OLD HAG SYNDROME- The Terrifying Experience of Sleep Paralysis

You stir slowly awake from a deep sleep with the sense that something is not right. As your sub-conscious mind gives way to a conscious state you experience an alarming sense of panic.

Your breath catches in your chest and, try as you may, you cannot move. Your arms and legs have been rendered immobile, your lungs refuse to fill and your eyes dart around the room as fear cripples you. You are fully awake and well aware that something is wrong.

You are aware, all five senses are working yet you simply cannot move. After a few moments you bolt upright and clutch at your chest and gulp the air as your heart hammers in your chest. The episode has passed leaving you shaken and uncertain.

Often accompanying the event are other phenomenon such as phantom smells, the sound of approaching footsteps and shadow figures.

The phenomenon is commonly known as “Old Hag” syndrome. A majority of the population at one point or another will experience the strange occurrence. The name is derived from an older time when a superstitious person would claim that a witch, or old hag, was sitting on their chest and pinning them down.

That theory is obviously frowned upon in these modern times, but because of the nature of the attack many people still believe it to be of supernatural or paranormal origin.

The event has been dramatized in film and other pop-culture mediums which lends to the stigma that the occurrence of “Old Hag” syndrome is indeed paranormal in nature. But the question begs to be asked: If it is not paranormal, then what is it?

Doctors specializing in sleep disorders have a more grounded name for the event. They call it Sleep Paralysis or Isolated Sleep Paralysis and describe it as such:

Sleep Paralysis, or SP, occurs when the brain is in the transition state between deep, dreaming sleep (known as REM sleep for its rapid eye movement) and waking up. During REM dreaming sleep, the brain has turned off most of the body’s muscle function so we cannot act out our dreams – we are temporarily paralyzed.” –Dr. Max Hirshkowitz (Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the V.A. Medical Center, Houston, TX)

So it is a naturally occurring phenomenon, however, no one can explain why it happens or what is actually causing the disorder. Is the explanation simply an act of science trying to explain something paranormal?

People who have experienced SP assert that the experience is both real and horrifying. Accompanying an incident is a sense of anger, sorrow and of course fears. Mysterious sounds and paranormal activity are often reported with an occurrence of Sleep Paralysis.

In a continued study of the topic it has been found that people who sleep on their backs are more likely to experience the event as are heavy sleepers who are awakened unexpectedly, however SP can affect anyone regardless of position.

People taking anti-anxiety medications are three times more likely to experiences the disorder and 35% of subjects in the study report a history of wake panic attacks which are unrelated to the experience of SP.

With science and paranormal research at odds it is guaranteed that the event of SP will never be seen as anything other than a glitch in the human brain as it processes our sleep cycles. But for the millions of people each year who suffer from “Old Hag” syndrome it is all too real, way too terrifying, and seemingly otherworldly.

To learn more about “Old Hag” syndrome and the science behind it check out:


7 thoughts on “OLD HAG SYNDROME- The Terrifying Experience of Sleep Paralysis

  1. i get this “type of dream” several times a month.
    i feel some evil presence and my ears start to ring. i feel something pressing on my chest and I want to breathe, but i can. im suffocating and im about to die.

    for me, falling asleep is a mission as i have panic attacks of possibly having sleep paralysis again, so like tonight, I try to keep myself awake and then i bitch and complain that i cant get any rest.

    honestly…. i cant win 😦


    1. While I have not personally experienced sleep paralysis, I have seen someone go through an episode and it is terrifying to witness. I can’t imagine that going through something like that.

      One of my close friends experiences it several times a year. We were on a road trip and shared a hotel room. I woke up early one morning and he was flat on his back, his head was turned toward me and his eyes were wide with terror. His mouth was open like he was trying to scream but nothing was coming out.

      After the episode passed he was shaken and asked if I saw the two figures in the room. This was a bit alarming because he was looking directly at me, or past me, the whole time and theidea that he saw soemthing in the room driectly behind me was horrifying.

      Even though I knew there was nothing in the room with us, it was scary to see him go through something like that. He later said that happens frequently to him, about 4 to 6 times a year.

      I am sorry to hear that you too experience these very vivid and real sleep anomolies and I thank you for sharing your story with us. Have you been to a doctor about this or participated in a sleep study? I am just curious if anything can be done about it?

  2. It also happens to me,several times a month also.and most of the time I’m afraid to fall asleep.always tired….next time it happens to u, try and force urself to say I REBUKE YOU IN THE NAME OF JESUS! GO BACK TO WHERE U CAME FROM.SLOWLY YOU’LL COME TO.IT HELPS =^)

  3. Hello my name is William and I start experiencing the same exact thing at the early age of 7 years old, I would hear ringing in my ears, it would get so hot, then I would feel this presence crawl up my legs to my upper part of my body leaving me breathless then its to late it has me pend down I was so scared all I could do is open my eyes to see what was happing to me as this presence on top of me I saw another man in all black holding a big baby or a midget, I was so scared I would close my eyes I did not want to see its face, then the thing that was on top of me would whisper things in my ear, just to get it off of me I would say yes, yes then I would feel the presence lift up off of me but the man in black would still be there then it would slowly walk away then I would get up soaking wet just to follow it but it would just vanish, I would never tell my moms because I knew that I would get a beaten if I would tell her. It still happens to me until this day I have to take sleeping pills just to have a good nights rest so I don’t have to go through it and I’m 49 years old. As of this day its for real because I had a dog last year 2014 and she would move her head like someone is in the room with us, she would mone and bark for nothing
    Then I decided to recored her and no lie I got footage of spirits around us, at the age of 7 I did not know how to handle that situation but when I started learning more about our Lord and savior Jesus Christ I just pray now and the bad sprit goes away like Lanna says. Why Is this thing after me? is it because I said yes to it?

    1. William:

      In order to answer as to why something is after you, we have to determine if there is indeed something after you. Because of the manifestations people encounter during sleep paralysis are only visible to them during the event, it makes it extremely difficult to narrow down just what the individual is experiencing.

      I myself have had episodes of seeing dark figure in the room, feeling like I can’t move, and having an overwhelming sense of dread and feeling that whatever was in the room intended harm.

      When I am awake though i do not feel the presence of anything nor do I feel scared. My logical and rational mind when not overcome with sleep paralysis can explain away the phenomenon with scientific explanations covered in the article.

      That is not to say that what you are experiencing isn’t real. It is very real to people who suffer from this type of sleep disorder.

      Could you be under spiritual attack? I assume it would be possible, but as to why I can only guess. If you said “Yes” to it before, take away its power. Address it the next time you encounter this presence and tell it that you no longer give it permission to follow you or to haunt/attack you.

      The belief in evil should allow for the belief that the evil can be cast out. If you are a Christian, rebuke it in the name of Jesus to see if that helps.

      Keep us updated. Thank you for your contribution.

    1. It took a lot out if me to hit “approve” on your comment because I personally try to keep religion off of my sites.

      But, if you believe in evil, specifically devils and demons, then it stands to reason you would believe in the ability of a higher power to cast them out.

      So, perhaps your article could help someone deal with this affliction.

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