Millions of people in the US have claimed to have been the victim of alien abduction, whereby little grey men take them aboard an otherwordly ship and stick metallic probes in some very uncomfortable places for "research" purposes. However, could there be a down-to-earth, scientific explanation to this curiously common experience?
As reported in the International Journal of Dream Research, a team from the Phase Research Center in Russia suggests that some alien abduction stories may simply be explained by dreaming during REM sleep
For their study, the researchers gathered 152 people who claimed to have previously experienced a lucid dream – a type of dream where the dreamer becomes aware that they are dreaming – and asked them to attempt to “try to find or summon aliens or UFOs” during their usual night's sleep at home. They found that 114 of the volunteers (75 percent) were able to successfully experience a dream that featured extraterrestrials or some kind of alien abduction.
Out of the people who successfully dreamed of aliens, 61 percent said the alien characters resembled extraterrestrials from sci-fi movies and novels, while 19 percent met aliens that looked like “ordinary people" and 4 percent said they were invisible. Up to 28 percent of the dreams involved some kind of UFO spaceship, while 10 percent of dreams actually took place inside a UFO and 3 percent said they were flying in the UFO.
"I saw an alien who was looking for me," one person reported, recalling their dream. "It had the proportions of a person with an elongated head and gray skin, large eyes, and no nose. Aggressively minded, I remembered that this was a dream, but I could not get out of the plot of the dream out of fear."
Another person's account explains: "Little men with smooth skin of blue color, human height, with non-standard large heads and huge, bulging eyes of black color. Their arms were long. Their fingers were also elongated, four fingers on each hand. I went up, and the phrase ‘Don’t be afraid; we are friends’ appeared in my head."
In light of their findings, the researchers conclude that people might spontaneously enter dreams that unintentionally feature an alien abduction and then “confuse it with reality.” They also note that previous research has indicated that approximately half of the stories about alien and UFO encounters occur when the person is sleeping or in a state of relaxation.
"Our primary hypothesis has been confirmed: It appears that bedtime alien and UFO encounters (as well as alien abductions) can be emulated based on one’s will and deliberate actions," the study concludes.
Accounts of alien abductions have been documented over the centuries, but reports started to flood in after the 1960s following a number of high-profile claimants sharing their stories. One of the most famous accounts came from Barney and Betty Hill, an American couple who claimed they were abducted by extraterrestrials in September 1961. Since then, stories of alien abductions have become a regular staple of popular culture, which the study authors argue has likely seeped into the imagination of many people.
The research does have some limitations to take onboard – namely that all of the results are self-reported by the participants, and the study was conducted online rather than in a lab setting. Furthermore, discovering that people can dream about alien abductions doesn’t necessarily infer that all of these experiences must be the product of dreams.
Nevertheless, the study does reach the same conclusions as other scientific forays into alien abduction stories, most of which conclude that the experiences are somehow linked to dreams and other phenomena seen during REM sleep. As one example, a study in 2005 saw psychologists talk to 10 people who reported abduction by space aliens and found their claims were “linked to apparent episodes of sleep paralysis during which hypnopompic hallucinations were interpreted as alien beings.”
[H/T Live Science]