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            Sleep Paralysis
is characterized by altered motor, perceptual, emotional and cognitive
functions, such as the inability to perform voluntary movements, visual
hallucinations, feelings of chest pressure, delusions about a frightening
presence and, in some cases, fear of impending death. Interestingly, throughout
human history, different peoples interpreted this scientific phenomenon under a
supernatural view. Within each episode, humans would grasp in information that
their own minds created in their half state conscienceless. People began to
share their stories, and humans have invented over time hundreds of different
explanations, often a spiritual and religious one, to understand or find peace
on why Sleep Paralysis occurs. Consequently, with so many versions of the same
phenomenon and shared stories of the creatures humans have encountered during
their episodes, new cultural supernatural phenomena have and continues to grow
within the realm of human reality. Alien abductions, witchcraft, vampires,
insidious spirits and much more are just mere fantasy explanations for giving
humans closure on the topic. And although many can move on, some linger and are
unable to cope nor understand their episodes and why Sleep Paralysis occurred
to them.  Art, photography, films, and
literature are just a few of the many ways people who have experienced episodes
could find restfulness or some serenity in their lives. The fact so many humans
have shared their own very similar stories through World Artistic
Representation is just proof on how real the Sleep Paralysis effects can have
on humans and how coping with it and creating our own explanations have given
and continue to give birth to new cultural supernatural phenomena. It is rather
simpler to fictionalize an occurrence than to rationalize it.

*VIII.
Conclusion *

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            With
so many explanations regarding to a dissociative state that occurs mainly
during awakening, it is very hard not to grasp ideas for our own World Artistic
Representations.  Many people who suffer from Sleeping Paralysis
often find a great difficulty in dealing or understanding their episodes, and
so many find great comfort in art. One of the most famous historical example of
Sleep Paralysis in art is Swiss artist Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting ‘The
Nightmare’. The painting features many of the classic symptoms of sleep paralysis.  Another great example is Parisian Sculpture
Eugene Thivier’s sculpture called “Nightmare”. Both examples present a naked
reclining woman suffering a nightmare, while a malicious creature stands on top
of her causing her pain and sleeping difficulties, and both pieces bring out a
morbid and erotic feeling to its audience. Others, such as photographer Nicolas
Bruno, dealt with their pain different. Bruno recreates the experiences from
his dreamscape and through his incredible and haunting images he can get a
better understanding of his struggle and what his hallucinations mean. Other art
genres such as films are also based on stories and episodes of Sleep Paralysis
that people decided to share, such as “The Conjuring”, written by Chad and
Carey W. Hayes, and “Babadook”, written by Jennifer Kent. Oxford University
Press discusses that one might also find vivid depictions of Sleep Paralysis in
the writings of Erasmus Darwin, Herman Melville, Guy de Maupassant, Thomas
Hardy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway (“Sleep Paralysis in Art and
Literature”).

*VII. World Artistic Representations*

            Society,
Culture, and Folklore varies by place and time for every phenomenon, but by far
one of the most varied one is Sleep Paralysis. A modern manifestation of Sleep
Paralysis in the Americas is its relationship with “alien
abductions”, which cause their victims to experience immobility during
awakening associated with visual hallucinations of aliens and describing being
abducted. Other places in the Americas, such as Newfoundland, carry a
traditional interpretation of Sleep Paralysis called “Old Hag” in which a
malevolent creature attacks a victim during their sleep. The creature begins by
sitting or lying in their chest causing the victim to be fully conscious and
contain troubles with their movement, their speech, and breathing. In Europe,
the biggest relation to the episodes are the historic witch trials. Writing in
2003, Davies quotes examples of Sleep Paralysis found in evidence used at the
Salem Witch Trials in 1692 in which many victims were accused by using their
Sleep Paralysis experiences against them as a connection to a malevolent force.
But, in the Europe the idea of vampirism also originated from the sensation
that a creature is bending over a paralyzed and enchanted victim to suck their
life out of them. In the Caribbean, it is referred to as “kokma”, a creature
that causes the souls of unbaptized babies to be strangled during their sleep.
In African cultures, voodoo magic is seen to cause sleep paralysis with attacks
being the work of zombies coming to visit during your sleep. Canadian Eskimos
attribute Sleep Paralysis to spells of shamans, who hinder the ability to move,
and provoke hallucinations of a shapeless presence. In the Japanese tradition,
the phenomenon is due to a vengeful spirit who suffocates his enemies while
sleeping. In Nigerian culture, a female demon attacks during dreaming and
provokes paralysis. And this can keep going on and on because every place has
their own explanation.

