Ever since history started being recorded, people have been reporting ghost sightings, weird happenings such as hauntings or poltergeists, and of course, aliens.
A new study might be able to explain some of that, as it found people who experienced disturbed sleep (think insomnia or sleep paralysis) are more likely to experience these strange phenomenon.
In the study, paranormal beliefs – including sightings of aliens and the paranormal – were linked to a plethora of sleep variables in the research recently published by the Journal of Sleep Research.
Researchers from the University of London working on the study sampled nearly 9,000 people and their experiences. It involved assessing demographics, sleep disturbances and paranormal beliefs reported by each participant.
The results were interesting. It was found that those with poorer subjective sleep quality – including ‘lower sleep efficiency, longer sleep latency, shorter sleep duration and increased insomnia symptoms’ – had a greater chance of expressing paranormal beliefs and to have experienced things themselves.
The paranormal beliefs study participants were more likely to have, included the existence of ghosts and life after death, demons and aliens on earth, communication with the afterlife, and near-death experiences.
Sleep paralysis has a lot to answer for
Conditions such as exploding head syndrome (where you hear loud noises or perceive an explosion in your head during waking up or going to sleep) and isolated sleep paralysis were apparently also linked to a belief that aliens have visited our planet. Although, to be fair, you just have to look at recent news to be persuaded into believing these things.
Isolated sleep paralysis has also been linked to near-death experiences as being evidence for life continuing after death – the soul living on, as it were.
Scientists wrote: “Should these results be replicated, one possible explanation for these findings is that uncertainty and indecisiveness (in this case uncertain beliefs) may lead to anxiety, which in turn can interfere with sleep.
They continued: “Findings obtained here indicate that there are associations between beliefs in the paranormal and various sleep variables.”
Take this study with a pinch of salt
Researchers were quick to admit the limitations of the study, stating that a cause-and-effect relationship could not be determined.
The participants were self-selected, and therefore were unlikely to be representative of the general population. There may also be other factors contributing to these beliefs that were not assessed.
However, one good thing about the findings is that they may help people be better equipped to deal with disturbed sleep, and help to support healthier sleep, via psychoeducation.
The final word? “Mechanisms underlying these associations are likely complex, and need to be further explored to fully understand why people sometimes report ‘things that go bump in the night.”