April 17, 2013
Blogging From A to Z April Challenge Day Fifteen: O is for Old Hag Syndrome
Imagine this: you are dead asleep one night when you suddenly wake up to an unseen force pushing down hard on your chest. You can barely breathe and your limbs are inoperable due to the force. You can look around the room, hear sounds and even smell odors, but you cannot utter a single word. In this state you cannot summon help, even if someone is asleep next to you! You also smell something weird or funky and might even hear heavy footsteps approaching your bed or see glowing red eyes in your room. The incident likely repeats itself frequently, maybe even a couple of times a week. The feeling usually lasts about thirty seconds or so, long enough to make you feel like you're being held underwater.
What do you do?
First of all, it's important to understand that such a phenomena has a name: old hag syndrome. Most people who suffer from the condition report feeling that a seriously evil force is present in the room. Some people who have suffered from the syndrome believe it to be from witchcraft cast on them, an evil spirit or demon attacking them or even an extraterrestrial abducting them against their will.
Old hag syndrome has been documented around the world and since ancient times, with both men and women suffering from it. In fact, some researches think that as much as fifteen percent of the population suffers from it at least once.
The scientific term for old hag syndrome is sleep paralysis. The condition occurs when a person is somewhere between REM sleep and waking up. The feeling of paralysis, medical researchers say, is from the fact that the brain largely shuts off muscle movements throughout the body while in REM sleep, which is why people who achieve REM sleep do not sleepwalk. And what about the glowing eyes, footsteps, strange smells and such? It's the brain still dreaming. There isn't concrete research on why people experience sleep paralysis, as far as I've been able to find in my research, which is why some people think it is a convenient and inaccurate explanation of a paranormal phenomena. Some researchers have found that people who are bipolar or suffer from severe anxiety are more likely to suffer from the phenomena. Some believe there is a connection between sleep paralysis and waking panic attacks in the night.
Have you ever experienced old hag syndrome or sleep paralysis? What was you experience like? Do you think it is a physiological event or something paranormal?