Old Hag Syndrome – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is Old Hag syndrome?

The old hag syndrome is characterized by sleep paralysis. The condition is also referred to as night hag by others. The sufferers complain of an inability to move when most of their senses are working properly. There are some instances that they would complain of intense feeling of pressure on their chest. According to history, the said syndrome is derived from the belief of having an old hag or witch to do with the said phenomenon. This kind of belief is primarily triggered by some old belief and superstitions. Scientifically, the condition is associated with the alteration of the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep of the affected. Healthy individuals are not even spared of such phenomenon that it has been associated with episodes of wakefulness at night with hallucination tendencies.

Old Hag Syndrome Pics

Old Hag Syndrome Believed to be Caused by An Old Hag

The condition is proposed to affect about 30% of the total population. Others are in denial that such phenomenon occurred to them or cannot share the experience to others.

Symptoms and characteristics

The condition is believed to be affecting the REM sleep or the rapid eye movement. The characteristics of the condition are presented by the following:

  • Awakening in the middle of the night with the sense of complete paralysis taking over. There are times that the episode occurs right before sleep that the affected feels restricted in every movement.
  • Sense of panic is experienced by the affected but cannot move leaving the sense of sight, smell, touch and hearing is still intact.
  • Possibility of hallucinations are noted where the client senses flight from danger. The affected would speak of sightings described as someone stepping on their chest making movement impossible. They tend to associate the syndrome to be a paranormal experience rather than a psychological one.
  • Instances provide the client feeling that the episode was not real and interpret the experience as a dream.


The root cause for old hag syndrome is still in the process of finding out. There has been no exact explanation of the phenomenon. It has been proposed that the affectation of the REM sleep is one of the causes. Surveys according to many countries pointed out that sleep paralysis is somehow a phenomenon experienced by individuals even once in their life. The following are the said triggering factors for an episode of old hag syndrome:

  • Narcolepsy. This is a chronic sleep problem that is defined as increased sleepiness. Those who suffer from narcolepsy have a short time of REM sleep compared to most of the population. It has been reported to trigger such syndrome as narcoleptics tend suffer from muscular weakness.
  • Sleeping manner is also considered as a factor triggering old hag syndrome. Those who sleep in a supine position tend to be prone to such condition.
  • Stress can also be pointed out as a precipitating factor most especially when one sleeps in a new environment abruptly. Lifestyle changes and alterations are also considered to trigger such syndrome.

Treatment of Old Hag Syndrome

Treatment for old hag syndrome is not directed in eliminating the disease itself. The cure for the said syndrome is not yet known, as the exact cause is not definite. The treatment course for old hag syndrome is aimed to manage the manifestations and to avoid recurrence of the undesirable episodes:

  • Proper education regarding the condition should be rendered. This can provide awareness on the part of the affected thus assisting them in avoiding the risk factors associated with the syndrome.
  • Stress should be avoided.
  • Sleeping manner should be altered.
  • Medications are provided to clients. Usually a dose of clonazepam is provided to clients in assisting sleeping paralysis.

Prevention of Old Hag Syndrome

Prevention is possible with this condition. The sufferer should take note that awareness of the problem can assist in avoiding another episode of old hag syndrome. The affected should remember that having a stress-free environment can reduce the probability of having an episode. It is beneficial on their parts when they avoid taking stimulants before sleeping. Avoid eating too much before sleep and not drinking caffeinated drinks are good ways in averting old hag syndrome episode. Smoking should also be restricted before sleep time.

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