More than Just a Nightmare

Sleep Paralysis

Drifting off to sleep happens when we're most relaxed. What isn't relaxing, however, is being haunted by demons in your sleep. This is a truly terrifying experience. Imagine feeling held-down and seeing, hearing, and possibility feeling things you can't help.

In the U.S., this is commonly referred to as sleep paralysis, while the Japanese refer to it as "Kanashibari." Sleep paralysis is not a new concept, in fact, it has been discussed and depicted in art for centuries. The Nightmare is a 1781 oil painting by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli which shows a helpless woman deep in sleep with a demon sitting on her chest. Many believe that this was one of the first explanation of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis has been described as when 

The victim’s body is still paralyzed in sleep, but the eyes are open and the mind is half-awake; and the real and dream worlds mix together.

Similarly, Kanashibari has been around in the Japanese culture since ancient times. They believe that it comes from one of the several options. The first being possession, the other caused by powerful humans such as a priest or sorcerer, and the other by ghosts. In the instance of the ghost, it is typical for the sleeping person to wake up, unable to move with a sense of dread and feel a tugging on their foot towards an open window or other danger. After a desperate struggle, they would finally snap out of the sleep paralysis and sees the ghost of a middle-aged woman rising up into the ceiling.

Sleep paralysis apparently only happens within 8% of the population, but can happen once or throughout a lifetime. Comment below if you've experienced sleep paralysis and check out this week's podcast with Thomas Bauerle, author of Kanashibari: True Encounters With the Paranormal In Japan.