Beliefs about sleep paralysis in Turkey: Karabasan attack

Transcult Psychiatry. 2021 Jun;58(3):414-426. doi: 10.1177/1363461520909616. Epub 2020 Mar 29.


The present study examined explanations of sleep paralysis (SP) in Turkey. The participants were 59 college students recruited in İstanbul, Turkey, who had experienced SP at least once in their lifetime. Participants were administered the Sleep Paralysis Experiences and Phenomenology Questionnaire (SP-EPQ) in an interview. When asked whether they had heard of a name for SP, the vast majority (88%) mentioned the "Karabasan"-a spirit-like creature rooted in Turkish folk tradition. Seventeen percent of the participants believed that their SP might have been caused by this supernatural creature. Thirty-seven percent of participants applied various supernatural and religious methods to prevent future SP attacks such as dua (supplicating to God), reciting the Quran, and wearing a musqa (a type of talisman inscribed with Quranic verses). Case studies are presented to illustrate these findings. The Karabasan constitutes a culturally specific, supernatural interpretation of the phenomenology of SP in Turkey.

Keywords: Turkey; cultural beliefs; sleep paralysis.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Sleep Paralysis*
  • Students
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Turkey