Artist Recreates His Sleep Paralysis Nightmares In Creepy Photos

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 06 Aug 2020 15:11
Nicolas Bruno

An artist has recreated his sleep paralysis dreams in photographs, and it literally is the stuff of nightmares.

Nicolas Bruno has suffered with sleep paralysis since the age of 15, later turning to photography as a way to cope with it.


Sleep paralysis is the experience of being unable to move or speak as you are waking up or falling asleep. Typically, people only experience it once or twice in their lives, but it was a reoccurring thing for Nicolas. During these periods, he would experience vivid nightmares.

Causes of sleep paralysis can include insomnia, jet lag, PTSD and general anxiety disorders.

Nicolas, from Long Island, New York, took up photography at age 20, and has created hundreds of images since.


Explaining what the condition is like, Nicolas told Culture Trip:

I have experienced bone-chilling hallucinations and extreme terror during [my] dreams: faceless silhouetted figures, embraces from shadow-like hands, warping of reality around me – all while being completely paralysed in the midst of being awake and sleeping.

Nicolas said a ‘typical’ sleep paralysis experience, for him, begins with ‘a low and resonating humming or static,’ adding that despite trying to move his limbs, he is ‘immobilised and unable to fight the situation.’


He added:

Any attempts to scream out or fight back worsen the wave of anxiety and fear that piles onto your chest like a pouring bag of concrete. The room begins to pulsate and faceless figures will begin to emerge from the corners of my room… The room will seem to fill up with water as I begin to choke, while my ears [fill] with blown-out static and screaming noises.

His petrifying experiences lead to a cycle of insomnia and depression, which made him borderline suicidal. Nicolas then turned to photography as a way of regaining control of his condition, recreating dreams he’d written about in his sleep journal.

A common feature of his work is faceless people, who he says ‘depict the intruders that make their way into my sleep paralysis episodes.’ A lot of his work also features water, which demonstrates how he is submerged in his condition.


He explained how his work helps him cope:

Finding my voice through the creation of my deeply personal imagery gave me the boost that I needed to persevere and grow as an artist. Becoming a singular character or multiple figures allows me to physically relive the struggles within the dreams, and allows me to have my hand in each part of the image creation.

To prevent experiencing sleep paralysis, the NHS advises people to regularly get six to eight hours sleep a day, to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, and to exercise regularly.


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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Life, Now, Photography


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