10 Terrifying First-Hand Accounts of Sleep Paralysis

It can be tough to get up in the mornings. Now imagine that you wake up, and you go to rise but you can’t move. Your chest is tight and your breathing is labored. You realize that you’re not alone in your room, maybe not even alone in your bed but you can’t turn to look or to defend yourself. All you can do is stare blankly at the ceiling while panic rises in your stiff body, and your voice stays locked in your throat.

That’s not an excerpt from a modern horror story; it’s a real horror story for those of us who suffer from sleep paralysis. A shocking 40 percent of the population has experienced at one time, or suffers from sleep paralysis. Researchers agree that the condition is probably the result of rapidly waking up from a deep REM sleep state, but knowing the cause offers little consolation for those that experience this waking nightmare.

The accounts that are related here are often first hand, though due to the nature of sleep paralysis and the fact that is the product of a waking dream state readers should bear in mind that while these people may have believed this was happening at the time, science tells us otherwise.

10. Turn off the Light

Adam, a student, dozed off on the open pages of his textbook. As he nodded off, he remembered that he could hear the faint sounds of a TV downstairs. He awoke to find the room as he had left it; the light on his nightstand still on and his textbook in his hands. The first thing that seemed out of place was the fact that the room was freezing cold.

Adam was sure he could feel someone’s eyes on him, though he was alone in the room. He attempted to rise but his limbs were lead and his locked legs kept him in place. He began to panic, unsure of what was happening. The feeling of being watched grew stronger until it reached a crescendo of silence and stillness when the lamp clicked off next to his bed.

Still paralyzed he struggled internally to rise. Out of the blackness in his frigid room, Adam saw an old man floating toward his bed. The man’s eyes were nothing but bloody sockets and he was screaming and grabbing at Adam as he raged towards him.

When he again awoke, Adam recognized his nightmarish attacker as his deceased grandfather.

9. The Dreamscapes of Nicolas Bruno

the chase

For Nicolas Bruno, sleep paralysis had plagued his nights since his teenage years. As his visions became more and more real and he began to experience them every night, Bruno began to record what he saw in a diary. When he could reliably recreate the experience in his mind he began to share what he saw with the world with photography.

Bruno’s photos feature recurring images that he himself has seen countless times: faceless figures that exist in silhouette. These figures seem to warp the reality around them and there is a pervasive feeling of drowning, helplessness, and imprisonment even in open spaces. In total, his work captures the spirit of sleep paralysis in ways both beautiful and horrible.

8. Gremlin on The Ceiling


This story of sleep paralysis comes from a Reddit user who describes her waking dream and the presence of a ‘gremlin’ type creature. The creature is always the same, and her dream always ends the same way: with her waking up amidst sweat-soaked sheets screaming.

More often than not, this creature is perched on her chest with his pointy features in her face. He is whispering an incomprehensible language as he leers over her and she is frozen and powerless. Other times he is latched onto the ceiling, whispering and grinning, while all she can do is stare. Once, he was even perched on her headboard and she awoke to the feeling of his tongue grazing her face.

7. The Murderer


Despite some of the finer points of sleep paralysis remaining a mystery to scientists, there have been a number of triggers that have been identified. One such trigger is alcohol abuse, and a 35-year-old man who remains anonymous was a severe alcoholic. It was documented that as a result he began to experience nightly visions that were uncannily similar.

Like all sleep paralysis, each incident would start with him jolted awake late at night and unable to move. Staring blankly into the darkness, he would realize that a woman was there in the room with him, and it was always the same woman every time. At first she was merely menacing but as the nights went on she would become more and more violent.

While he would lay unable to move, call out, or defend himself, his imaginary assailant would straddle him and begin choking the life out of him. Threating bloody murder and shaking his helpless body, she would assault him in episodes that lasted as long as five minutes or more. As a result he wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, and his nightly ‘visits’ got so bad that he crawled back into the bottle to cope.

6. Can You See Me?


Another story that comes from Reddit relates the terrifying story of a victim of sleep paralysis and his encounter with a terrifying little boy. Let’s face it, children who are doing anything other than playing in the sandbox or coloring with crayons are unsettling. Horror movies have been based on the dark psychological fear that killer children evoke within us.

The subject regularly experienced sleep paralysis, and it was often not a problem with the exception of one nightmarish event that chilled him to the bone. As a frequent victim of sleep paralysis, he wasn’t surprised to wake up with his eyes open but his limbs unresponsive. Unable to move, he heard a little boy call out “Can you see me?” Unsettled, the unnamed man attempted to rise but his paralysis was complete. At the foot of his bed was a young boy who had been watching him sleep.

Despite knowing that the boy was the product of a hallucination, he swore that this boy was as real as anything. Knowing that he was dreaming, our storyteller closed his eyes and attempted to will himself awake. With his eyes shut he could still hear his young companion questioning him.

