Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society

"Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde."


Dreams, Hallucinations, Alien Abductions, and Old Hag

Voices, Visions, Falling, and more.

The hypnagogic state is that period just been wakefulness and sleeping. It's when we're lying in bed, practically asleep, drifting off nicely. Strange things can happen within it - visions of people walking around the room, faces that appear out of nowhere, a sense of falling or electric shock, voices whispering our names or strange sentences whose meaning eludes us. These are all common experiences, and include one that has a startling effect. The hypnic jerk, which usually follows the sensation of falling or electric shock, is a twitch of the muscles that may wake us up suddenly with the feeling that we've just jumped a mile, straight off the bed.

While the scientific reason for the hypnic jerk is not agreed upon by scientists, it can probably be said, since it is such a widely experienced phenomenon, that it is not a paranormal experience but a physiological one.

The hypnagogic state is also responsible for many reports of alien abduction. Since the line between wakefulness and sleeping is blurred, sleep paralysis may occur before we are actually asleep. Combined with images of silhouettes walking around the room or voices whispering in our ears, these experiences can seem very real and be mistaken for something supernatural or extraterrestrial.

Sleep paralysis is an ordinary state of being when in the REM stage of sleep. We do not move when we are dreaming (unless you have a sleep disorder). If people acted out their dreams, there would be a lot of unhappy bedmates in the world. Instead, we are given a period where we cannot move while our brains unwind and fire neurons that keep us entertained during the night. Sometimes, however, sleep paralysis can last beyond the state of dreaming and into the hypnopompic state, which is the period just before we fully awaken. The hypnopompic state is much like the hypnagogic state in that visual, olfactory, and auditory hallucinations are possible. One of these, in fact, has been frightening people for centuries. It is called "Old Hag".

Old Hag is nearly as common as dreaming you are in a public place naked. It is categorized as a hallucination in the hypnopompic state of a human form that may sit on your chest and seem to be crushing the breath out of you. It is a scary experience, and one that cannot be explained fully by science. They can explain the cause, how to prevent it, and the stages of sleep required for it to present, but not the actual content of the hallucination. While this may seem paranormal on its own, it can be noted that people all over the country and the world experience common dream themes. It may be that Old Hag is just one of those themes that crops up frequently.

Sleep paralysis in the hypnopompic state is more common in people who take benzodiazepines, like Valium or Xanax. They happen more often if you sleep on your back rather than on your side. Overtiredness or disturbed sleep also bring about more episodes of sleep paralysis.

While it may seem easy to link paranormal activity to times when we are asleep or near sleep, this is actually the time when the mind is the least reliable. If you believe you have experienced paranormal activity while heading off to bed, it is possible that you have a sleep disorder. While sleep paralysis is not a rare phenomenon, many episodes of it could be indicative of a sleep disorder, and you should consider seeking a doctor's opinion.

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