Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 534–548 | Cite as

Rates and Characteristics of Sleep Paralysis in the General Population of Denmark and Egypt

  • Baland JalalEmail author
  • Devon E. Hinton
Original Paper


In the current research we report data from two studies that examined rates and characteristics of sleep paralysis (SP) in the general population of Denmark and Egypt. In Study I, individuals from Denmark and Egypt did not differ in age whereas there were more males in the Egyptian sample (47 vs. 64 %); in Study II, individuals from Denmark and Egypt were comparable in terms of age and gender distribution. In Study I we found that significantly fewer individuals had experienced SP in Denmark [25 % (56/223)] than in Egypt [44 % (207/470)] p < .001. In Study II we found that individuals who had experienced at least one lifetime episode of SP from Denmark (n = 58) as compared to those from Egypt (n = 143) reported significantly fewer SP episodes in a lifetime relative to SP experiencers from Egypt (M = 6.0 vs. M = 19.4, p < .001). SP in the Egyptian sample was characterized by high rates of SP (as compared to in Denmark), frequent occurrences (three times that in the Denmark sample), prolonged immobility during SP, and great fear of dying from the experience. In addition, in Egypt, believing SP to be precipitated by the supernatural was associated with fear of the experience and longer SP immobility. Findings are discussed in the context of cultural elaboration and salience theories of SP.


Sleep paralysis Rates Culture Fear Anxiety Trauma 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Brain and CognitionUniversity of California at San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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