Sensation of being pushed into the bed
April 11, 2011 8:34 PM   Subscribe

What shoved me down into the bed and woke me from my dream?

A few times in my life (five? ten?) I've had the distinct sensation of being forcefully shoved down into the bed on the point of waking up. This was always coming out of a dream, and often what was something broadly related to a "falling" dream, in which I awoke at the instant I hit the ground. But it was not falling off a building or a cliff, necessarily - the one specific example I can remember is stepping off a curb onto a street (in the dream), and at the point where my foot hit the street pavement below the sidewalk, I felt physically as if my whole body was pushed into the bed -- a very sudden, strong, and forceful push downwards.

However, it doesn't seem really feasible that I pushed myself into the bed; lie down right now and then try, via some sort of jerking motion, to push yourself into the bed. Not easy to do.

[The closest thing I can find to this is a hypnic jerk. But I don't really think that's it, partly because the majority of these experiences have been at the end of a lengthy duration of sleep, not right at the beginning of sleep, and mainly because "an involuntary twitch" doesn't seem to describe what I felt.]

Has anyone else felt something similar? Is there a name for this phenomenon? And what I most want to know: was I really physically pushed into the bed (by myself, presumably) -- that is, was there any real physical displacement in my body, or is that merely how my mind/body interpreted what happened as I came out of the dream?
posted by lewedswiver to Science & Nature (30 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've experienced something like this many times before, and no person sharing the bed with me has ever reported anything unusual. I don't know what name there is for the phenomenon other than dreaming, but I'm pretty sure that's all that's going on.
posted by katillathehun at 8:40 PM on April 11, 2011

I have no real information about this, but wanted to let you know that this has been happening to me once every few month I'd say, ever since I can remember. Definitely more than 5-10 times in my lifetime.

It always happens to me in dreams where I'm slipping or falling, and wakes me up. My heart is usually racing as well. Sometimes I think that I fell off of my bed, but that is never the case. I always assumed that there was some sort of physical displacement to go along with it.
posted by carmel at 8:44 PM on April 11, 2011

Part of what you describe, specifically the sensation of being pushed into the bed, reminds me a bit of sleep paralysis. It hasn't happened to me in a few years but I've experienced that maybe a dozen or so times in my life. The big difference between that and what you're describing is that with sleep paralysis, there's a sensation that you are being held down for a (sometime short) period of time before waking and not just suddenly pushed to the point of wakefulness, if that makes any sense.
posted by dhammond at 8:44 PM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

I felt physically

I guess the point is that you feel with your brain - it doesn't need to be physical, and it almost certainly wasn't. You may have felt that something was happening to you physically, but it was just that - a feeling.
posted by Dasein at 8:45 PM on April 11, 2011

Yes, do take a look at the sleep paralysis article--among other names for it throughout history is being "hag ridden," which is fairly evocative of your description.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:46 PM on April 11, 2011

Sleep paralysis seems to run in my family and this body convulsion thing will happen to me sometimes if I'm extremely overtired or suffering from lung congestion. It usually comes at the end of a session of being "held down" and it's like I'm finally jerking myself awake.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:00 PM on April 11, 2011

It happens to me as well - usually as I'm falling asleep. I've been told it's easy to tell when I've actually fallen asleep, because my leg twitches -- but it's only the severe twitches (more like violent leg shakes or kicks) that wake me up. It's happens frequently (definitely more than 5-10 times in my life); I wake up around once every month or so due to it, sometimes more, sometimes less. And when I do wake up it's because I had the distinct feeling of falling or tripping. I don't know why it happens or what it's called though. I read the sleep paralysis article linked about, and although I'm not 100% sure that's it, I'm not sure I can dismiss it outright either. I'm not narcoleptic, there's no CSA, but I do fall asleep pretty easily, and I also suffer from migraines. Hmmm....
posted by cgg at 9:02 PM on April 11, 2011

I have felt that shoved into the bed feeling upon waking as well -- too many times to count. I'm with those who say that you aren't actually being physically shoved into the bed but *feel* as though you're being physically shoved into the bed. The mind is pretty powerful and can make you feel sensations that are not real, especially just before and just after sleep; hence, falling in a dream equals landing upon waking. At least that's what makes the most sense to me.
posted by patheral at 9:11 PM on April 11, 2011

It's a hypnic jerk.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:12 PM on April 11, 2011

Sleep paralysis. Happens to me too, almost exactly as you describe it. And yes, it's just your mind, but damn if it doesn't feel forcefully real, right?
posted by desuetude at 9:12 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and I meant to add, it happens to me often - usually I dream that I'm walking (on grass or the sidewalk) and I trip - just as I hit the ground I wake up with a start.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:13 PM on April 11, 2011

Oh, and I get hypnic jerks too, and it's definitely a different sensation, in the grand scheme of sleeping disorders.
posted by desuetude at 9:14 PM on April 11, 2011

Yeah, sleep paralysis, and it's just your mind. I've experienced the same thing upon awakening, and it's always been accompanied by hypnopompic hallucinations. It really only happens if I don't have my anxiety and sleep schedule under control.
posted by kiripin at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2011

It's a hypnic jerk.

