This Documentary About Sleep Paralysis Looks Absolutely Terrifying

Illustration for article titled This Documentary About Sleep Paralysis Looks Absolutely Terrifying

The Nightmare takes on an issue that afflicts about 10% of the population, wherein night terrors feel very real.

Humanity is afflicted by a myriad of sleep disorders. Conditions like narcolepsy and insomnia are commonly known, and have treatment options. Sleep paralysis is a much less talked about problem. Those with this condition can feel like they are awake, but cannot move. They then experience hallucinations rooted in their real-world environment, often with a terrifying edge. Before the Internet enabled people to pool stories, many thought that they were alone in what they saw when they closed their eyes.

One friend described to me the incredible fear that accompanied her certainty that a demonic creature climbed over her at night. The feeling of a dark, stalking figure seems to crop up commonly, as does pressure on the afflicted’s chest or body. The 1791 painting The Nightmare by Swiss artist Henry Fuseli perfectly captures the sleep paralysis experience for many people, and demonstrates that this phenomenon manifested in a similar way throughout the centuries.


Now a documentary from Room 237’s Rodney Ascher, The Nightmare, talks to people who suffer from sleep paralysis. Alongside interviews, the film recreates their dream-stories with professional actors and what looks like some intentionally dramatized filmmaking:

Scare tactics aside, I can’t wait to watch. I’ve been interested in the idea of sleep paralysis since I first saw Fuseli’s painting and started to read about the disorder. Almost every culture has a unique name for sleep paralysis, and several ascribe it to supernatural causes. Considering that people experience very real-seeming encounters with frightening demons of the night, it’s not hard to see why. Depending on who you ask, it’s a witch, a ghost, or an incubus at work. And doctors still aren’t sure exactly why it happens, nor can they prevent these episodes from recurring.

Have you experienced a sleep paralysis nightmare? Tell us about it in the comments.

[The Guardian; Watch The Nightmare on VOD and Netflix in the US; The Nightmare tumblr]


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I get it very rarely and after finding out what it was.. I find it fairly amusing afterwards.. During the “episode” you feel awake but kind of drowsy but you can’t move. You also feel a sense of terror and that something is out there. You can fight with all you have and try to yell but you can’t do anything. After a little bit you go back to normal. I am not afraid of the dark nor do I normally think anything magic is out to get me, but when you wake up during sleep paralysis you are sure that right outside of your field of vision (you can’t turn your head) is the monster staring at you /prob beating off