Is Sleep Paralysis Paranormal?

By John Popham

July 11, 2022

High Angle View Of Woman Sleeping On Bed With Spooky Shadow On Wall At Home
Photo: Getty Images

Sleep paralysis, the condition of having no control over your muscles when falling asleep or waking up, but is it a sleep disorder or a paranormal phenomenon?

JoJo Wright, host of the Paranormalish podcast, has gathered several firsthand accounts that seem to suggest the latter. For any skeptical readers out there, don’t worry we will provide a scientific explanation as well.

The first guest on the podcast was Woosung, a Korean American musician who has had several episodes of sleep paralysis. His first incident was so intense it burned itself in his memory forever. It happened one day while he was napping at his grandmother’s house in Korea when he was in high school.

“In Korea, they call it scissor. It’s like scissors and how they are pressing on you, and you can’t move,” Woosung said. “I was taking a nap and I remember I fell asleep, and I woke up. I felt my eyes open up. I looked to my right and in front of the closet I saw these Korean girl ghosts and guy ghosts wearing hanbok.”

The musician remembers trying to scare the ghosts away by calling them ugly. This enraged the spirits, and they rushed from their place by the closet and began to attack him.

“They all came up on top of me and I couldn’t move, I was frozen. They were all screaming” he told JoJo. “They were pounding the bed, pounding my heart area. I (couldn’t) see them. They were like shadows.”

Woosung’s encounter with ghosts or other paranormal like entities is not uncommon as JoJo finds out. Listeners to his nightly radio show on 102.7 KIIS-FM had similar accounts.

“I had (sleep paralysis) for a week when I was 19. It terrified me,” Monica told the host when she called in. “It freaked me out so much I started sleeping on the couch and it happened on the couch too.”

Monica remembers having vivid nightmares about demonic figures in her closet and waking up unable to move with pressure on her neck and chest as if she was being choked by an invisible attacker. When she moved to the couch she woke up with the feeling that something was trying to suffocate her by pushing her face into the cushion.

Listener Keith said he awoke one night at his girlfriend's house frozen. Suddenly the bed started to shake violently. Others saw dark shadows that whispered to them, jumped on their chest, while some had out of body experiences. Callers described thinking prayers, screaming internally, or trying to force themselves to pass out to make it stop.

But what causes these episodes? Well, according to the Sleep Foundation, the exact causes of sleep paralysis are unknown despite several studies being done on the subject. Around 75% of people who have had an episode of sleep paralysis have also experienced one of three types of hallucinations, an intruder hallucination (someone dangerous is in the room), chest pressure hallucination (the feeling of being suffocated), and vestibular-motor hallucination (the feeling of flying, shaking, or out of body experience).

What do you think? Have you ever had an experience like this? If you want to hear the interviews and compare notes, check out the latest episode of Paranormalish. “The Sleep Paralysis Episode featuring Woosung,” can be found on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you want to be sure you’re listening to the podcasts everyone else is checking out, iHeartRadio has you covered.  

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