I wasn’t sure whether I was dreaming but it felt so real. I was awakened by this intense pressure around my chest, like someone was hugging me very tightly from my back. All I had to do was turn over from my fetal sleeping position and I could then find out who it was ….. but I couldn’t. I was afraid I might see something I did not want to so I simply froze.
It was dark as I did not use a night light. I cannot now recall whether I froze out of fear or it was because I could not move. I am unsure how long it lasted but I do remember silently repeating a prayer in my head. And just as suddenly, that pressure was gone and I could move again.
This happened some time ago and ever since that incident, I’d started sleeping with a night light on and with a pillow cushioning the left side of my body …. the side where that ‘hug’ came from. Somehow it made me feel protected to have something to take up that space. Whether that incident had been a dream or not, I’m not sure. It just felt so real and I cannot now sleep in total darkness.
Perhaps it wasn’t something sinister and I could be having a bad dream while my brain was half awake. Perhaps I had imagined it or it could have been what is known as sleep paralysis. It’s when you are about to enter or exit the deepest sleep cycle (REM sleep) and your mind-body is sort of disconnected.
An article to explain sleep paralysis
A brief extract on the cause of sleep paralysis
What causes sleep paralysis? Well, every night during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, the stage of sleep where most of your dreams occur, the body shuts down virtually all muscle activity to prevent you from acting out those dreams. Your brain is very active as you dream, as you might imagine. The only thing that prevents your body from moving to carry out the scene your brain is living is a mechanism that kicks in to paralyze it.
Anyway whatever they might call it, it is a frightening experience. You know you are awake but you cannot move a muscle and there’s this unknown presence beside or on you. Does it make you feel better that it’s probably your brain waking up before your body does and not some hideous being hugging the life out of you?