Sleep Paralysis In African Americans

Published: 09th August 2010
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Sleep paralysis, also known as isolated sleep paralysis, affects people all over the world, regardless of race or social position. Research shows that most people experience it at least once in their lives. African Americans, however, experience recurrent sleep paralysis at a much higher rate than anyone else. When compared to whites it is 59% to 7% according one study.

The significant difference in the frequency of sleep paralysis between the two races has been attributed to factors such as poverty, racism and genetics. I believe it has more to do with ancestry than anything else.

While asleep one night during a recent trip to Ghana I experienced an attack. The next day, I talked about it with my driver. I told him I had been experiencing it all my life; waking up paralyzed, unable to move or speak. He seemed surprised that I had brought the subject up, but went on to say that this was very common in Africa, especially Ghana.

He said Ghanaians don't refer to it as sleep paralysis or consider it a medical condition requiring treatment. They know it is an evil spirit attacking them at night. Many even see the spirit. He told me that the reason they have these sleep attacks so much is due to the practice of witchcraft throughout the country.

A great number of African Americans are descended from Africans transported from the slave castles along the Ghanaian coast. When their ancestors came to America, the spirits causing the paralysis traveled with them and continued their activity among their descendants. People descended from Europeans who immigrated from countries steeped in fairy lore and witchcraft have had spirits passed on to them as well.

While social factors play a role in how often sleep paralysis occurs in an African American's life, they should not be seen as the cause. They only contribute to more mental activity at night, which increases the time an individual drifts between states of consciousness. This drifting leaves the individual more susceptible to demonic attack. Sometimes they dismiss it as a dream. Sometimes they forget about it completely. Others know something unusual took place, but don't see it as anything to be concerned about.

I was sharing one of my sleep paralysis stories with an African American friend who suddenly remembered having an experience of her own. It was like a forgotten dream that came back to her in full detail. She was afraid once she realized what it was, but when I explained how to handle it, she seemed okay. The fear wasn't totally gone, and I don't know if she would have preferred staying in the dark about it, but I felt like I'd done her a big favor.

Regardless of our race or ethnic background, we need to be aware of sleep paralysis and know exactly what it is and how to overcome it. Demons don't care what color their victim is. And whatever they're doing to us in the night, it's a lot more complex than just riding our chest or back. I have a theory and I'll share it in the future. For now, let's just realize that we're at war. And when it comes to sleep paralysis, we wrestle not against flesh and blood.

Charles Allen is a writer of urban and paranormal fiction, and author of the novel The Gangsta Prophecy. His website is

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