New sleep research could explain sightings of ghosts, aliens and demons

People with 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 seeing ghosts, demons, and aliens, were linked to a range of sleep variables in a study that included a large sample of nearly 9,000 people, recently published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

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

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

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

The study found that conditions such as exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis were linked to the belief that aliens visited Earth.

Exploding head syndrome is a condition characterized by the patient’s perception of loud noises or an explosion in his head during wake-sleep or sleep-wake transitions.

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, vague beliefs) can lead to anxiety, which in turn can interfere with sleep,” the scientists wrote.

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

Addressing some of the limitations of the study, the researchers said that a cause-effect relationship could not be determined.

They said the participants were self-selected and unlikely to represent the general population.

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

But according to them, the findings could help people better equip themselves to support sleep through psychoeducation.

“The mechanisms underlying these associations are likely complex and need further investigation to fully understand why people sometimes report ‘sudden occurrences at night’,” they added.

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