Consider this post a sample of the kind of thing I will be covering in my book “Differential Diagnosis of the Paranormal: Did I See a Ghost?” The premise for this nonfiction work will be the combination of my counseling skills/psychic abilities/ghost hunting experience/medical career background/rational-thought processes. Given my strange set of talents and exposures throughout my lifetime, one of my best skill sets is taking people through an experience to determine if it might have been paranormal or not. People come to me all the time with photos, audio, and tales of what happened to them and they inevitably want to know, “was it paranormal?”
Probably the most common time to have a ghostly visitation is around sleep time. I usually take people through a line of questioning first. We can delineate whether or not this is possible paranormal activity or parasomnia (sleep-related) problems.
Here’s some of the typical questions I present:
1. Has it occurred more than once?
If it’s occurred once, it could be a single event in which case we can’t discern if it was paranormal or parasomnia.
If it’s occurred more than once, please keep a log. I want to know the times, the details, how you felt, how you noticed it and how it seemed to go away.
2. Does it occur at the same time of night, like say 3:30 am?
If the answer to this is yes, you might very well have set your internal clock. This is very common. You know, when you have to get up 7:30 am and you wake up at 7:27? We have an interesting internal clock inside our bodies and once you set the clock and note it upon awakening, you recall that number and it becomes your “magic” number. You see a similar thing in your family dog. He comes and sits at the door at 5:30, knowing you’re going to be home from work. So, you’ve awakened at 3:30 in the morning and noted the clock with exasperation. The next night, you go to sleep and wake up at 3:29 and you are even more exasperated. You have now officially gotten yourself used to waking around 3:30. There are lots of reasons that people wake up during the “witching hour,” but the most commons ones are stress and anxiety and the other is a reset clock. All it takes is when you wake in the morning at 7:27, you note the time on the clock. This helps you imprint the new true time to wake up. When you go to bed, click on your alarm time of 7:30 and study it for a moment. Go to bed. You will soon forget to wake at the cursed 3:30 time.
If your answer to this question is no, then we might be dealing with the #1 culprit—uncomfortable sleep. Restless sleep occurs when you are tossing, turning, and not comfortable. You wake up at various times of night and finally awakened stiff, sore and generally exhausted. As well, sleep apnea (brief periods of stopping breathing) can also cause one to startle and awaken, as well as the sound of your own snoring. If the answer is no, we move on to #3.
3. Do you have a history of sleep apnea, night terrors, sleep paralysis, sleep walking/eating?
If the answer to this is yes, I’d say we’ve just upped your chances of parasomnia issues 10 fold.
If you said no, you’ve never had these issues, then I would refer to #4 next.
4. Do you take any meds?
If your answer is yes, let’s find out what kind of meds and how long you’ve been taking them.
If the answer is no, then we are on to #5.
5. Was there anything stressful going on in your life when with this occurred?
If your answer is yes, we might go on to discuss the timing of the sleep issues with the stress/anxiety and if it has affected your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep.
If the answer is no, we are on to #6
6. Do you notice any other symptoms when it happens, like inability to move or intense terror?
If your answer is yes, I am putting you on the yes to #3 category.
If the answer is no, you were able to move and didn’t feel terror that made you call out in distress, then we go on to #7.
7. Does it happen when you are falling asleep, waking up, or during the night?
If you say it happens while falling asleep, I am likely to consider that you have fallen into sleep state and did not realize it. We often think we were up until 2 am but we actually had brief periods of sleep. As well, during the falling asleep period we enter alpha state which is a very receptive time to get information. This is why we get great ideas about a project while falling asleep and have to rush to find a post-it pad and a pen. It also might make us more receptive to spirit communication, as well.
If you say it happened when you awakened in the morning, it’s highly likely this was during REM. If we wake up during REM (dream state), we usually not only recall the dreams vividly, but we can see things with our opening eyes that are still from the dream state which is much like sleep paralysis where your body is still in the paralytic state during dreams (a wonderful protection to keep us from acting out our dreams). Note if your body was slow to respond or move and once you were fully awake, the phenomenon ended.
If it happens in the middle of the night, I would want to ask you a few more things. The shifting sleep states can arouse you to awaken, as well as turning in bed and adjusting the pillow. In those brief moments, you might experience phenomenon, but I would want to know if the phenomenon woke you up or you woke up and felt something strange about the room.
The combination of a dark room, semi-sleeping state and the general unease adults feel about suspended animation of sleep and some of the residual childhood issues with it makes the bedroom the ideal place to experience phenomenon. However, it also makes you a wonderful subject for contact. Messages from dead relatives most often happen in the bedroom not over tea in the living room
Not all bedroom encounters are otherworldly. The majority can easily be dismissed, but the few that have qualities which defy explanation can be attributed to the receptive state that non-practicing psychics are in during their relaxed state. I say non-practicing psychics because we’re all wired for it, we just use it or don't develop it.