Sleep paralysis can be a terrifying experience, especially if you're unaware what it is when you first have it. I have had sleep paralysis since I was nineteen and first moved out of home. Some think it is possibly the root of the incubus and succubus myths and could be behind some alien abduction stories. It is thought that at least 8% of people will experience it during their lifetime.
So what does it feel like? Well I'll start with a classic experience. I awoke one night to find that I couldn't move. My eyes felt quite heavy but I couldn't move my limbs. I could see the room. I felt an ominous presence in the room and a dark figure appeared at the doorway, it felt malevolent and I could also hear it growling. It climbed on to the end of my bed, in an animalistic way and up towards my feet, then onto my chest. I felt a pressure on my chest and its featureless face was looking down at mine. At this point, I was trying to scream for help but no scream erupted from my mouth so I tried thrashing violently. Eventually, somehow, I released myself from it's hold. The vision was gone and I was able to move again. Pretty scary right? Before I knew that sleep paralysis was a thing, I was absolutely terrified! Science explains sleep paralysis by saying that paralysis happens normally during sleep so we don't hurt ourselves and that sleep paralysis is somehow, a cross over between the REM state of asleep and being awake. Intruder and chest pressure episodes are very common in sleep paralysis and the most likely sort of experience you'll have. The type I've described is the worst sort but often the intruder would just be standing in the doorway staring at me or I had the feeling that the intruder was very nearby.
Not every sleep paralysis episode is scary though, sometimes they're just odd. When the episodes first started they were very strong. I had an experience whilst on holiday in Tenerife when I was nineteen. My female friend and I were out partying every night, then we'd sleep the morning in our hotel room. One morning, my friend had woken before me. There was a kitchenette in our apartment and I awoke to see that she was doing the washing up but quickly realised that I couldn't move. The feeling of being suddenly fully paralysed is unpleasant and I started to panic. My friend turned to look at me and then walked over to me to inspect me closer. She turned away and went back to the sink. I then felt myself lift up and over the edge of my bed, down to the floor and under the bed where I saw a single red rose. When I managed to wake myself, I told my friend what i'd seen her do and she said that was exactly what had happened. There was of course no rose under my bed.
Another strange but not too terrifying experience happened when I was staying at my parents, about the same time. I awoke with the usual paralysis but then I felt myself drifting up towards the ceiling of the room until eventually I was pressed up right against it. I can recall using my hands to pull myself along the ceiling. Then I was awake and myself again. I don't think these qualify as true out of body experiences but that is what it felt like. As if my spirit had drifted up to the ceiling.
When I met my husband Welly, 17 years ago, I was still having the experiences. I would often wake him in the night saying his name, asking him for help. He said my voice sounded like a demented goat talking! "W-W-e-e-e-l-l-l-y-y." I would say. "H-H-e-e-l-l-p-p m-m-e-e-e!" Perhaps my vocal chords were paralysed too. Thankfully, over the years we've been together, the episodes have got fewer and fewer and I now can't recall the last time I had an episode.
I was greatly helped by finding a book about sleep paralysis and seeing that it was something that many others had experienced. Do I believe the science,that it has an explanation and is not paranormal? Yes I think I probably do but I still wonder why the dark figure and the chest pressure are such universal experiences? I hope that if you've experienced something similar, it will comfort you to know you're not alone, millions of others experience it too. You can read more about sleep paralysis here: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/parasomnias/sleep-paralysis