“Can you see me?”

With each successive question, the boy’s voice got deeper and more terrifying. Eyes still squeezed shut, the waking sleeper felt something brush his shoulder. He opened his eyes to find the impish little boy millimeters from his face. In a guttural and animalistic voice he demanded “Can you see me?” to which the sleeper awoke.

5. The Little Humanoid

When examining these accounts of sleep paralysis we also have to take into account the source of the story. This report comes from a website entitled Alien Resistance, so take it as you will. The author of this account identified himself as ‘Rich’ and he claims to have suffered sleep paralysis since a young age. One night that stands out in his mind, he awoke and—unsurprisingly—was unable to move.

While he lay in darkness, his bedroom door was opened and what he described as a ‘little man’ entered the room. By his own estimates, Rich claims that the creature was no more than a foot high, but after examining Rich from the door, he moved with surprising speed across the room and leapt onto Rich’s still form. To his surprise the little form disappeared when he reached Rich’s head and Rich woke up.

To further convolute the story, Rich claims that sometimes the little man was not alone, and that he was sometimes accompanied by an ‘evil presence’. The only way to fend the pair off was to shout the name of Jesus over and over again.

4. A Skeleton with Claws


While it would seem that ‘Rich’ was somewhat in control of his own body during his sleep paralysis attacks, the subject of this next story experienced some incidents that stand out from what would be considered the normal sleep paralysis experience. He reported the ‘usual suspects’: shadow figures lurking in the corners of his room and an overwhelming sense of dread at an unnamed and faceless evil presence, but then there were two incidences that stood out from the crowd.

Unable to move, our storyteller awoke facing away from the door. He felt the bedclothes lifted and pulled back and something that he could not identify climbed into bed with him. He couldn’t jump from the bed and he couldn’t shift position to see who his new companion was. A thin and boney appendage slid around his waist in an experience he described as “cuddling a skeleton with claws”.

Still paralyzed, he was unable to flee, and lay for some time with the ‘thing’ next to him. After a time, it whispered in his ear “Not yet. You’re not ready yet.” Withdrawing from his bed it finished with “I’ll come back when you are”. With that it was gone.

In a surprising twist, the second story has to do with as shadowy and faceless man. He was the silhouette of a kind elderly man. He was knelt, as if in prayer, at the edge of the sleeper’s bed. Instead of terror, the waking sleeper felt as though the man was there to tell him everything would be alright.

3. Aliens

2006-08-22 - Road Trip - Day 30 - United States - New Mexico - Roswell - Alien

Though many are skeptical of so called alien abductions, diligent scientists explore every possible avenue. In 2002, there was an extensive study that found that a shocking 60 percent of alien abduction reports occurred when the subjects were either asleep or had just woken up. This finding begged the question of correlation between those who suffered from sleep paralysis. The results are, quite frankly, chilling.

Consistent with other accounts of sleep paralysis, one subject reported waking from a deep sleep unable to move from head to toe. When she opened her eyes she saw strange ‘beings’ at the foot of her bed. They hovered and stared down at here.

In a more terrifying account, another subject reported waking to find alien ‘beings’ gathered around his bed. He reported experiencing an electrical shock throughout his entire body, and he claimed that he could feel the aliens draining his life force.

2. The Shadow

shadow bed

For those who experience sleep paralysis hallucinations, the experience can be just as real as any waking moment. So some of these people will seek out real world validation of their experiences. A man named Mike Pike didn’t let the laws of physics or the confines of his mind stop him from trying to find proof of his experiences.

Pike is often the victim of sleep paralysis, and he took it upon himself to videotape his nightly encounters. In his reports, Pike experienced a sudden awakening late at night. He suddenly realizes that he’s not alone in the room; he feels ‘a presence’. Then, without fail, he notices a dark and insubstantial figure floating over him in bed.

Of course it was all in his head wasn’t it. Upon reviewing the videotape Mike found hours upon hours of empty frames of himself asleep in bed. Except there was a quick glimpse of a ghostly figure floating above his bed. A terrified Mike can’t even bear to be in his own bedroom, let alone sleep there.

1. Red Room

scary forest

Again, a submission from Reddit gives us a glimpse into the hellish world that those with sleep paralysis experience. This user claimed that when he would ‘wake’ he instantly knew what was happening, and would try to jolt himself awake. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

He sees the same apparition every time; a shadow creeps up the wall by his bed. The air crackles with static electricity and that chaos focuses into the form of a tall and abnormally thin man with no face. This ‘man’ slowly approaches the subject’s bed, and grabs the waking dreamer’s head and screams into his paralyzed face. The room turns crimson red, and the ‘man’s hands turn into spikes which he draws across the waking dreamer’s face.

The experience ends with one of the spikes being plunged into our storyteller’s throat, and he wakes up.