Sleep & the paranormal

By Rick Hinton

I walk along a thin line darling,

Dark shadows follow me,

Here’s where life’s dream lies disillusioned,

The edge of reality.

Edge of Reality, Elvis Presley (1970)

Do you feel tired and worn down? Is your sleep off-kilter? Do things that seem to happen in the night while asleep, just going to sleep, or just waking up … could it be paranormal? It just might, or a sleep malady, or even a combination of the two. Is it truly the “edge of reality” or something more simple? Sleep is sleep, and inquiring minds want to know the difference!

Do I have a ghost in my life? That’s usually the question. “I have this ‘weird’ stuff when I try to go to sleep. I can’t sleep. It feels like there is something in the room with me,” is usually the statement. Most are told it’s all in your head. Is it really? There can be other factors in the equation: depression, anxiety, grief or trauma could be responsible for seemingly paranormal experiences.

These conditions, and paranormal exploits, can often go hand in hand with triggering the other. Those most likely to experience this realm are those who are sensitive, emphatic, honest, imaginative and creative. Yet, there can be other things going on as well: insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy are the first avenues to explore. If that fails, then there are a couple more fairly common sleep disorders:

Another sleepless night! (Photo by Rick Hinton)

Sleep paralysis: Also known as “night terrors” or the feeling of being haunted. It can be terrifying and quickly attributed to a paranormal encounter. But is it really? The condition is characterized by a temporary inability to move while transitioning from sleep to wakefulness. You seem to be awake, but cannot move or speak due to a paralysis. Your body’s not responding. And that’s not all! Hallucinations can ensue, the sensing of a presence in the room, a loss of control (how we all hate that!) and the feeling of a spirit/demon holding the body down with intent to harm. It seems so very real, but is it actually? Is it only a deep state of sleep we don’t quite understand, where other realms can materialize — sleepwalking, unable to hear you, or hallucinations running rampant that have taken control? I’ve never experienced this, but know those who have.

Exploding head syndrome: This I have experienced … more than once! It’s the perception of abrupt, loud noises while dropping off to sleep or just waking up. It could be a brain thing? I feel they don’t even have to be loud noises, but just a change in the environment. It could be the “soft” noise of something stirring in the downstairs kitchen cabinets, a subtle shuffle on the carpet in your room or outside your door, a sudden gust of soft wind against your skin, or the smell of cologne in the air as you watch a shadow roll past your curtained window. I’ve had way too many nights of this, and I do need my beauty sleep!

Scientists, as they are known to do, explain it all away by theorizing that exploding head syndrome could be caused by everything from minor seizures in the brain’s temporal lobe to drastic shifts in parts of the middle ear due to stress and anxiety. Yeppers. Or … maybe there’s something more to it at the end of the day? And, the fact that sleep disorders can become so extremely real, they eventually become a part of your memories. Now, those in their last days of life approach sleep differently. It becomes a part of their personal transition. We’ll look at that next week.