The sense of touch is very often highlighted in explanations of sleep paralysis around the world. Many cultures refer to a weight on the chest, according to the review.
In certain parts of Brazil, for example, there are folkloric tales of a creature with long fingernails that lurks on people’s rooftops during the night. The creature, called “Pisadeira,” comes into a person’s house and tramples on the chests of those who sleep, according to the review. Pisadeira is usually described as a very thin, bony woman, with short legs and messy, long hair. Her nose is large, hooked, wide and pointed. She has bright red fiery eyes. Her fingers are long and thin and end in long yellow nails or claws. The inside of Pisadeira’s mouth is colored green and all her teeth are pointed and extremely sharp, sharp enough to bite through bone.
If you thought the look of Pisadeira was creepy, it does not stop there she has the most terrifying giggle and laugh that will even scare the bravest person. Most descriptions of Pisadeira state that she is silent but those who have been able to survive her encounters state that if she targets you, you can hear the call. Once Pisadeira has chosen her victim they can hear the shrilling laugh that only comes from her.
Pisadeira preys on people that recently had a large meal and have started to feel drowsy. Pisadeira will stalk on rooftops and in the cavities of the roofs, she will see this and know that that person will be in a deep sleep that night on a full stomach… and most importantly will likely be sleeping on their back.
Catalonia, a region in Spain, has the tale of the “Pesanta,” a black animal, often a dog or a cat, that invades people’s homes and sits on their chests while they are asleep, making it difficult to breathe and causing nightmares.
Abandoned churches or other ruins is what the Pesanta calls home, it creeps though the keyholes of people’s homes and even enters under the doors, also filtering across the walls and then will sit on the victims chest causing breathing problems and nightmares. This creature is extremely difficult to see, because once the person wakes up in front of Pesanta, it will escape so quickly that the only thing that can be seen is the shadow of it running away.
The ways to avoid having an encounter with this creature is to spread some millet in the threshold of your bedroom, then place a broom by your bed. Another thing that has been said to work is to pronounce some words that will force Pesanta to count all the stars in the sky.
In Newfoundland, Canada, it is the “Old Hag” that comes and sits on a sleeping person. And among an ethnic group in Vietnam and Laos, a “pressing spirit” sits on sleepers’ chests and tries to asphyxiate them, researchers have found.
There is a legend that is of a superstitious belief that a witch, or an old hag, which will sit or ride the chest of its victims making them immobile.
Those that have this experience are so frightened because even though the victims are paralyzed, they seem to have full use of their senses.
Victims have said that in fact, the Old Hag is accompanied by strange smells, they will hear the sound of footsteps approaching their room, apparitions of weird shadows or glowing eyes, and the oppressive weight on the chest, making breathing difficult if not impossible.
All the senses of the body are telling the victim that there is something real and unusual happening to them. The only way to break the spell is for the victim to be fully awake and will be completely baffled by what just occurred to them since everything in the room will be entirely normal.
4. “A Dead Body Climbed On Top Of Me.”
The idea of a weight holding someone down is also reflected in the terminology used in Mexico to describe sleep paralysis, according to the review. Translated from Spanish, the phrase means “a dead body climbed on top of me.”
Some cultures use tales of spells cast by shamans or summoners to explain sleep paralysis.
In Inuit culture, for example, people tell of shamans who can cast a spell when a person is sleeping, causing an experience called “uqumangirniq,” during which a person can’t move, talk or scream and is visited by a shapeless or faceless presence, according to the review.
And Japanese folklore refers to a summoner who calls upon a vengeful spirit to suffocate enemies through a phenomenon called the “kanashibari,” which is “the state of being totally bound, as if constrained by metal chains,” the review found.
5. “The Ghost That Pushes You Down”
In other cultures, ghosts or supernatural beings are the perpetrators.
In a study of Cambodian refugees from the 1970s, researchers found that many patients referred to something called “khmaoch sângkât” or “the ghost that pushes you down.” In Thailand, a ghost called “phi am” haunts people when they are half asleep and unable to move. And in some traditional Chinese cultures, “ghost oppression” caused sleep paralysis, the researchers wrote.
The researchers noted that the purpose of the review was not to belittle the various spiritual explanations for sleep paralysis but rather to “enrich the knowledge about these experiences and their psychological and cultural aspects,” they wrote.
As we can see sleep paralysis happens in all different cultures and has been happening for many years. Just about everybody has had experience with it but what is it that professionals have to say about it?
Sleep paralysis has received more attention from the unscientific world. The stigma associated with those who suffer from sleep paralysis has also prevented them from reporting to medical institutions. As such, most sufferers regress to other confidential means such as herbalists, religious leaders, and traditional priests for a solution. Thus, it is important to inform the public on what sleep paralysis is and how it should be approached. However, the current knowledge on sleep paralysis is somewhat limited as there is still a lack of reports on the risk factors of sleep paralysis, triggers, and the long-term damage it can cause.
While there is no current cure for sleep paralysis, ensuring better quality sleep—and reducing sleep disturbances—are two coping mechanisms. There are straightforward solutions that can be found and are agreed upon by the sleep experts at Brooklyn Bedding, to potentially alleviate the limbo associated with sleep paralysis.
In a study published by Sleep Medicine Reviews, Brian A. Sharpless of Penn State discovered that students and psychiatric patients were among those most likely to experience sleep paralysis on a somewhat regular basis, and even more so in patients that were diagnosed with a panic disorder. This could come down to their level of stress and overall sleep health.