Demystifying Sleep Paralysis

If you haven’t had the experience commonly called sleep paralysis, it is certain that someone you know have – just ask a few people around you and you’ll realize it is more common than you thought. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) stated that ‘‘40%–50% of normal sleepers report having had isolated episodes of sleep paralysis at least once during their lifetime’’.

Projective catalepsy, also known as sleep paralysis, is commonly portrayed as the inability to perform voluntary movements, either at the onset of sleep (during what is known as the hypnogogic state) or upon awakening (during the hypnopompic state). In other words, the person is unable to move a single muscle, scream, speak, or react in any way during sleep paralysis. Although fully conscious, the person can’t express him/herself through the physical body.

As noted by the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC)people frequently report feeling a “presence” that is often described as malevolent, threatening, or evil, most likely as an attempt to explain why they cannot move. An intense sense of dread and terror is very common, again due to the inexplicable inability to move. This fear is absent in people who are used to the experience, such as experienced out-of-body experiencers.

Still according to the IAC, Individuals often wonder “is it serious? Is it harmful? Is it negative?” It is not, but it is often scary at first. Those who have reported experiencing sleep paralysis commonly describe being fearful of the condition, which is why the world’s cultures have various spooky interpretations of the phenomenon ranging from alien abductions to evil spirits. However, sleep paralysis is harmless and no more pathological than other naturally-occurring altered states.

But, after all, what causes it? Here we will present a simple explanation of the phenomena that can be supported by the fact that sleep paralysis is commonly associated with out-of-body experiences (OBE). In fact, the phenomena is easily demystified if we take into perspective our spiritual nature. Spirits (or our consciousness) resource of different “bodies” or vehicles of expressions depending on their availability and/or the dimension the expression is taking place. The physical body is our vehicle of expression in the physical dimension and is only the simplest and most rudimentary of such bodies. (We offered a basic study on some of those different vehicles of expression of consciousness which can be accessed HERE). Whenever it is not available due to its need to sleep, an ill state of the physical body, etc., our consciousness will express itself through another, more subtle, vehicle of expression; typically, the so-called astral body, perispirit or psychosoma. Sleep paralysis occurs when an individual becomes aware of departing from or returning to the physical body with this more subtle vehicle of expression, and at the moment at which the two bodies are not fully aligned. In this case, the individual may feel him/herself inside the body, although the physical brain won’t respond to his/her commands due to this non-alignment.

This also explain why some individuals may perceive facts taking place in the non-physical reality while having a sleep paralysis. What usually happens is that the fear felt on the onset of a sleep paralysis causes the physical body to “pull the astral body back in place” and re-establish itself as the vehicle of expression of consciousness. However, if the person having a sleep paralysis remain calm and instead concentrate in floating outside of the body and away from it, an OBE experience may take place (expression of consciousness through the astral body) with meaningful and rewarding consequences, including the first hand confirmation that we are not our physical bodies neither our consciousness is at the physical brain.

For a more complete description of the phenomena, we recommend you read the Complete Guide to Sleep Paralysis issued  and maintained by the IAC group.


  • American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author.
  • International Academy of Consciousness, Key Sleep Paralysis Facts From Scientific Sources, last accessed on Sept. 24, 2016.

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