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New sleep study could explain sightings of ghosts, aliens and daemons

Factors behind reports of 'things that go bump in the night’ should be explored further, say scientists

Vishwam Sankaran
Monday 23 January 2023 06:39 GMT
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People who experience disturbed sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep paralysis are more likely to report seeing aliens or ghosts, according to a new study.

Paranormal beliefs – such as sightings of ghosts, daemons and aliens – were linked to a range of sleep variables in the research, published recently in the Journal of Sleep Research, that had a large sample of nearly 9,000 people.

Researchers from the University of London assessed demographics, sleep disturbances and paranormal beliefs reported by the participants.

They found that those who had poorer subjective sleep quality, including reports of lower sleep efficiency, longer sleep latency, shorter sleep duration and increased insomnia symptoms, were more likely to express greater endorsement of various paranormal beliefs.

These included beliefs that souls live on after death, the existence of ghosts, daemons and aliens on Earth, the ability for some people to communicate with the dead as well as citing near-death experiences as evidence for life after death.

Conditions like exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis were found to be linked to a belief that aliens have visited Earth, the study noted.

Exploding head syndrome is a condition characterised by loud noises or a perception of an explosion in the patient’s head during their wake-sleep or sleep-wake transitions.

Researchers also found isolated sleep paralysis to be linked to the belief that near-death experiences are evidence for life after death.

“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,” scientists wrote.

“Findings obtained here indicate that there are associations between beliefs in the paranormal and various sleep variables,” they added.

Citing some of the limitations of the study, researchers said a cause-and-effect relationship could not be ascertained.

They said the participants were self-selected and were unlikely to be representative of the general population.

“Other phenomena that may contribute to these beliefs were not assessed,” the scientists pointed out.

The findings, however, can help people better equip themselves to support sleep via psychoeducation, according to them.

“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’,” they added.

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