Sleep paralysis (SP) is a sleep disorder characterized by a waking state and an inability to move (paralysis) occurring suddenly during sleep. Although the prevalence rate in the general population is usually around 7.6%, it is elevated in the college student population to around 28.3%. Furthermore, research has linked the experience of SP episodes to the cultural background and paranormal beliefs of an individual.
Aims: The present study hence aims to determine: (1) the prevalence of SP in the Indian college population, (2) the relationship between the locus of control (LOC) of an individual with the frequency and intensity of SP episodes based on a hypothesized pathway of an individual experiencing less fear with an increased sense of control, and (3) the relationship between proneness to stress of an individual and the experience of SP episodes. The study also incorporates an exploratory analysis to investigate relationships between the proneness of stress, LOC and the experience of SP including intensity and frequency of the first episode, and of the latest episode.
Materials and methods: An online survey method is used with voluntary response sampling. A total of 150 participants responded to the survey, measuring SP experience, intensity and frequency, LOC, and proneness to stress.
Results: No significant differences were found in the intensity and frequency of SP episodes among the three LOCs (external chance, external powerful others, and internal), or in people with high proneness to stress and in people with low proneness to stress. A significant relationship was found between the external LOC and the presence of the intruder hallucination, and between the fear intensity of the first episode and the number of lifetime episodes.
Conclusion: The experience of SP is not related to LOCs, but the frequency of episodes is related to the fear felt during the first episode.
Clinical significance: Sleep paralysis interventions can target fear associated with SP to bring down the frequency of episodes.
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