Liberal Arts

Professor discusses sleep paralysis in National Geographic documentary

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A Penn State professor will talk about sleep paralysis at 4 p.m. Eastern Time Friday, Aug. 10, during National Geographic's two-hour documentary titled "The Secret History of UFOs."

Brian Sharpless, clinical assistant professor of psychology in the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State, will offer a psychological explanation for why people believe they may have been abducted.

Sharpless stated that, "Sleep paralysis is the experience of either falling asleep or waking up and finding that you are unable to move, yet you have some degree of conscious awareness and your eyes are still able to look around the room. It's often a terrifying experience for people who are suffering from it ... not only from the paralysis itself, but because of the hallucinations that often accompany it."

Sharpless conducted research on sleep paralysis along with Jacques Barber from the University of Pennsylvania. Those research findings, which showed that sleep paralysis is a fairly common experience, were published in a 2011 article in "Sleep Medicine Reviews."
According to Sharpless, about 8 percent of the general population, 28 percent of students and 32 percent of psychiatric patients have experienced at least one episode of sleep paralysis.

To watch a portion of this National Geographic documentary, go to online.

Brian Sharpless, clinical assistant professor of psychology Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated August 09, 2012