What Is Sleep Paralysis? The Real Experience May Be More Horrifying Than ‘The Haunting of Hill House’

Playing How to Prevent Sleep Paralysis

The new Netflix show “The Haunting of Hill House” is striking fear in the hearts of viewers everywhere.

The Crain family, made up of house-flippers Olivia and Hugh Crain and their five young children, Shirley, Steve, Theodora, Luke and Eleanor, move into an old mansion in Massachusetts called Hill House with the intent on staying the summer before moving to their dream home, or “forever house.”

Little do the Crains know, their lives will forever be changed by the spirits inhabiting Hill House — from Poppy Hill, the 1920s flapper who drives Olivia Crain to madness, to Abigail, young Luke’s friend who dies during a tea party.

But perhaps the most terrifying ghosts featured in the series are the ones that haunt in real life.

Eleanor “Nell” Crain (Victoria Pedretti), the youngest of five siblings and twin to Luke Crain (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), suffers from sleep paralysis, which becomes the crux of her visions of the Bent Neck Lady, a figure her parents convince her is nothing more than a nightmare.

Sleep paralysis, or the temporary inability to move or speak while waking up or falling asleep, happens when parts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occurs when someone is awake, according to the NHS. The brain continues to dream while the eyes begin to open, but the body is unable to move. Most people reportedly experience sleep paralysis once or twice in their lifetime.

Were the scenes exaggerated for dramatic effect? Real people who have experienced sleep paralysis tell InsideEdition.com their episodes can be just as bad as Nell’s — or worse.

Julia Antenucci, 26, of Durham, North Carolina, recalled bouts of sleep paralysis often when she was a teenager.

“Seeing something in the corner of your room, not being able to move, gripped by terror and helplessness for those short moments,” Antenucci told InsideEdition.com. “That was my experience.”

She explained during her sleep paralysis, she would often feel a presence in her room. Following a particularly difficult episode of sleep paralysis, she was left crying and screaming, and chose to sleep on the couch the following night.

During a more violent bout of sleep paralysis, “[it] felt like someone grabbed my ankle and was dragging me off the bed and I woke up on the floor."

In a different episode, Antenucci recalled being frozen in fear as an alien figure appeared above her.

"I heard low, almost shamanic chanting in a language I couldn’t understand," she said. "The next night, I ended up going to the hospital for stomach pains and it turned out I had ovarian cysts. I don’t think the two were related, but it scared me."

Liz Baldwin, of New York City, said she had sleep paralysis every night for about two months after a stressful move.

"I remember being in bed, feeling anchored to the space," Baldwin said. “I felt as though my eyes were opened and were slowly filled from the bottom with warm blood until everything I could see was shrouded in a veil of blood."

Another common vision when Baldwin had sleep paralysis was “a shadowy figure […] that would kind of zap from place to place, like be in the corner of my room and then suddenly at the foot of my bed.”

Or she often saw her clocks spin backward while immobile.

"The whole time I would feel crushed by a weight on my chest, pinned down,” she recalled. “I think I was too freaked out to even consider waking up as an option."

Like Antenucci and Baldwin, Eve Anderson of Ithaca, New York, also said she saw a mysterious figure during her sleep paralysis, but her visions involved a loved one. 

"I couldn’t move while something was trying to break down the door of the apartment […] the force behind the door didn’t sound like a person, it sounded like a creature,” Anderson said. “My best friend and roommate was screaming in terror, trying to keep it back and begging me for help. I couldn’t move or breathe."

She added: “It was so upsetting. When I could move again, I was crying."

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