If you"ve ever before woken up in the center of the night emotion as though you"re being crushed through a demonic being, you may have actually just proficient what"s referred to as the incubus phenomenon: an "attack" by a masculine demon. (Its woman counterpart, the succubus, usually strikes men.)

The phenomenon is, in many ways, the quintessential nightmare. Because that centuries, the incubus demon has been said to haunt sleepers, motivating tales in traditional folklore as well as works that art.

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Now, a brand-new meta-analysis from the Netherlands says that this frightening phenomenon might be more common than previously thought — and also that it must be taken an ext seriously by psychiatrists and also psychologists that hear such accounts from your patients.

The so-called attack usually occurs throughout an illustration of sleep paralysis, a problem that"s even more common 보다 the incubus phenomenon, according to the meta-analysis.

Sleep paralysis is a result of the dissociation that sleep phases, said an elderly author Dr. January Dirk Blom,a professor of clinical psychopathology at the college of Leiden in the Netherlands.The problem happens once a human is falling sleep or waking up. Throughout sleep paralysis, two elements of REM sleep, or fast eye activity sleep, happen when a human being is conscious.

During REM sleep, i beg your pardon is the period when a person typically dreams, the body"s muscles are serene to the level the paralysis, may be to prevent the sleeper native acting the end his or she dreams, Blom said. But when sleep paralysis takes place, the person"s mind wakes increase — however, the human being is quiet dreaming, and also the human body is tho paralyzed.

"Lying in bed in such a state of paralysis, the brain"s threat-activated vigilance mechanism kicks in and helps to develop a compound hallucination of a creature sitting on the chest," Blom said Live Science.

What the afflicted person sees is a combination of their actual surroundings and a nightmare, i m sorry is projected onto the real world. The experience feels particularly real, Blom said.

Tracking demons

In the meta-analysis, i beg your pardon was released in November in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, the researcher looked in ~ 13 studies of the incubus phenomenon the included practically 1,800 people. The various studies came from assorted countries, consisting of Canada, the united States, China, Japan, Italy and Mexico.

The researchers discovered that end 1 in 10 people, or 11 percent that the general population, will suffer the incubus phenomenon in your lifetimes, Blom said. "That method that there is an 11 percent possibility for any given individual to suffer this at least once throughout their lives," he added.

But in specific groups, the odds of "encountering" an incubus room higher. Amongst people with psychiatric disorders, too as among refugees and also — somewhat surprisingly — students, the odds of enduring the incubus phenomenon space as high together 41 percent, Blom said.

The analysis additionally found that civilization sleeping on their backs are an ext likely to suffer the phenomenon. Alcohol consumption and also irregular sleeping patterns also make an incubus visit an ext probable, Blom said.

Though the frightening suffer gets typically dismissed together "just a bad dream," Blom listed that the incubus phenomenon deserve to lead to extr problems, including anxiety, difficulty sleeping due to fear and also even delusional disorder, a mental disease akin come schizophrenia.

In the paper, the researchers speculated around a possible link in between the incubus phenomenon and also sudden unexpected death syndrome, a situation in i beg your pardon a healthy and balanced person inexplicably die in his or she sleep.

"People who have actually experienced the incubus phenomenon frequently report a level of tension that is "off the scale,"" Blom said. "Many the them have actually the feeling that they will actually die during an attack. Whether that ever happens is unknown, also though because that a human experiencing it, it is not difficult to imagine this ."

The analysis additionally found that the form of the incubus figure and also how human being react to it deserve to vary based on the person"s social background.

For example, "patients v Muslim background frequently tell me the they view the incubus phenomenon as a proof the they space being haunted by a jinn, an invisible spirit developed by Allah out of smokeless fire," Blom said.

Sometimes, however, the incubus might take top top a much more friendly and entertaining form.

"I newly spoke to a healthy 15-year-old girl who had experienced the incubus phenomenon," Blom said. "She discovered four miniature penguins dining in ~ a table on her chest, and had been thrilled and amused rather than scared."

Originally released on Live Science.

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Tereza is a London-based scientific research and modern technology journalist, video producer and health blogger. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she invested the very first seven year of she career functioning as a reporter, script-writer and also presenter for miscellaneous TV programmes of the Czech nationwide TV station. She later on took a career rest to go after further education and included a master in scientific research from the International an are University, France, to her Bachelor"s level in Journalism native Prague"s Charles University. She is passionate around nutrition, meditation and also psychology, and also sustainability.