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The earliest Chinese dictionary, the Shou Wen Chieh Tzu, dating from the Eastern Han dynasty around AD30 to AD124, records for the first time the Chinese written character for ghost oppression, which combines the characters for oppression and ghost.
Sleep paralysis affects fewer than 8 per cent of the general population, although about 25 per cent of all people have probably experienced it at some point during their life.
"The strong association of sleep paralysis with out-of-body experiences in the near-death experience subject is curious and unexplained," he says.
"However, people with near death experiences appear to have an arousal system predisposed to both REM intrusion and out-of-body experiences." While sleep paralysis is considered relatively harmless, there are some associated sleep disorders that can be debilitating.
Sleep can be divided into four stages during which your brain activity, heart rate and breathing rate slow down.
This phenomenon has taken on a paranormal dimension in various interpretations across cultures.
In East Asia, such attacks are known as "ghost oppression", building upon ancient Chinese belief that a person's soul is vulnerable to the influence of evil spirits during sleep.
The first, sensing an intruder, may be caused by the combination of lower sensory detection thresholds and high activity in the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain.
Breathing difficulty is due to paralysis of the muscles in the upper airways that causes feelings of choking and suffocation.
Gripped by a blinding fear, you struggle against an invisible force holding you down.