The associations between paranormal beliefs and sleep variables

Betul Rauf, Rotem Perach, Juan J Madrid-Valero, Dan Denis, Brian A Sharpless, Giulia Lara Poerio, Christopher C. French, Alice M Gregory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have found significant associations between paranormal beliefs and sleep variables. However, these have been conducted on a small scale and are limited in the number of sleep variables investigated. This study aims to fill a gap in the literature by investigating paranormal beliefs in relation to a wide range of sleep variables in a large sample. Participants (N = 8853) completed a survey initiated by the BBC Focus Magazine. They reported on their demographics, sleep disturbances and paranormal beliefs. Poorer subjective sleep quality (lower sleep efficiency, longer sleep latency, shorter sleep duration and increased insomnia symptoms) was associated with greater endorsement of belief in: (1) the soul living on after death; (2) the existence of ghosts; (3) demons; (4) an ability for some people to communicate with the dead; (5) near-death experiences are evidence for life after death; and (6) aliens have visited earth. In addition, episodes of exploding head syndrome and isolated sleep paralysis were associated with the belief that aliens have visited earth. Isolated sleep paralysis was also associated with the belief that near-death experiences are evidence for life after death. Findings obtained here indicate that there are associations between beliefs in the paranormal and various sleep variables. This information could potentially better equip us to support sleep via psychoeducation. 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".

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13810
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of sleep research
Issue number4
Early online date11 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors.


  • Humans
  • Sleep Paralysis
  • Parapsychology
  • Sleep
  • Parasomnias
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders

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