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Theories on the Etiology of Sleep Paralysis 

Theories on the Etiology of Sleep Paralysis
Theories on the Etiology of Sleep Paralysis

Brian A. Sharpless

and Karl Doghramji

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date: 26 September 2020

This chapter reviews the many theories for the etiology of sleep paralysis. First, those derived from folk psychology are catalogued. Along with speculation that sleep paralysis is an actual attack from any number of malevolent beings (e.g., demons, witches), others saw the origin of sleep paralysis in such things as overwork, the flu, stagnant blood, and interpersonal tumult. Second, the early psychological theories of sleep paralysis are presented (i.e., psychoanalytic, conflict-based models of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones). The evidence base for claims that certain personality traits predispose individuals to experience sleep paralysis will also be evaluated. Third, after a general discussion of REM versus non-REM sleep, the many biologically and medically based etiologies for sleep paralysis will be catalogued. Finally, the most likely causes of sleep paralysis derived from the major theories will be catalogued.

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