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What ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ Got Right About Sleep Paralysis

Spoilers ahead: If you haven’t watched “The Haunting of Hill House” or at least until episode five, please don’t read further.

I never thought one could be paralyzed in their sleep until it happened to me. It was three years ago when I had my first episode. I thought it was just one of my nightmares or some lucid dreaming, like that in “Vanilla Sky,” but it wasn’t.

It felt so real that I can still remember how it unfolded that evening. I woke up one night because I felt like I was falling endlessly. I was screaming so loud because then, I could feel like the pitch black tunnel through which I fell was getting narrower and tighter. It was suffocating. I can still remember how loud my scream was and I know I was crying for help. I opened my eyes only to realize my body was frozen in bed. I couldn’t move a muscle. I couldn’t even close my eyes again. I was so scared — so scared that I was starting to have a panic attack. I was still screaming but no one could hear me. I fought back and breathed as hard as I could. Then I woke up, tired, gasping for air and confused about what just happened.

It was one of the scariest nights of sleep in my life.

The morning after, as vivid as it was, I shared it with my parents because I have a habit of sharing my dreams and nightmares to brush off the anxiety they caused me. “You don’t pray at night, that’s why,” my father said. “Stop watching horror films at night and sleep early,” my mom added.

I tried to understand them because parents will always be parents. I tried to explain it was sleep paralysis, that it was real and I needed to see a doctor. Nothing happened.

Three years later and I’m still having the same episodes, only the last one was the worst. There was a figure on top of me, grappling me tightly. I couldn’t sleep for days after that.

Then it hit me. I was watching Netflix’s “The Haunting of Hill House,” which honestly really deserves Stephen King’s nod. I have so many other things to say about the series, but there’s one thing that hits close to home: episode five, “The Bent-Neck Lady.”

While the episode revolves around Nell’s past and difficulties with sleep paralysis, there’s one particular scene that strongly echoes the struggles of people dealing with it. It was when Arthur told Nell the next steps she needed to go through in order to find the best “escape” from it. Nell’s face lit up like a child because her general practitioner only advised her to “stop watching TV at night.” Finally, someone believed her; someone was willing to help her and someone took her seriously.

I found myself smiling during that short but sweet scene. I felt like I’m not alone in this and that our struggles are as real as other disorders. I know this phenomenon is not yet fully explained by science and that doctors are still finding the best solution for sleep paralysis. Despite this, I know a little understanding goes a long way, just like how Arthur was to Nell, regardless of whether he’s a sleep technologist or not.

Sleep paralysis is a haunting, creepy experience that no cup of chamomile tea or ounce of prayer can heal. It’s a disorder that may lead to other serious things like panic attack and insomnia.

Sleep paralysis is real and just like Nell, we need you to believe in us.

Image via “The Haunting of Hill House” Facebook Page

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