A Common Link Between Reported Alien Abductions

In September 1961, a married couple was driving on a New Hampshire highway when a strange light began to follow their vehicle. When the pair arrived home, they were in a disheveled state and had somehow lost two hours in which neither of them could remember a thing, according to History. The couple was Betty and Barney Hill, and their experience is widely regarded as the first reported alien abduction case.

This particular abduction experience took place while those involved were awake, but many other claims of alien abduction are said to happen while a person is asleep. For years, scientists and researchers have debated the validity of abduction claims and, more recently, have begun drawing parallels between the experiences of those who have reported alien encounters and individuals who suffer from the common occurrence of sleep paralysis.

WebMD describes sleep paralysis as "a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep." Not surprisingly, both sleep paralysis and alien abduction leave a person with feelings of terror, but terror is far from the only thing the two experiences have in common.

Sleep paralysis is associated with many paranormal entities

Sleep paralysis causes a person to become paralyzed during what is meant to be a state of REM sleep. The experience happens when a person is somewhere between being awake and asleep and can trigger hallucinations, negative emotions, and the feeling of a weight on your body. These instances have led sleep paralysis to be connected to many tales of terror, like the "Old Hag" who sits on a person's chest, and in China, the "Gui Ya" or "Ghost Pressure" (via Sleep Education).

Psychologist Kazuhiko Fukuda of Fukushima University in Japan said, "I think it explains witchcraft and alien abduction." Fukuda explains that the lack of comparisons available to those who experience sleep paralysis may lead them to believe something paranormal or otherworldly has happened to them, such as being abducted by aliens (per The New York Times).

Dr. Al Cheyne, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo in Canada, found in a survey that sleep paralysis and alien abductions have plenty of similarities. "A sensed presence, vague gibberish spoken in one's ear, shadowy creatures moving about the room, a strange immobility, a crushing pressure and painful sensations in various parts of the body — these are compatible not just with an assault by a primitive demon but also with probing by alien experimenters, and the sensations of floating and flying account for the reports of levitation and transport to alien vessels," Dr. Cheyne said (via The New York Times).

Outside influences can impact our dreams

Another occurrence that many experience is called lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is what happens when a person is aware and at least slightly in control of what happens in their dreams, according to LiveScience. The Phase Research Center in Moscow published a study in the International Study of Dream Research on this awareness and control when subjects were asked to try to dream about extraterrestrials. After the test, 114 of the 152 participants described dreaming of extraterrestrial beings after being prompted while awake.

The influence of everyday life is likely to affect what a person dreams about, and for those who experience lucid dreams or sleep paralysis, dreams may get scarier than anticipated. For many reported cases of alien abduction, this might be a fitting explanation, but it doesn't fit in with every instance, as a Harvard University Medical School Professor John E. Mack pointed out. Many abductions, like that of Betty and Barney Hill, take place when the abductee is awake. There are also those claim to have been abducted and witnessed alien-like entities without being exposed to any triggering topics such as books or television, according to The New York Times.

Sleep paralysis can't explain every abduction experience

Professor Leonard S. Newman, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studied alien abductions and, in an interview with The New York Times, said, "People, especially when they are hypnotized, can easily weave together images, dreams, fantasies and things that they might just have heard or read about into elaborate pseudo-memories that they are confident are real."

Even with more research being openly conducted on both sleep paralysis and alien abduction, professionals still stand on both sides of the fence when it comes to the possibility of extraterrestrial entities. While it may be possible that some reported cases of alien abduction are a terrified and confused person's explanation for sleep paralysis, that doesn't account for everyone's experience. However, only around 60% of alien abductions are related to sleep (via The New York Times), and there are still 40% that remain unexplainable. In some cases, at least for the foreseeable future, the otherworldly remains unexplainable.