I'm pretty sure this is something completely different because this generally occurs as one is falling asleep. I get those too, and it's a completely different sensation altogether. The hypnic jerk is an actual physical action -- it wakes anyone sleeping with me as well. But the other? Nothing physical actually happens and I'm the only one to wake up.
posted by patheral at 9:17 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

This kind of thing happens to me after a day of activity: I will have a dream while falling asleep, about the day's activity, like paintball or skiing or a steep hike. The dream will be that I am doing whatever I was doing, but then I fall somehow: I step into a hole, or wipeout on the skis, or whatever. The feeling when I wake up is that I was thrown down and landed on the bed. It always makes me laugh somewhat. I think it's normal.
posted by not_on_display at 9:24 PM on April 11, 2011

I do this too! I'm usually just walking when it happens, and suddenly I fall down the stairs or faceplant on the sidewalk. My psychologist said it sounded like a hypnic jerk, which has been suggested above.
posted by honeydew at 9:25 PM on April 11, 2011

I'm pretty sure it's hypnic jerk. Happens to me a few times a month, sometimes right when I'm falling asleep, and sometime once I've been asleep for a while. When I was a child, I was convinced that ghosts were lifting me up out of the bed while I was sleeping and then dropping me. I also get "the hag" now and then, which is a completely different sensation for me.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:08 PM on April 11, 2011

Another chime for NOT a hypnic jerk. Hypnic jerks physically twitch a leg or something, you can see it happening to people. They do not feel like falling, they feel like twitching. The falling sensation (I experience it occasionally,) feels like your entire body has fallen almost a foot, freefall. It is very disorientating.

fwiw, mine are not associated with falling dreams.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 10:31 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: I am fairly certain it is not sleep paralysis, as I have experienced that and it is a different phenomenon. The two central differences I see is that this feeling is a) very sudden, a fraction of a second long, and b) creates a very sharp dividing line between being asleep and being awake, whereas sleep paralysis is a) over a period of time, at the very least five to ten seconds and more likely a minute or two and b) very much a hazy almost-but-not-quite awake experience.

Based on the online descriptions of hypnic jerks, I tend to side with desuetede and patheral that it is *not* a hypnic jerk.

That the mind is turning a befuddling mix of oneiric neuron firings into a something concrete that the self can understand by creating the false sensation of being pushed into the bed is probably the most likely explanation, and certainly a fascinating one.
posted by lewedswiver at 10:31 PM on April 11, 2011

I personally think that is in fact a short-lived short paralysis, but aside from that I can attest that I experience both semi-regularly, if that establishes any kind of relationship
posted by MangyCarface at 10:35 PM on April 11, 2011

Here in Turkey they attribute this to an evil Djinn, the karabasan (loosely: "black presser"). Wikipedia
posted by Theiform at 2:58 AM on April 12, 2011

Its the hag. Let me look it up.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:01 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

This has happened to me a few times in the last few months, though never previously, I am on some new medication and wondered whether that was it, but it was usually when I was face down and fairly early on the in the night and I also wondered whether it was that I going to sleep in a slightly different position and struggling to turn over. I have always been face down when it happened.
posted by biffa at 3:23 AM on April 12, 2011

I've had these before as well a few years ago, from the tame versions similar to what's been described..all the way up to full on "Night Terrors" where it was combined with the inability to regain full consciousness/mobility. This went on for about a year off and on. I think what I final figured out was that they were caused by acid reflux (or stomach acid hanging out in the esophagus). After changing my diet a bit, using anti-acids more, and with a few weeks of PPI's with the occasional benadryl, I haven't had these happen since.
posted by samsara at 5:58 AM on April 12, 2011

Sounds like the night hag to me.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:16 AM on April 12, 2011

I've had similar events before. I went through a period about 25 years ago when it was practically a nightly event. Basically, I could not move in bed, with the feeling that something was holding me tight. Also, I could not make a sound or speak. Added to that, the events included the very real sensation that something horribly evil was coming down the hallway to my bedroom. It was truly horrifying to experience. This went on for a good year. I think moving our bed to a different location in the room stopped it. Go figure.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:10 AM on April 12, 2011

Incubus, succubus, boo hag... you are not alone. This is a common sensation, often accompanied by visions that can be downright terrifying. Nobody really understands consciousness, sleep is still a mystery in many ways, and the human brain is weird.

You are okay. If it really bothers you, you can take Ambien. I've heard that Requip works, too.
posted by Leta at 7:44 AM on April 12, 2011

I get it too, and I don't know what it's called. I usually wake up gasping.
posted by gaspode at 9:26 AM on April 12, 2011

I am fairly certain it is not sleep paralysis, as I have experienced that and it is a different phenomenon. The two central differences I see is that this feeling is a) very sudden, a fraction of a second long, and b) creates a very sharp dividing line between being asleep and being awake, whereas sleep paralysis is a) over a period of time, at the very least five to ten seconds and more likely a minute or two and b) very much a hazy almost-but-not-quite awake experience.

I'll point out here that a) your sense of time is almost definitely very altered in these moments and b) these two things you describe above may feel different to you, but aren't really so different that they couldn't be versions of the same phenomenon.
posted by desuetude at 10:44 PM on April 12, 2011

Specifically you mention that it happens at the beginning of sleep and not the end. I know personally that I can slip into a dream state very, very quickly and I am an occasional lucid dreamer and sleep paralysis sufferer (they seem to go hand-in-hand).

Something interesting that I learned: About a year or two ago, an infographic went around with "10 ways to play with your mind" or some such stuff. It mentioned tuning your radio to static and covering your eyes with ping-pong balls cut in half to sort-of simulate partial sensory isolation and then hallucinating. (Why ping-ping balls? I have no idea other than maybe the translucency lets in light.)

Funnily enough, I sleep with a fan running for my tinnitus and a sleep mask on to block light. It seems I started being able to slip quickly into a dream state after I started sleeping like this.

Ah, here it is. It even has a name - the Ganzfeld Procedure.

IMO, the fun and way-cool vivid and lucid dreams I have far outweigh the few, sometimes-scary sleep paralysis episodes.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:03 AM on April 13, 2011

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