What does sleep paralysis look like from the outside?

I think a lot of people have experienced sleep paralysis at some point of their lives. It’s said that it’s a phenomenon where your body is asleep but the brain thinks it’s actually awake. I agree with that analysis as well.

So, when you experience sleep paralysis, what does it look like to someone on the outside? I wanted to know, so I decided to film myself sleeping so I could find out. I would set up a camera before getting into bed, and then if I thought I had sleep paralysis during the night I would check the video the next morning.

But of course, it wasn’t that easy. Over two months passed without any sign of sleep paralysis whatsoever.

Then, one night, it finally happened. I wasn’t especially tired or anything, nor did I feel like this would be the night. I went to sleep, and about four hours later (I think it was around 3 am) I was overcome with that uneasy feeling you get right before sleep paralysis, and as soon as I realised I succumbed to it. ‘Finally, it’s here!’ I was both excited and trying to keep calm at the same time.

My goal was not just to experience sleep paralysis, but to keep it going for as long as possible. If I didn’t, when I played back the video there was a good chance I wouldn’t notice when it was happening. So I didn’t relax too much, I tried to move my hands. ‘So, I really can’t move, huh?’ I was oddly calm, and stayed like that for about five minutes.

Trying to maintain such a state was tiring. That seemed like long enough, so it was time for one final thing. There was one more part of my plan that I had yet to test. That was, while I was paralysed, I wanted to try screaming as loud as I could.

What did it look like to someone watching when you tried to scream when paralysed? Were you really screaming? Or did you just think you were screaming when really you weren’t? I wanted to know, so with all my might, I screamed. “Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!!” I most definitely screamed, I thought. As I did, all the power drained from my body and it became difficult to focus. Next thing I knew, it was morning.

That day I felt oddly sluggish. I suppose that was to be expected, with how much effort I put in the night before, but all I could think about was watching the video. Sadly I had to go to work, and so I put it off until I got home.

When I got back that night it was finally time. I was excited but also scared that all I would see was myself lying there, asleep. I really wanted to know what I’d see during the part where I screamed.

I connected the camera to the computer and checked the files. Something was wrong.

Normally, the files would save as “ConsecutiveNumber.FileExtension.” All the files from previous nights that I’d yet to delete were still in the folder, but there were also about 30 files with really odd names, like “ssggggg34333333333333” and “B9MnKrsSmOpMRKsuI.” They had no filename extensions, and when I double clicked them nothing happened. The files ranged in size from 3MB to 550MB, and even when I gave them the same extension as the other videos, they refused to play.

There was nothing else I could do, so I opened the most recent file that would play. This one should have been from the previous night. The file creation time was from this morning.

I started to play it. My room appeared. The camera was placed at an angle so my feet were at the bottom and my head at the top of the screen. Nothing was happening so I fast-forwarded. Then I noticed something.

The length of the video was displayed in the lower right corner of the screen, but it was only four hours long. Thinking about when I went to bed, I was asleep for around seven hours. It was too short.

I continued fast-forwarding. I couldn’t see anything strange. Just myself lying on the bed, occasionally tossing and turning. I fast-forwarded through three hours of the video with nothing of note. But, if I remembered correctly, it was around this time that I had sleep paralysis. Preparing myself, I started to play the file at normal speed.

Around three and a half hours after the video began, something strange happened. Just like before, I was tossing and turning in bed, but right as I was in the middle of turning over the screen froze. My right hand was floating in the air.

Huh? I looked closer at the screen and noticed it was still playing. The numbers showing the elapsed time were still moving. The only thing that was frozen was me, lying there with my arm strangely floating in the air. Was this the sleep paralysis? My heart was pounding at such an unexpected development.

Wasn’t sleep paralysis just an illusion of the brain? I didn’t think that my body would actually stiffen. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to perceive what was going on. I continued watching the video. For three whole minutes, nothing changed.

… or so I thought. But something wasn’t right. What was this strange feeling? Then I saw it. Something black was poking out from the end of my futon, where my feet were. It was moving so slowly that I didn’t notice it, but it was right there, coming out the end of my futon. Before long I saw something white coming out alongside the black. It looked like hair and a forehead.

It was a person’s face. A person’s face was coming out of the bottom of my futon. The moment I realised it, my heart began to pound.

I can’t watch anymore. I should turn it off. But for some reason, I couldn’t close the file. My hand was shaking, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t click the ‘stop’ button. My body refused to listen to me. It was like I was experiencing sleep paralysis while awake.

The face was halfway out. I could clearly see its eyes. There was no life in them at all, but they seemed to be looking at me through the camera. Before long I heard this explosive sound, like a metallic myun myun myun. ‘I can’t keep watching,’ I thought. I felt that if I saw the whole face come out, something awful would happen.

‘Stop it, I don’t want to see anymore! Stop it!’ I mentally screamed. The file was nearing the end of its playback time. Please! Please end before I see anymore! Then, the very next moment, I saw something unbelievable. In the corner of the screen, a figure appeared. It walked over to the camera and turned it off.

But, the figure that appeared… it was me. Expressionless, I put my hand out towards the camera and turned it off.

I was overcome with both terror and confusion. I passed out.

I woke up the next morning lying face down on the desk. The folder and files were still there on my computer. It wasn’t a dream.

Honestly, I didn’t want to see it again. I deleted the files and then threw the camera away. I felt sick, so I took the day off work as well.

What on Earth did I see? It was undoubtedly myself on the screen that had turned the camera off, but I didn’t remember doing that at all. And supposing that it was me, then who was sleeping in the futon?

Not to mention that face…

 

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