Ghosts Hauntings Sleep Paralysis Walking Dead Sleep

Waking Dead Sleep

Mystic moon
The moon fascinates and triggers the imagination. 

“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
Mark Twain

The moon has always been a source of mysticism and folklore, and some poets, writers, and researchers link it to heighten supernatural activity. I’ve talked about my living in haunted houses. Have I mentioned that I occupied a haunted dorm room while I was in college?

As a sophomore at Texas Lutheran University, I experienced my first Waking Dead Sleep (WDS). I lived in Emma Frey , the oldest dorm — at the time — on campus. Since those first encounters in college, I hadn’t experienced WDS until recent nights of the Super Moons, which plunged this mysterious topic to the forefront of my research.

I considered including WDS in my Ghost Hunt series, but didn’t because I’m uncertain if my WDS experience was actually such an occurrence or a ghostly encounter. Perhaps you will help decide. Let’s probe into what The Waking Dead Sleep is and how it differs from nightmares.

The Waking Dead Sleep

Walking Dead Sleep
The Waking Dead Sleep is different than a nightmare. You are conscious but paralyzed. Unable to flee or scream. 

The haunted dorm room came to mind this morning when I recalled the first time I experienced a Waking Dead Sleep — not to be confused with sleep walking or a nightmare. Researchers often label WDS as sleep paralysis, demon on your chest, out-of-body, or alien abduction.

WDS differs from a nightmare in that you are awake but paralyzed. The sufferer is not running from monsters or evil, as in a typical nightmare or night terror. However, he/she senses something is dreadfully wrong but cannot escape. You can’t move, nor can you wake yourself from this state of horror.

The American Sleep Association defines sleep paralysis as, 

a state in which the subject is physically immobile, but fully conscious.

First Experience

I was a sophomore in college the first time I experienced the Waking Dead Sleep. I was awake and knew I was. People talked. Sirens blared. Red lights flashed. I lie on a stretcher near the ambulance. People discussed whether I was still alive. I heard everything they said. I tried to talk, to move, to tell them I am alive. But I couldn’t make my body move. Not even my lips to utter one terrifying I’m here. Help me.

Every night, I woke my poor roommate with my screams. An entire semester passed before my roommate and I discovered a girl had killed herself in our room. Upon discovery, my WDS ended.

In my WDS, I am awake but powerless to say a word or move a finger. This paralysis overwhelms me, and I know that if I cannot break free, if I cannot scream or move, I die.

I struggle, and in the struggle I scream. With the scream, the people, the ambulance, the stretcher, or more recently, the demon disappears. My screams resurrect every sleeping soul in the household — dogs, cats, husband, and kids.

Still a Mystery

“My Dream. My Bad Dream” by Fritz Schwimbeck, 1915. Munich artist Fritz Schwimbeck is best known for his dark, psychological pen and ink images from before 1920. Other artwork by Schwimbeck depict sleeping individuals with demons on their chest. No doubt Schwimbeck suffered from The Waking Dead Sleep.

Though nearly half of the world’s population has experienced WDS at least once, it remains a mystery to scientists and researchers. They have hypotheses, but no definite answer. One of the most common explanations is the dysfunctional overlap of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and waking stages of sleep. Other explanations include stress, genetics, and mental health issues.

Another depiction of  The Walking Dead Sleep by Fritz Schwimbeck, The Dream, 1901.

If you have experienced WDS, then you know none of the explanations are correct, because you don’t have a sleep disorder. Nor are you stressed (any more than usual). No one else in your family wakes up screaming, and you are not crazy — at least not in the scientific sense of the word.


sleep paralysis
The Waking Dead Sleep has been recorded throughout history and all over the world. One of the earliest and most famous depictions of sleep paralysis is Henry Fuseli’s 1781 painting “The Nightmare.” The painting portrays a typical experience reported by those who have experienced The Waking Dead Sleep. The painting is thought to be one of the first pieces of art to represent sleep paralysis and considered by many to be Fuseli’s greatest work.

Waking Dead sufferers report a deep sense of terror — an evil presence in their room — which is terrifying. But then, what makes it worse, paralysis strikes the victim. Rendering them helpless. Unable to escape.

The Intruder is the name given to this evil presence. Or in the instances of suffocation, Incubus.

WDS on Reddit

The online website Reddit is full of comments by those who have experienced the Waking Dead Sleep phenomenon. Here are a few.

“I’ve only experienced it three times, but my first time was the worst. I’ve had no visual encounters but when it happened the first time, I was lying on my left side and felt pressure on my chest. When I realized I was paralyzed and I started panicking, something whispered in my ear, “Just coming in to say goodnight.” That’s when I felt like something was pushing me towards the edge of my bed. Terrifying.


“This is exactly what I experience two-three times a month. Except it’s an obviously feminine voice telling me, “Go back to sleep” or, “Goodnight, baby,” and, I can see her face and body. She’s draped in black clothing that seems wet. Skeleton hands but, a very soft, feminine, youthful face. Eyes like black holes. She’s always sitting on my chest. I like to refer to her as bitch. When she leaves me alone I go flying through infinity.”


