A couple of years ago, I had a really strange experience. I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep. I thought I was still awake and I opened my eyes and was sure that there was someone in the room with me. I closed my eyes tight, absolutely terrified and felt someone sit on the bed and then I felt as if someone was sitting on me as I couldn’t breathe and I was completely unable to move or struggle. After what seemed like a couple of minutes, I eventually woke up and found that it had all been a rather hideous nightmare, and it took me a long while to recover.
This same dream has happened to me maybe half a dozen times since. Always the same feeling that someone is in the room, a feeling of terror and the same suffocating sensation and the worst is not being able to struggle. It happened again last night with one refinement, this time, I knew what was happening was a nightmare and I although I still tried to fight the person off, it was more a case of trying to wake myself up as this time, I knew subconsciously, what was happening to me.
I was listening to the radio a while ago, and they were talking about why people think they have been abducted by aliens. One of the doctor/scientists on the programme said that one explanation was ‘Sleep Paralysis’ and went on to describe exactly what I have described to you above. I have since read a lot about about it and it is a very well documented phenomenon – try googling it, there are lots of references to it. Not everyone experiences the hallucinations which accompany the paralysis but it is felt that it may be a possible explanation for people thinking they have been visited by witches, ghosts and aliens and such like.
One of the many web sites that explains this experience is run by the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and it has links to lots of other ones. The painting at the top of the page is by the Swiss artist, Henry Fuseli and is called ‘The NIghtmare’. It has been suggested that he may be depicting a sleep paralysis episode. In mythology, the Hag is a well known figure of a wizened old crone who is supposed to visit during sleep, sit on your chest and send you nightmares. So if I look a little ‘hagridden’ today, you will excuse me I’m sure! And it is Friday the 13th today…
Anyway, back to business. A couple of weeks ago, I got chatting to an old lady at the market stall when I was buying those plasticized fabrics. She asked me if I would have a go at restoring her favourite poetry book which she loved and used a lot, but which had fallen to bits after her dog had a go at chewing it (obviously not a poetry fan then).
As you can see it was in a bit of a state, I was going to make a new case for it but she said she liked the original cover (teeth marks and all) so as I’m not really a book restorer I did the best I could with what I had, I hope she likes it. She won’t know of course that the first time I did it, I opened the book up and realized I had stuck the text block in UPSIDE DOWN. One of the advantages of making blank books is that this doesn’t normally matter. In this case, it mattered a lot, so I had to rip it apart and start again…
This has all been a bit serious hasn’t it? I’d better leave you with a bit of silliness to lighten the mood or you might not come back :-)
And to keep you up to date on the progress of my diet….
You seemed to have done a great job with the book. Very nice.
If I had a favorite book that a dog ate, I would surely send it to you :)
Those nightmares sound very scary. I don’t think I’d want to sleep if I experienced that on a regular basis.
That painting is very eerie, but does illustrate what you were describing. Eek!
Thanks, it turned out better than I had hoped despite the false start!
The nightmares are horrid but luckily don’t happen that often. The painting is weird, needless to say I don’t look like that when I’m asleep and I’m not sure what the horse watching in the background is supposed to signify :-)
Unless you don’t want to believe in ghosts or earthly spirits and creatures, you can think of this as sleep paralysis.
My daughter has a much more powerful sense of these things than I. I can at times, see some ghosts and spirits especially in antique shops, old homes, sometimes even newly built homes. In the latter, the ghosts are angry at being rudely disturbed.
My daughter sees earthly beings, some beautiful, others grotesque. She is now 23 years old and she has managed to avoid looking directly into their eyes lest they follow her.
In countries we work in, urbanites usually dismiss these things with scientific explanations. The more rural ones are referred to as the more superstitious. Funny, since I was born and raised in the city and grew up in a family with European lineage. But i see and sense these things. I learned a lot from the rural folks and I have communicated these to my daughter.
The point is, believe what makes you feel comfortable but take precautions. Some are good, others are just mischievous, and a few are really evil who may resort to succubus or incubus depending if the prey is male or female. At times it may be a ghost of someone who really didn’t like you, although that’s hard for me to understand, and would like to scare you so much. Take care and continue fighting it. Talk to it like you were seeing it and express your disdain. Or, ask what it wants, maybe it wants a cover for a book eh?:-) –Durano, done
I’ve had those dreams where I’m convinced I’m awake …… it is very difficult to shake yourself back to reality. I am assuming that I’m awake at the moment …….. but then on the other hand ….
I get those sleep paralysis type dreams regularly. Not often, but regularly. It is totally fascinating, really; but then again I do love neurological “problems”.
You did an amazing job with that book! When I saw the first photo, before reading your explanation, I thought you were going to do an altered book project. Those are fun!
Thanks for the silly ending! You find the best things on the ‘net. The last cartoon is me. ;)
they are called incubus attacks in my dream book Diane and they are horrible..I’ve had a couple too…
love your cartoons…the man sliding back and forward ..so funny…and the diet ones ..must show Charlotte :)
sweet dreams to you :)
Durano – it’s always fascinating to hear other perspectives on these things. When I first started to have these ‘dreams’, I thought they were just an especially vivid nightmare but never having had a recurring dream before, I was slightly worried when it happened again…and again. As soon as I heard the experience described so exactly on the radio science programme, I was relieved as a) other people were experiencing the same thing and b) there was a rational explanation for what was going on.
Your reply adds another (slightly scary dimension to the explanation and is one I will investigate further…
DP – sweet dreams whatever state you are in at present :-)
Teresa – you have them too! I usually tell people about this and they look at me like I’ve finally lost it :-)
I’m taking the book back to the old lady today – hope she likes it! Glad you enjoy the cartoons – they sum me up perfectly….
