Skeptics are familiar with different sleep anomalies that help explain the various psychological experiences that people have that are often attributed to supernatural, paranormal, or even extraterrestrial causes.
Byy Heidi Love | Skeptics
Hypnagogic (just after falling asleep) and hypnopompic (just before waking up) hallucinations, for example, occur in the fuzzy borderlands between wakefulness and sleep, when our conscious brain slips into unconsciousness as we fall asleep or transition into wakefulness. Reality and fantasy blur and people report seeing and hearing things that are not actually there, such as speckles, lines, geometric patterns, representational images, and voices and sounds. Lucid dreams are stronger still, and consist of dreams in which the sleeping person is aware that they are asleep and dreaming, but can participate in and alter the dream itself. Sleep paralysis is a type of lucid dream in which the dreamer is generally not aware they are dreaming but rather they perceive themselves to be awake and in their bed. They also feel paralyzed, have difficulty breathing, feel pressure on the chest and often sense the presence of a being in the room with them. Additionally, they sometimes feel themselves floating, flying, falling, or leaving their body, with an emotional component that includes an element of terror, but sometimes also excitement, exhilaration, rapture, or sexual arousal.
I have had many such experiences myself, and now that I am a skeptic I can look back upon them with some reflective hindsight and provide here a first-hand account of what it is like to have a lucid dream under sleep paralysis. First, by way of background, I am a 44-year old white female, a first generation American raised by a working-class single, German immigrant mother. I was raised Mormon, although today I consider myself an open minded, highly inquisitive, skeptical, critically thinking agnostic who is pro-science.
I stopped believing in Mormonism (if I ever really did believe) sometime in my early teens. In my early 20s I got involved in political activism (hardcore lefty), fueled by youthful passion and idealism and intent on changing the world. During that time until my very early 30s I tended to believe in conspiracy theories, pseudoscience and all sorts of woo, including alien abductions. Yet I also had a deep skeptical streak and a fairly well developed inquisitiveness that made me question everything and seek deeper understanding.