“I actually have it fairly often, so much now that I realize when it’s occurring. These days I just close my eyes and won’t open them no matter what I feel or hear.

Doing this though doesn’t force me to wake up and I still have to wait for it to end. I still feel and hear everything. Sometimes I feel like I’m being dragged somewhere or just constantly feel like something is touching me, along with muffled voices.

Before I learned to cope with it, I’ve seen quite a few awful things. Horror films don’t really do anything for me anymore because I’ve already seen the most terrifying things I already could. Here’ are a few things I remember off the top of my head:

  • A little girl in the corner of my room staring at me. Then, without notice, she shrieks and runs up and starts choking me.
  • A large dark figure, kind of a human silhouette, emerging from the foot of my bed and staring down at me…

The worst thing is when you try to fight or call for help. Your voice doesn’t work and your body will not respond. You just feel helpless. Ugh, I need to stop trying to remember these things. I’m getting chills.”


Yes, the worst thing is the inability to fight back or call out. You feel helpless to protect yourself.

Michael Breus, PhD, clinical psychologist, also known as The Sleep Doctor, told Buzz Feed Life that most of his patients describe sleep paralysis in the same way. 

It feels like you woke up dead. You know that your mind is awake and your body is not — so you’re trapped, essentially.

And that is exactly how it feels. You cannot wake yourself up as one might do when having a nightmare.

Another thing that differs in sleep paralysis from a nightmare are the hallucinations that some report — like the person above who reported a dark figure.

The American Sleep Association offers this interpretation of the hallucinations.

Unfortunately, sleep paralysis can be accompanied by frightening hallucinations whereby, due to the paralysis and physical experiences (which could be a forceful current running through the upper body), the person is left physically unable to react. These hallucinations can be very scary, and often involve a supernatural creature or other person taunting or terrifying the individual, together with difficulty breathing and/or a feeling of pressure on one’s chest. Another quite common type of hallucination involves either supernatural or human intruders lurking outside the person’s window or entering their bedroom, leaving the sleeper with feelings of fear and dread. 

According to Dr. Breus, these hallucinations occur in the state between sleeping and waking when the mind is alert and the eyes are open. He also says though hallucinations are rare, many of his patients report feeling an undeniably strange or scary presence in the room.


Waking Dead
We all have our demons. The ones in our dreams, are they real or imaginary?

On The Probe, I’ve talked and researched hauntings and Walk-Ins in my blogs. The Waking Dead Sleep is entirely different. My Walk-In encounters have always been uplifting and energizing. Only two of my hauntings have seemed malevolent. The rest are more or less needy spirits who want some attention or to cause a little mischief. However, the Waking Dead Sleep leaves me screaming, trembling and terrified.

Perhaps, if I were a scientist, I’d look for a scientific explanation for the Waking Dead Sleep and buy into that it is genetics or a sleep disorder. But having experienced it, I know those explanations make little sense. Here is why:

  • No one in my family has never experienced such a thing, so it’s not genetic for me.
  • As far as a sleep disorder, I may have a restless night occasionally, but normally my sleep pattern is healthy.
  • Stress? When I’m stressed, I have nightmares but not WDS.
  • Mental Health Issue? Aren’t we all a little mental in our own way? And if it was a mental health issue, I don’t think people who experience WDS would question or explore what it is. They would just assume it’s normal and a part of their crazy.

The Unexplainable

I feel lucky to be sensitive to that side of things that no one can explain. That is why my blog explores the unexplainable. Walk-Ins, hauntings, and the Waking Dead Sleep have happened to me, and I’ll die looking for answers why me when others around me don’t experience the same thing.

For now, being a writer of science fiction and the supernatural, my theory is that the Waking Dead Sleep is an out-of-body experience, and associated with a darkness as prevailing as death.

The Waking Dead Sleep is not an invention of the stressed-dominated, twenty-first century. Throughout history, psychics and shamans have depended upon WDS for visions and prophecies. Persian medical texts dating back to the 10th century report accounts of sleep paralysis. 

Along with the hundreds of chapters on hygiene, anatomy, physiology, symptoms and treatments of the diseases of various organs, there is a chapter on sleep paralysis (night-mare) prior to description and treatment of epilepsy.

If psychics and shamans have used WDS for visions and prophecies for centuries, then I think it has more to do with the mystical than the scientific.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced The Waking Dead Sleep?

Shh. It’s late. Someone or something just whispered, I just came to say goodnight. Did I just write this? How? I can’t move.

Clara Bush
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2 replies on “Waking Dead Sleep”

Good evening, Clara:
Just a few days ago I read your post about The Waking Dead Sleep. I was surprised that they are not just nightmares.
This has happened to me a few times and each time it is a feeling of suffocation without being able to move to breath or to call out for help. Do you think this is WDS?
Have a wonderful evening.

Sorry I missed this comment, Ike. WDS is far different than a nightmare. And is, as you describe. A feeling of suffocation. Not being able to move. Or scream. I often hear things. Voices. Ambulances. But I live where there are no ambulances and there are no others present. Very terrifying. What you are describing, to me, is definitely WDS.Thank you for your comment.

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