Does Clinical death experience and sleep paralysis experience are the same? did anyone die due to sleep paralysis?

  • 2
    Interesting question. But: Requests for personal medical advice are off topic here, so please edit your question to make it general rather than specifically about you. Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 9:08
  • @LangLangC I have edited the points you have noted.
    – Unknown x
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 7:32
  • If they died, how are they going to report? Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 10:14
  • but, there is a possibility of a test using fMRI, MRI, etc on different people( person about to die and person experiencing sleep paralysis) can't we do a comparison?
    – Unknown x
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 10:27

1 Answer 1


This is a complicated question. As far as I understand this it is about comparing near death experiences and sleep paralysis. (Commonly, I would regard in this context "clinical death" as real death. A really final stage of life from where there is no coming back by definition – and for example Jesus is not recorded to have said much about this experience afterwards. Other instances of people 'coming back' seem even less trustworthy anecdotes.)

What is near death experience (NDE)?

According to the NDE-scale a near-death-experience includes a few, or several, of the following 16 elements:

  • Time speeds up or slows down.
  • Thought-processes speed up.
  • A return of scenes from the past.
  • A sudden insight, or understanding.
  • A feeling of peace or pleasantness.
  • A feeling of happiness, or joy.
  • A sense of harmony or unity with the universe.
  • Confrontation with a brilliant light.
  • The senses feel more vivid.
  • An awareness of things going on elsewhere, as if by extrasensory perception (ESP).
  • Experiencing scenes from the future.
  • A feeling of being separated from the body.
  • Experiencing a different, unearthly world.
  • Encountering a mystical being or presence, or hearing an unidentifiable voice.
  • Seeing deceased or religious spirits.
  • Coming to a border, or point of no return.

Joy, peace and happiness seem to be in direct contradiction with what is commonly said about sleep paralysis:

What is sleep paralysis (SP)?

Sleep paralysis is a relatively common but under-researched phenomenon. While the causes are unknown, a number of studies have investigated potential risk factors. […] Sleep paralysis involves a period of time at either sleep onset or upon awakening from sleep during which voluntary muscle movements are inhibited. Ocular and respiratory movements remain unaltered and perception of the immediate environment is clear. These episodes are frequently associated with a variety of hallucinations, such as a sense of an evil presence (known as intruder hallucinations), pressure felt on the chest (incubus hallucinations), and illusory feelings of movement (vestibular-motor (V-M) hallucinations). Sleep paralysis is a global phenomenon, with terms for sleep paralysis existing in over 100 cultures. In many places, sleep paralysis experiences are interwoven with a culture’s folklore. Episodes of sleep paralysis have been suggested as an explanation for supposed paranormal phenomena such as witchcraft, demonic assault, and space alien abduction. Fear and distress are typically associated with episodes, though feelings of bliss are sometimes reported.

That seems to be a much complicated issue: near universal neurological and psychological experiences are reported with wildly differing language. It is debatable how much of this is cultural influence of what is talked about afterwards or cultural difference of what is actually experienced.

But the one thing in common for NDE and SP is the so called out-of-body experience.

Sleep Paralysis, "The Ghostly Bedroom Intruder" and Out-of-Body Experiences: The Role of Mirror Neurons. This interaction involves a convergence of inputs in the right SPL, and their target zones in V5. Not surprisingly, damage to the prefrontal cortex sometimes results in echopraxia — i.e., miming what somebody near is doing. Analogously, the massive deafferentation of sensory input during SP would lead to a similar disinhibition of the MNS and its propensity to project its body into another individual — if you are a chimp — or another virtual body, if you are a human. A disturbance of these interactions would lead to the more florid manifestations of an alien abductor, bedroom intruder, or mysterious other — seen so frequently during SP. In addition, we suggest that OBEs during SP, likewise result from the massive deafferentation that occurs during REM sleep paralysis. These ideas could be explored using neuroimaging, to examine the selective activation of brain regions associated with mirror neuron activity, when the individual is hallucinating an intruder or having an OBE during SP.

The overlap for this is sometimes striking:

Other noteworthy influence factors are certain circumstances that arise during operations. These include so-called anaesthesia awareness. Patients do not feel any pain, but for a short time — seconds or minutes — they are in fact awake. This short time feels to them as if it were an eternity. So after the operation, they can tell astonished clinical staff about details of the operation, such as what the surgeons were talking about. If in addition out-of-body experiences are induced by medication, we can picture to ourselves how a patient might talk about this afterwards: he might well say that he had come out of his body and observed what was going on in the operating room. Theoretically, in such a situation, the out-of-body experience could also be explained by saying that the anaesthetic did not work completely, so that the patient was awake but did not feel his own body. This is an association which resembles sleep paralysis. Such anaesthesia awareness is a relatively frequent phenomenon, occurring in one out of every 1,000 cases of narcosis. Worse are conditions in which the experience of pain is not completely switched off. This happens in three out of every 10,000 narcoses. Consider a typical hospital in the German city of Leipzig with 1,700 patient beds and 43,000 patients annually. Statistically, 320 operations are conducted every week! Now we can much better imagine how often such things occur. The chances of experiencing anaesthesia awareness are rather high. Thus, iatrogenic near-death experiences are highly probable in patients who undergo an operation.<(1), p 99.>

There are certainly beliefs out there, that draw a direct connection:

The Night-mare, Traditional Hmong Culture, and Sudden Death (Sudden Death and the Night-mare: Is There a Connection?) Thanks to the many Hmong men and women with whom I spoke, the logic of the Hmong explanation for the role of dab tsog in the sudden nocturnal deaths was now clear to me. Although it was its resonance with the night-mare that first drew me to the topic of SUNDS, part of me wished that there was no connection—that the syn- drome could be attributed to causes entirely recognizable within the biomedical model and that would not, through a cultural vector, provide yet another opportunity for some to view the Hmong immigrants as exotic and alien. The traumatic recent history of the Hmong refugees (that led to their resettling in the United States) soon revealed a biocultural connection that was previously obscured by historical and geographical distance. I will now turn to this relationship to show how Hmong explanations of lethal dab tsog attacks can simultaneously be understood from a biomedical perspective. <(3) p 94–116.>

That last citation is followed with "The Night-mare and the Nocebo – Beliefs That Harm" (emphasis added).


There is an overlap in the descriptions of both phenomena, but this is rather small. This suggests that they are not the same but seem to share certain pathways on the biological level and certain expectations on the cultural level. It is unlikely that someone who is "just" having a sleep paralysis really dies from that alone – it is nevertheless a distressful experience that might amplify underlying conditions – and if nocebo adds to that this might not be entirely harmless. Fortunately, sleep paralysis seems to be a lot more treatable than death.

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