Unexplainable violent attacks made by what appears the silhouette of a man often haunt the nights of Gracyl Gallaza, a student from the Faculty of Engineering. She said the “demon” grabs her head and swings it against the headboard.

“It happened to me many times (through) different figures. I can see a silhouette of a man, (and) sometimes a girl with white eyes. I just can’t move my body, I was too scared,” Gallaza said.

Gallaza said she tried to scream during the attack but nothing came out of her mouth. She also said that her constant praying was the only thing that stopped the assault.

“When I woke up, I was still in a sleeping position, nothing had changed,” she added.

According to J Allan Cheyne, a Psychology professor from the University of Waterloo, Canada, some people get trapped between the state of wakefulness and dreaming, called sleep paralysis, which might explain immobility during such attacks.

“Sleep paralysis is a type of dream, a waking dream, or perhaps a waking nightmare,” Cheyne said in the Discovery Channel documentary, “The Entity: Terror That Comes in the Night.”

Cheyne also explained that the brain’s wake-up mechanism inhibits another mechanism which controls dreams. When one mechanism is on, the person is active and conscious of his surrounding. However, a problem with a particular neurotransmitter may cause one system to turn on before the other turns off, he said.

But even throughout history, people like the Roman poet Horace see these nocturnal attacks to be caused by a supernatural being and even discussed it in one of his pieces.

“When doomed to death, I will attend you as a nocturnal fury: I will attack your faces, and brooding upon your restless breasts, I will deprive a repose by terror.”

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Medieval artists also depicted the ghastly entity as a horned beast preying on sleeping women and sometimes thought to be raping them. In Henry Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, sleep attacks are perceived to be a demonic visitation where a heavy demon-like creature sits on the chest of its paralyzed victim.

Dave Dublin, a UST Computer Science student, said he also experiences paralysis during sleep.

“I was asleep that time, or it looked as if I was. In the middle of my sleep, it seemed that I awoke and I couldn’t move my body.” Dublin said. “I was fully aware of my surroundings then. It might be because of fear, but I feel there is a presence around me.”

“I moved my body, bit by bit, from a corpse-like position to a position where I laid sideways,” he added.

According to Prof. Lito Maranan of the Department of Psychology, College of Science, the mind goes from a lower level of consciousness up to the point of unconsciousness during sleep.

“The mind still functions and brain waves are still present,” he said.

Maranan also said that the muscles are relaxed, although normal physiological activities, like heartbeat and breathing, are still on.

But according to Cheyne, victims of the attacks experience a difficulty in breathing because of paralysis. He associated hallucinations as the cause of the corporeal figure of the attacker.

“Your eyes are closed, you feel (that if) you just open your eyes, the entity will be there. If your eyes are open, (that entity) might just be out of sight, perhaps you will see it, perhaps you will now start to see some form, some vague shape. Maybe you’ll hear something, footsteps, movement in the room. You may actually feel something touching you,” he added.

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According to Maranan, whatever the eye might see during sleep will be recognized in the mind.

Cheyne said that nocturnal attacks have been mildly experienced by up to 30 percent of the world’s population, and until today, remains a gray area in science.

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