*VI. Society, Culture, and Folklore*

            Sleep
Paralysis is a somewhat new term used to describe what for millions of years
humans believed to be a visit by a malicious being which attacked its victims
as they slept. In the history of Western medicine, Sleep Paralysis has been
documented for at least 300 years. The first clinical description of Sleep
Paralysis was recorded in 1664 in a Dutch physician’s
case histories, where it was first referred to as “Incubus of the Night-Mare”.
But, the earliest written account of Sleep Paralysis can be found in a Chinese
medical book on dreaming, dating back to 400BCE. During the earliest written account,
the patient describes that in the night time, when she was composing herself to
sleep, sometimes she believed that the devil laid upon her breast, so that she
could hardly speak or breath (Cox). Sleep Paralysis did not fall behind in
gaining fear in its name, and now there is no question on the weight it carries
within folklore, art, photography, and literature. It is remarkable the
diversity of explanations of the same phenomenon and how the interpretation
changed within the same culture and even the hallucinatory content. But the
craziest thing is how the frightening episodes can be recognized across
different cultures and throughout history, and even today, we can still see its
patterns in our everyday culture lives.

*V. Cultural Phenomena throughout History *

            Many people who
experience Sleep Paralysis will tell you that during their episodes they saw
horrifying images, sounds and other types of hallucinations that share a scientific
similarity with dreaming. Hallucinations are a perception of the lack of
external stimulus that appears to feel as a vivid reality in which the person
will see, feel, or smell something that really isn’t there. Kazuhiko Fukuda, a Japanese
researcher that works for Fukushima University, gathered a Japanese team to
perform an experiment in which they monitored volunteers who they troubled
while they slept in order to put Sleep Paralysis episodes in motion. During
their experiment, they could prove “that during Sleep Paralysis, the brain,
suddenly awake, nonetheless displays electrical responses typical of Sleep
characterized by Rapid Eye Movement (REM)”
(“Biblical Studies”). They also discovered that when the volunteers’
inner-brain structures that checks one’s environments for dangers felt
disturbed it would trigger the sensation of a supernatural being prowling
nearby. The Japanese team noticed that when the volunteers’ second brain
system, which differentiates themselves with other beings, were troubled by Rapid
Eye Movement (REM) activity, it caused the volunteer to hallucinate feelings
such as floating, leaving one’s body, or being unable to move. Despite their
fantastic claims, people who experience Sleep Paralysis are mentally healthy
because their experience is an entirely natural phenomenon. But, even the most
rational people who lived this phenomenon often find it problematic to forget
their experiences or write them off as fantastic. Millions of people insist
that their episodes were real, but they refuse to share their stories, instead,
they walk around with fear because we live in a reality where humans treat stories
of viewing supernatural creatures and spirits as evidence of mental imbalance.
Many also live scared because mainstream religions condemn connections with
ghosts, demons, and evil presences.

*IV. Hallucinations and Side Effects*

The hallucinations are always evil,
as cinematic horror films. As the victim laid on the couch asleep next to her
sister and her friend, the person found herself in a frightening situation
where she is asleep but feels awake. She can see her sister and her friend
sitting and can hear their entire conversation, but she can’t
move. She’s stuck. She begins to cry for help, screaming, hoping they would
hear her. She tries to reach out for her sister’s hand, move her legs, her
fingers, anything; but her body fails her. She can hear herself breathing so
loud, but no air was coming in. “I’m dying”, I thought to myself. Sleep Paralysis is defined as “…the condition
in which a person is aware but temporarily unable to move or speak when falling
asleep or upon awakening” (“Sleep Paralysis”). It is a crazy and scary
experience that “can be recognized in reports across different cultures and
throughout history” (“Culture and History”). The Oxford Medicine Article argues
that Sleep Paralysis has played and continues to take a great part in the creation
of various supernatural beliefs such as demons, vampires, witches, and other
supernatural entities. Therefore, because of the nightmares and hallucinations
generated by Sleep Paralysis, a person’s perception and cultural context
attribute these mental episodes as supernatural phenomena. 

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