For years graduate Elizabeth Earle has suffered from unusual nightmares. She will wake up paralysed in her sleep in the middle of a bad dream and continue to feel a malicious presence around her. The terrifying feeling can last just seconds or it can last a few minutes.
Elizabeth, 23, believes the night terrors were triggered when her cousin Jonathon was killed in a car crash the day before his 18th birthday. It tore the family apart and from then on Elizabeth began to have terrible nightmares – she believed dark forces were waiting for her to cross the line to the other side.
In a bid to get rid of the nightmares that left her too terrified to sleep, Elizabeth even went to a spiritualist. But in fact she has since discovered her sleep paralysis episodes are remarkably common. Dubbed Old Hag Syndrome because in folklore it was believed an old hag sat on someone and sent bad dreams with them, it’s proper name is Sleep Paralysis or SP.
It is believed that 40% to 50% of us will be affected at least once in our lives – and although most of us will only experience one awful episode, in its chronic form some people have repeated episodes for six months or longer. Often it is sparked by stress and although it happens when we are waking during dream sleep but continue to dream, it can be terrifying. Some people believe it is a premonition to something terrible that is going to happen. Scientists believe they might also explain ‘alien abduction’ syndrome.
Unsurprisingly, the worry of having one can stop someone wanting to go to sleep and lead to insominia. But there are ways to minimise them – for example, some people can learn to breathe through the sleep paralysis, which will make them wake fully quicker. Ultimately just realising they are a normal phenomenon is reassuring enough to help many.
For Elizabeth, writing a novel and facing up to her deepest fears has helped minimise them. In order to gain the most publicity for Elizabeth’s book and raise awareness over Sleep Paralysis, we placed Elizabeth’s story in the Daily Mail.
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