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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hag Syndrome

October Pre-Halloween Special:
Hag Syndrome AKA Sleep Paralysis


A person experiencing sleep paralysis can't move, talk, or breath when they wake up and they often feel a huge weight pressing on their chest. Normally, when a person is sleeping chemicals are released to paralyze their mussels so they don't act out their dreams but with sleep paralysis a person wakes up before the chemicals wear off. The freaky part about sleep paralysis is the hallucinations that accompany it, people often see, hear, smell, or otherwise sense demons, hags, or other bad guys - hence the name Hag Syndrome.

Hag syndrome has been documented since Greek times and has been incorporated into many culture's lore and arts. That famous painting of the monkey-like demon sitting on the woman's chest is thought to be a depiction of sleep paralysis. Hag Syndrome also makes an appearance in Moby Dick and in some Ernest Hemingway poems. Does anyone know of any others? (more from Wikipedia)

The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781)


I experienced sleep paralysis once in college and it was bone-chillingly terrifying. I awoke from a mid-afternoon nap lying on my back and unable to move or breath. I saw this demon-like creature on my chest attempting to smother me with my blanket. It only lasted a few seconds but It felt intensely real and I honestly thought I might die. Oddly enough, I just shrugged it off as a pre-finals sleep-deprived nightmare and forgot about it until this summer. Now I know messed-up sleep patterns, stress, and sleeping on your back are common triggers for Hag Syndrome. Even though the paralysis was very scary I'm glad I experienced it; it makes me feel connected to an ancient human condition and helps me have patience and empathy for people who believe in the supernatural.

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