Nighttime is naturally suitable for paranormal activities, with less light and sound to limit imagination.
While the relationship between paranormal beliefs and one of the most important nighttime activities for us earthly beings remains murky, new research reveals an interesting link: sleep.
Subjective measures of poorer sleep quality ended up being linked to much stronger beliefs about ghosts as well as demons, the soul living on after death, an ability for individuals to speak with the dead as proof of an afterlife, and aliens visiting Earth.
The authors of the study state their diminished quality of sleep consisted of lower sleep efficiency, longer sleep latency, shorter sleep duration and improved insomnia symptoms.
The perception that aliens have visited Earth is related to isolated sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome, a condition characterized by the sensation of a loud noise or crashing sound inside a person’s skull, the scientists say.
Isolated sleep paralysis was likewise associated with the perception that near-death experiences were proof for life after death, a study published Wednesday.
“this is a unique finding worthy of more exploration, to the very best of our knowledge,” the authors write.
They generally fit with prior studies, which have also discovered links between paranormal beliefs and sleep variables, especially sleep paralysis, they say. The present study, however, seeks to shed more light on this by studying a larger sample and a wider range of slumber factors.
Researchers carried out the study through a web-based survey, with recruitment being advertised through social media and by BBC Science Focus Magazine. There were 8,853 participants, all a minimum of 18 years of age, who responded to questions on a number of paranormal topics and sleep factors.
For all associations, it was found that a higher level of paranormal perception was associated with a poorer subjective sleep quality, even when controlling for gender and age.
The brand new analysis may help us understand the link between paranormal beliefs and sleep factors, although it was not meant to answer the follow up question of why these two elements are related.
Some speculation is offered by the authors, though. The results suggest a belief in aliens might be related to sleep disturbances featuring sounds or images, since sleep paralysis can entail visual and auditory hallucinations, and exploding head syndrome has its namesake sound.
‘somebody experiencing sounds and images related to sleep could interpret this as evidence that aliens or other supernatural beings exist,” they write, “but much more research is needed to check this.
The scientists pointed out that a few of the associations might go the other way, with paranormal beliefs causing anxiety which disrupts sleep. Kids could find it hard to sleep due to the possibility of paranormal guests at night.
The findings explain why belief in ghosts, demons as well as aliens was associated with decreased subjective sleep quality. what about beliefs which don’t involve menacing entities? Is the quality of sleep influenced by anxieties about the afterlife?
They say more research is necessary to answer these questions, including studies which look at further aspects like personality traits, religion, and emotional health, because of their associations with sleep as well as paranormal beliefs.
The new research could help illuminate this link as well as fill in gaps in our understanding, though it has its limitations.
For instance, despite the large sample size, participants self-selected to take part in the research and are thus unlikely to be representative of the overall population.
“the apparently high rates of separated sleep paralysis [and exploding head syndrome] could suggest that individuals with such symptoms were much more likely to be keen on participating in this particular study,” they write.
Research on paranormal beliefs and sleep, they are saying, must make use of objective measures of sleep variables for greater accuracy, and recruit more representative samples.
The authors say their study offers new insights on the link between sleep and paranormal beliefs, and while there is still a lot to learn, it can help clients and healthcare providers understand the mere association.
Reports of bizarre activity or unusual beliefs could be mistaken for prima facie evidence for more serious disorders, “they write. “in addition to other forms of psychopathology, this study might encourage physicians to evaluate for useful sleep disturbances and parasomnias.
The study was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.