Kim – you too! I expect there are quite a few people I know who’ve had them but who have never mentioned it to other people as they thought they might be considered odd. I was less frightened this time as there was a part of me saying ‘oh, it’s one of those episodes I’ve read about again’. The mind is a very strange thing…
Glad you enjoyed the silliness.:-D
That is one scary painting that ddoes amply depict what you describe. Can’t say I recall having one of those dreams.. it must be pretty alarming.
Love what you have done with the book I am sure she will be delighted :-)
Have a great weekend
It’s a grim painting isn’t it? Can’t figure out what the horse is supposed to signify….there are no horses in MY nightmares :-)
Well, at least the book is now in one piece. Just hope she keeps it away from the dog :-)
Very thoughtful post. I myself am not of the B.F. Skinner vein, where everything our subconscious reveals is a transformation of external stimuli, although that is a large part of it. I think human beings are informed from within as much as from without, something science is not about to solve soon.
Dream themes, of being afraid, or neverending trying to “get somewhere” until U R exhausted, not sure why the mind feels it necessary for restoration of sanity in the morning, but that’s how it is.
What a disturbing painting.
That’s amazing what you did with that book, Diane! You’re a genius.
I’m on that same diet and exercise regime! What a coincidence!
Sometimes, fortunately not all that often, I “dream” that I cannot breathe and that I’m suffocating, and I cannot move and can’t wake up. It’s terrifying and it seems so real, when you wake up you can’t believe it didn’t actually happen.
I found your site via your visit to mine and somehow ended up on this post. I must admit, I have been struggling with an experience like this over 10 years ago and to this day I’ve repressed it because I wasn’t sure what it was and as I got older I thought maybe I was crazy.
Well, now that it has been brought up, I am so glad to see a possible description. Mine was a bit different, there was no dream, only the sounds of a lot of deep voices and growling. I was laying on my stomach and couldn’t move for what seemed like an eternity. I thought it was my dog growling, but he wasn’t even in my room. Eventually, it was gone and I was terrified. At the time, I thought it was demons, but to be honest I have no idea what it was.
Keep us posted if your research brings anything else.
Mark – After a particularly random dream about someone I haven’t thought of for years or a person who is on TV or some such, I do wonder if dreams are just the brain filing away information – having a sort out down at the library as it were. Although I do have very deep yearning type dreams (mostly about my last ex) which are rather obviously deciphered.
These nightmares are so infrequent and different to ‘normal’ dreams and nightmares they must have a different trigger – be it physiological or psychological, I can’t say.
Jenny – glad you like what I managed to do with the book. The lady was pleased with it, I’m glad to report!
It sounds like the same sort of dream – check out the University of Waterloo link above, it tells you so much more about these scary episodes…
Padma – likewise you should check out the link too. There are lots of variations of this dream experience ( and they have posted an online survey for people to describe their own episodes.) I too didn’t tell anyone about my nightmare until I heard the explanation on the radio. It quite reassuring to hear so many people all have these episodes and that there are explanations/opinions about why it happens. Which you believe is up to you of course…. :-)
You’re on a diet? I didn’t know you were out of shape or overweight.
It’s an attempt to get ‘bikini fit’ for the summer, probably doomed to failure, and I shall just have to be satisfied with ‘one piece swimsuit fit’.
I blame it on a couple of rainy weeks in Switzerland – nothing to do but eat cheesy food (fondue, raclette) and drink very tasty Swiss wines :-)
The sleep paralysis thing is really creepy: I have about one episode a year for no apparent reason. I started having them when I was 8 or 9 along with really bad nightmares (which is, of course, what the horse in the painting is) and they have continued since then. As a way to help myself with the nightmares, at about the age of 10 I developed what I later learned is called “lucid dreaming”. I can rewind a bad dream and “fix” it, or wake myself up because I can tell that I am dreaming. Doesn’t seem to help with the “sleep paralysis” though: on one occasion I had to wake myself up through three different layers of the “dream”. I don’t get an “incubus” and there is definitely nothing the least bit sexy about the experience. It’s just a sense of sheer panic along with an inability to move or call for help. Horrid!
So enough already! The book looks very handsome in its new incarnation. And it must be hard to believe that you have two children graduated from Uni! You sure don’t look it.
And if #2 son is still sporting those wistful eyebrows I bet he’s awfully attractive to females his age.
Hope the knee is all better soon. I can tell it wasn’t a tick bite because the tick stays.
Ah, so that’s what the horse is supposed to represent – I did wonder. I rarely have ordinary nightmares – just these ‘sleep paralysis’ episodes every now and again. Fascinating you learned that coping mechanism. I agree there is nothing sexy about the incubus figure, it’s just a feeling of terror at having a stranger in the room.
Thanks for the compliment! I sure don’t feel old enough to have two sons that age! #2 son does still have those eyebrows and he is pretty irresistible to the ladies (some of my friends go a bit weak kneed at the sight of him!) #1 son looks completely different but is also just as gorgeous! I make great babies!
I have a friend about your age who is a Lapp by heritage and married to an Iranian. (Canada is most definitely a multiple ethnic society.)
I was delivering some text for an article (hard copy/lines were down) and her younger son answered the door.
He was half awake at 10:30 in the morning, and half dressed.
When he opened the front door I lost the capacity to speak!
There should be a law against young men being that beautiful when I am delivering boring papers to their mother!
I have forbidden his mother to tell him how I felt, and I presume he was so sleepy he won’t remember me!
Young men answering doors should not have the capacity to melt panty elastic!
But I bet both your sons can do the same. Where were these gorgeous boys when I was on the hunt?
Having celebrated another big birthday: well, others think it is big–I hope that you are enjoying a good day.
(P.S. I have made it to 58!)
Love your posts and your pics,
Huge non-nightmare hugs,