Peter Tosh and the Sleep Paralysis Phenomenon – Part 1/3

By Wes Annac, Culture of Awareness

Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon where a person wakes up to find that they can’t speak and have no control over their body.

The body induces paralysis naturally while you sleep, but for some, it will occasionally (or frequently) remain that way for a short time upon waking up.

Sometimes it’s accompanied by visions of a demonic shadow entity that hovers over the afflicted and, in extreme cases, seems to hold them down.

Science has not yet presented a solid explanation for the appearance of this entity, and some believe it’s a demon keeping them in a paralyzed and fearful state for its own amusement.

Peter Tosh Suffered from Sleep Paralysis

Reggae legend Peter Tosh was one of many sleep paralysis sufferers who believed he was tormented by something evil. In fact, one particular paralysis experience led to his constant use of his famous phrase .

Along with Bob Marley and a host of other Jamaican musicians who pioneered the reggae genre, Peter Tosh emerged onto the world stage in the late 70s.

Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh.

He started out as lead guitarist and backup singer in The Wailers, the musical group he formed with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer (which became Bob Marley and the Wailers once Tosh and Wailer left).

He even taught Marley to play guitar, and he stayed with his band until 1973 when he left to pursue a solo career.

When Tosh and Bunny Wailer split from the group, Marley was forced to put together a new Wailers lineup which consisted of only a few members of the original – including Ashton ‘Family Man’ Barrett on bass.

Despite a successful solo career, Tosh never seemed to blow up like Marley did in the years that followed. However, one could argue that his passionate music and powerful performances (and speeches) should have put him right up there with Marley.

Tosh suffered from recurrent episodes of sleep paralysis early in his career, and as a religiously minded Rasta, he blamed evil spirits.

Cannabis Legalization, Militancy and Equal Rights


Like other Rasta musicians, Tosh advocated the legalization of cannabis in his home country of Jamaica and famously sang that he didn’t want peace; he wanted justice.

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes

None is crying out for justice

Everyone is crying out for peace, yes

None is crying out for justice

I don’t want no peace

I need equal rights and justice – Peter Tosh, from his song “Equal Rights

Tosh was more militant than Marley, who was himself a rebel and used music to share regarding the state of the world.

Tosh wasn’t afraid to physically fight for what’s right, and he would get into fights with Jamaican cops on a regular basis. One of these fights .

As I mentioned, he was highly religious and to him, sleep paralysis was a sign that something evil was trying to take his life. Fortunately, he found his own personal remedy in the form of his favorite phrase.

Before we dive any further into his story, let’s look at some information about sleep paralysis and explore the experiences of other, less famous sufferers.

Sleep Paralysis Is a Parasomnia considers sleep paralysis a parasomnia, which is an ‘undesired experience’ that takes place during sleep (1). Sufferers everywhere would probably agree.

It’s believed to be caused in part by atonia, a condition wherein the brain relaxes the muscles during sleep so the body can be still but, in cases of paralysis, continues after the body awakens (1).

For some, atonia occurs when awakening in the morning or the middle of the night (1), causing the dreaded paralysis.

According to Sleep Paralysis World, one cannot act, speak or move when experiencing it (2). It’s a symptom of the body transitioning between sleep and wakefulness often accompanied by unexplained hallucinations (2).

You can’t react to the hallucinations because you’re completely unable to move (2), and some have reported the feeling of a current pulsing through their upper body (2).

I couldn’t imagine the terror involved in witnessing something you’ve never seen before and can do nothing about, all while feeling strange and potentially painful new sensations.

Fortunately, the experience doesn’t last long for most: it can last for seconds or it can last for minutes (1) (unless the experience is recurring; more on that below). Perhaps the worst part about is that you’re completely aware of what’s taking place (1).

It usually ends by itself, but it can also end if you’re touched or awoken by another person (1).

Two Different Types: ISP and RISP

Sleep paralysis can occur once or twice in your lifetime, or it can be a recurring phenomenon experienced several times a year (1). This depends on the type you’re afflicted with, and for some people, making ‘an intense effort to move’ snaps them out of it (1).

There are two different types: isolated sleep paralysis (ISP) and recurrent isolated sleep paralysis (RISP) (2). The latter is rare but can last up to an hour (2). ISP doesn’t happen often – you may only experience it once in your life – and it doesn’t last long when it does occur (2).

Out-of-body experiences are more common with RISP (2), whereas ISP carries a higher potential for being visited by the demon-like entity, often called an ‘incubus’ (2). RISP can cause recurrent, ‘back-to-back’ paralysis experiences in one night, and this is less likely with ISP (2).

(Continued in part 2 tomorrow)


(1)    “Sleep Paralysis – Overview & Facts”,, n.d.

(2)    “What is Sleep Paralysis?” Sleep Paralysis World, n.d. –

(Other sources embedded in report)


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