Irish Journal of Medical Science

, 180:917

Experiences of sleep paralysis in a sample of Irish university students

Brief Report

DOI: 10.1007/s11845-011-0732-2

Cite this article as:
O’Hanlon, J., Murphy, M. & Di Blasi, Z. Ir J Med Sci (2011) 180: 917. doi:10.1007/s11845-011-0732-2



Sleep paralysis (SP) is characterised by an inability to move voluntarily for a period on going to sleep or on waking. It is also associated with hallucinations, and often with fear. This study seeks to explore the experience of SP in an Irish university sample.


A cross-sectional survey design was employed, with a validated scale for the assessment of SP being distributed to 2,500 students. A total of 418 responded, of whom 83 reported having experienced SP.


The most commonly reported and most intense hallucinations were falling, sensed presence, visual hallucination, pressure on the body and belief might be dying. Fear was also commonly experienced. Bivariate analyses showed an association between fear and several hallucination types.


SP in university students often includes experience of hallucinations. These, in turn, are associated with frequent and intense fear.


Sleep paralysis Hallucinations Fear 

Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Applied PsychologyUniversity College CorkCorkIreland