic symptoms of sleep paralysis. Another great example is Parisian SculptureEugene Thivier’s sculpture called “Nightmare”. Both examples present a nakedreclining woman suffering a nightmare, while a malicious creature stands on topof her causing her pain and sleeping difficulties, and both pieces bring out amorbid and erotic feeling to its audience. Others, such as photographer NicolasBruno, dealt with their pain different. Bruno recreates the experiences fromhis dreamscape and through his incredible and haunting images he can get abetter understanding of his struggle and what his hallucinations mean.
Other artgenres such as films are also based on stories and episodes of Sleep Paralysisthat people decided to share, such as “The Conjuring”, written by Chad andCarey W. Hayes, and “Babadook”, written by Jennifer Kent. Oxford UniversityPress discusses that one might also find vivid depictions of Sleep Paralysis inthe writings of Erasmus Darwin, Herman Melville, Guy de Maupassant, ThomasHardy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway (“Sleep Paralysis in Art andLiterature”). *VII.
World Artistic Representations* Society,Culture, and Folklore varies by place and time for every phenomenon, but by farone of the most varied one is Sleep Paralysis. A modern manifestation of SleepParalysis in the Americas is its relationship with “alienabductions”, which cause their victims to experience immobility duringawakening associated with visual hallucinations of aliens and describing beingabducted. Other places in the Americas, such as Newfoundland, carry atraditional interpretation of Sleep Paralysis called “Old Hag” in which amalevolent creature attacks a victim during their sleep.
The creature begins bysitting or lying in their chest causing the victim to be fully conscious andcontain troubles with their movement, their speech, and breathing. In Europe,the biggest relation to the episodes are the historic witch trials. Writing in2003, Davies quotes examples of Sleep Paralysis found in evidence used at theSalem Witch Trials in 1692 in which many victims were accused by using theirSleep Paralysis experiences against them as a connection to a malevolent force.But, in the Europe the idea of vampirism also originated from the sensationthat a creature is bending over a paralyzed and enchanted victim to suck theirlife out of them.
In the Caribbean, it is referred to as “kokma”, a creaturethat causes the souls of unbaptized babies to be strangled during their sleep.In African cultures, voodoo magic is seen to cause sleep paralysis with attacksbeing the work of zombies coming to visit during your sleep. Canadian Eskimosattribute Sleep Paralysis to spells of shamans, who hinder the ability to move,and provoke hallucinations of a shapeless presence. In the Japanese tradition,the phenomenon is due to a vengeful spirit who suffocates his enemies whilesleeping.
In Nigerian culture, a female demon attacks during dreaming andprovokes paralysis. And this can keep going on and on because every place hastheir own explanation. *VI. Society, Culture, and Folklore* SleepParalysis is a somewhat new term used to describe what for millions of yearshumans believed to be a visit by a malicious being which attacked its victimsas they slept.
In the history of Western medicine, Sleep Paralysis has beendocumented for at least 300 years. The first clinical description of SleepParalysis was recorded in 1664 in a Dutch physician’scase histories, where it was first referred to as “Incubus of the Night-Mare”.But, the earliest written account of Sleep Paralysis can be found in a Chinesemedical book on dreaming, dating back to 400BCE. During the earliest written account,the patient describes that in the night time, when she was composing herself tosleep, sometimes she believed that the devil laid upon her breast, so that shecould hardly speak or breath (Cox). Sleep Paralysis did not fall behind ingaining fear in its name, and now there is no question on the weight it carrieswithin folklore, art, photography, and literature. It is remarkable thediversity of explanations of the same phenomenon and how the interpretationchanged within the same culture and even the hallucinatory content.
But thecraziest thing is how the frightening episodes can be recognized acrossdifferent cultures and throughout history, and even today, we can still see itspatterns in our everyday culture lives. *V. Cultural Phenomena throughout History * Many people whoexperience Sleep Paralysis will tell you that during their episodes they sawhorrifying images, sounds and other types of hallucinations that share a scientificsimilarity with dreaming. Hallucinations are a perception of the lack ofexternal stimulus that appears to feel as a vivid reality in which the personwill see, feel, or smell something that really isn’t there. Kazuhiko Fukuda, a Japaneseresearcher that works for Fukushima University, gathered a Japanese team toperform an experiment in which they monitored volunteers who they troubledwhile they slept in order to put Sleep Paralysis episodes in motion.
Duringtheir experiment, they could prove “that during Sleep Paralysis, the brain,suddenly awake, nonetheless displays electrical responses typical of Sleepcharacterized by Rapid Eye Movement (REM)”(“Biblical Studies”). They also discovered that when the volunteers’inner-brain structures that checks one’s environments for dangers feltdisturbed it would trigger the sensation of a supernatural being prowlingnearby. The Japanese team noticed that when the volunteers’ second brainsystem, which differentiates themselves with other beings, were troubled by RapidEye Movement (REM) activity, it caused the volunteer to hallucinate feelingssuch as floating, leaving one’s body, or being unable to move. Despite theirfantastic claims, people who experience Sleep Paralysis are mentally healthybecause their experience is an entirely natural phenomenon. But, even the mostrational people who lived this phenomenon often find it problematic to forgettheir experiences or write them off as fantastic. Millions of people insistthat their episodes were real, but they refuse to share their stories, instead,they walk around with fear because we live in a reality where humans treat storiesof viewing supernatural creatures and spirits as evidence of mental imbalance.Many also live scared because mainstream religions condemn connections withghosts, demons, and evil presences.*IV.
Hallucinations and Side Effects*The hallucinations are always evil,as cinematic horror films. As the victim laid on the couch asleep next to hersister and her friend, the person found herself in a frightening situationwhere she is asleep but feels awake. She can see her sister and her friendsitting and can hear their entire conversation, but she can’tmove.
She’s stuck. She begins to cry for help, screaming, hoping they wouldhear her. She tries to reach out for her sister’s hand, move her legs, herfingers, anything; but her body fails her.
She can hear herself breathing soloud, but no air was coming in. “I’m dying”, I thought to myself. Sleep Paralysis is defined as “.
..the conditionin which a person is aware but temporarily unable to move or speak when fallingasleep or upon awakening” (“Sleep Paralysis”). It is a crazy and scaryexperience that “can be recognized in reports across different cultures andthroughout history” (“Culture and History”). The Oxford Medicine Article arguesthat Sleep Paralysis has played and continues to take a great part in the creationof various supernatural beliefs such as demons, vampires, witches, and othersupernatural entities. Therefore, because of the nightmares and hallucinationsgenerated by Sleep Paralysis, a person’s perception and cultural contextattribute these mental episodes as supernatural phenomena.