Sleep paralysis is a distressing phenomenon often accompanied by vivid sensory or perceptual experiences, which can include complex and disturbing hallucinations and intense fear, which is often experienced by people immediately before sleeping or waking up.
For some people, sleep paralysis is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; for others, it can be a frequent, even nightly, phenomenon, Science Daily reported.
The study, conducted by researchers James Allan Cheyne and Gordon Pennycook of the University of Waterloo in Canada, was published published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, and explores the factors associated with distress after sleep paralysis episodes.
According to the study, the distressing sensory experiences that come with episodes of sleep paralysis could exacerbate people's fear, creating a feedback loop that enhances memories of experiences later on.
These findings are important, the researchers say, because they provide insight into a common experience of psychological distress that is not well understood. Some participants lamented that their experiences of terror following episodes of sleep paralysis were often dismissed by clinicians.
The researchers say that studying sleep paralysis could "make a significant contribution to the billions of dollars, worldwide, in costs associated with accidents, illnesses, and lost productivity associated with sleep disturbances,"