Friday, April 4, 2008

The Weird Phenomenon of Sleep Paralysis

I think it's happened to me about three times in my life - twice when I lived in New York, and once since I've returned to Toronto.

Here's what I experience: I wake up in the middle of the night - at least I absolutely think I'm awake while it's happening, because I see the bedroom walls around me, and I'm lying there in the darkness. I have a sense of being suffocated; there's a pressure on my chest and I'm not getting enough air - this part is not so unusual for me since I'm slightly asthmatic and struggle with allergies anyway.

Then I realize I can't move - I'm fully awake and alert and conscious (at least I believe that to be so while it's happening), but I can't move. It feels as though some presence is obstructing my will. I try to move towards the door or window, but it takes a herculean effort and I make very little progress. I start to pray because it feels like something is there, interfering with my body's ability to respond to my will. I stop fighting and trying to force my own movement - this presence is physically stronger than me. But I know that if I keep praying, the presence can't cause my soul any harm. So I pray until I eventually fall asleep again.

It's natural for me to put this in a spiritual context - simple explanation: I was under some kind of spiritual attack. This is what I've thought each time it's happened.

When it happened again a couple of nights ago, I decided to look on the internet to see if there was any research on this. I was quite surprised to see that a large number of people experience this particular phenomenon; the difficulty breathing, the inability to move, and even the sense of an evil presence in the room. Many researchers think it might just be brought on by various neurological triggers interfering with entry into or the exit from the REM sleep phase.

I'm not absolutely certain what it is, but I know what it feels like and I'm grateful to have recourse to prayer while it's happening!

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