Skip to main content

The Prevalence of Sleep Paralysis Among Canadian and Japanese College Students

Abstract

Although sleep paralysis had been treated as one of the symptoms of narcolepsy, recently it has become recognized as occurring frequently in normal individuals. However, among the few published studies that have examined sleep paralysis, there are great discrepancies in its reported prevalence. These discrepancies could be attributed to differences in survey methods, to the description of the symptom employed in each study, or to the race or culture of the research participants. We administered a questionnaire, with equivalent Japanese and English forms, to 86 Canadian and 149 Japanese university students. Although the reported prevalence of sleep paralysis was almost the same (Canada: 41.9%, Japan: 38.9%), the characterization of the phenomenon differed greatly between the two samples. Over 55% of the Canadian and only about 15% of the Japanese students regarded the experience as 'a kind of dream.' This difference may be one of the reasons for the varying prevalence noted in previous studies. Although many Japanese students (40.5%) and a very small number of Canadians (3.5%) usually prefer the supine position while sleeping, the majority of both groups (Canada: 57.9%, Japan: 83.8%) reported that, during the episodes of sleep paralysis, they found themselves in the supine position.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  • Association of Sleep Disorders Centers, Diagnostic classification of sleep and arousal disorders (1st ed.). (1979). Sleep, 2, 1–137.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bell, C. C., Shakoor, B., & Thompson, B., (1984). Prevalence of isolated sleep paralysis in black subjects. Journal of National Medical Association, 76, 501–508.

    Google Scholar 

  • Diagnostic Classification Steering Committee. (1990). International classification of sleep disorders: Diagnostic and coding manual. Rochester, Minnesota: American Sleep Disorders Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Everett, H. C. (1963). Sleep paralysis in medical students. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 3, 283–287.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fukuda, K., Miyasita, A., Inugami, M., & Ishihara, K. (1987). High prevalence of isolated sleep paralysis: Kanashibari phenomenon in Japan. Sleep, 10(3), 279–286.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fukuda, K., Inamatsu, N., Kuroiwa, M., & Miyasita, A. (1991). Personality of healthy young adults with sleep paralysis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 73, 955–962.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Fukuda, K. (1993). One explanatory basis for the discrepancy of reported prevalences of sleep paralysis among healthy respondents. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 77, 803–807.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Goode, G. B. (1962). Sleep paralysis. Archives of Neurology, 6, 228–234.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hishikawa, Y., & Kaneko, Z. (1965). Electroencephalographic study on narcolepsy. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 18, 249–259.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hishikawa, Y., Koida, H., Yoshino, K., Wakamatsu, H., Sugita, Y., Iijima, S., & Nan'no, H. (1978). Characteristics of REM sleep accompanied by sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations in narcoleptic patients. Waking and Sleeping, 2, 113–123.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hishikawa, Y., Nan'no, H., Tachibana, M., Furuya, E., Koida, H., & Kaneko, Z. (1968). The nature of sleep attack and other symptoms of narcolepsy. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 24, 1–10.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hufford, D. (1982). The terror that comes in the night. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ichihara, S., Miyasita, A., Inugami, M., Yatabe, M., Niimi, Y., Ishihara, K., & Miyauchi, S. (1979). Comparison of diurnal naps on a chair with on a bed. (in Japanese) Clinical Electroencephalography (Osaka), 21, 293–302.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ness, R. C. (1978). The old hag phenomenon as sleep paralysis: A biocultural interpretation. Culture and Medical Psychiatry, 2, 15–39.

    Google Scholar 

  • Penn, N. E., Kripke, D. F., & Scharff, J. (1981). Sleep paralysis among medical students. Journal of Psychology, 107, 247–252.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Takeuchi, T., Miyasita, A., Sasaki, Y., Inugami, M., & Fukuda, K. (1992). Isolated sleep paralysis elicited by sleep interruption. Sleep, 15,3, 217–225.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wing, Y. K., Lee, S. T., & Chen, C. N. (1994). Sleep paralysis in Chinese: Ghost oppression phenomenon in Hong Kong. Sleep, 17(7), 609–613.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fukuda, K., Ogilvie, R.D., Chilcott, L. et al. The Prevalence of Sleep Paralysis Among Canadian and Japanese College Students. Dreaming 8, 59–66 (1998). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:DREM.0000005896.68083.ae

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/B:DREM.0000005896.68083.ae

  • sleep paralysis
  • hypnagogic hallucinations
  • cultural differences