A new sleep study may explain sightings of ghosts, aliens and demons

People who experience sleep disturbances due to conditions such as insomnia or sleep paralysis are more likely to report seeing aliens or ghosts, according to a new study.

Paranormal beliefs – such as sightings of ghosts, demons and aliens – have been linked to a number of sleep variables in a study recently published in the Journal of Sleep Research that included a large sample of nearly 9,000 people.

Researchers from the University of London assessed demographics, sleep disorders and paranormal beliefs reported by participants.

They found that those who had poorer subjective sleep quality, including reports of lower sleep efficiency, longer sleep latency, shorter sleep duration, and increased insomnia symptoms, were more likely to express greater support for various paranormal beliefs.

These included beliefs that souls live after death, the existence of spirits, demons, and aliens on Earth, the ability of some people to communicate with the dead, and citing near-death experiences as evidence of life after death.

Conditions such as exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis have been linked to the belief that aliens have visited Earth, the study noted.

Exploding head syndrome is a condition characterized by loud sounds or sensations of explosions in the patient’s head while transitioning from wake to sleep or sleep to wake.

Researchers have also found that isolated sleep paralysis is linked to the belief that near-death experiences are evidence of life after death.

“If these results are replicated, one possible explanation for these findings is that uncertainty and indecision (in this case, uncertain beliefs) can lead to anxiety, which in turn can disrupt sleep,” the researchers wrote.

“The results obtained here indicate that there are associations between beliefs in the paranormal and various sleep variables,” they added.

Citing some of the study’s limitations, the researchers said a cause and effect relationship could not be established.

They said the participants were self-selected and unlikely to be representative of the general population.

“Other phenomena that may contribute to these beliefs have not been evaluated,” the researchers noted.

According to them, however, the findings may help people better prepare to support sleep through psychoeducation.

“The mechanisms underlying these associations are likely complex and need to be further explored to fully understand why people sometimes report ‘things that hit at night’,” they added.

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