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One in 10 Report Near-Death Experiences

New research has found that about 10 percent of people report a near-death experience with a range of spiritual and physical symptoms, including out-of-body sensations, seeing or hearing hallucinations, racing thoughts, and time distortion.

These near-death experiences (NDEs) are equally as common in people who are not in imminent danger of death as in those who have experienced truly life-threatening situations, such as heart attacks, car crashes, near drowning, or combat situations, according to researchers.

The new findings were presented at the Fifth European Academy of Neurology Congress by researchers from the Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen University Hospital, University of Copenhagen in Denmark, the Center for Stroke Research in Berlin, and the Norwegian University of Technology in Norway.

Experiences most frequently reported by participants in the new study included:

  • abnormal time perception (87 percent);
  • exceptional speed of thought (65 percent);
  • exceptionally vivid senses (63 percent); and
  • feeling separated from or out of their body (53 percent).

Those who experienced NDEs variously described feeling at total peace, having their “soul sucked out,” hearing angels singing, being aware they were outside their body, seeing their life flashing before them, and being in a dark tunnel before reaching a bright light.

Others spoke of being aware of another’s presence before they went to sleep, or of a demon sitting on their chest while they lay paralyzed unable to move.

For the study, the researchers recruited 1,034 people from 35 countries via an online crowdsourcing platform and asked if they’d ever had an NDE. If they answered yes, they were asked for more details, using a detailed questionnaire assessment tool called the Greyson Near-Death Experience Scale, which asks about 16 specific symptoms, the researchers explained.

According to the researchers, 289 people reported an NDE, and 106 of those reached a threshold of 7 on the Greyson NDE Scale, which confirms a true NDE. Some 55 percent perceived the NDE as truly life-threatening, while 45 percent perceived it as not life-threatening.

Far from being a pleasant experience associated with feelings of peacefulness and wellbeing, as some previous studies have reported, the new study found a much higher rate of people reporting their NDE as unpleasant. Of all the people who claimed an NDE, 73 percent said it was unpleasant, with only 27 percent saying it was pleasant. However, in those with a score of 7 or above on the Greyson NDE Scale, this changed to 53 percent reporting a pleasant experience and 14 percent an unpleasant one.

Based on insight gained from previous studies, the researchers said they found an association between NDEs and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep intrusion into wakefulness.

REM sleep is a phase of the sleep cycle where the eyes move rapidly, the brain is as active as when someone is awake, dreaming is more vivid, and most people experience a state of temporary paralysis, as the brain sends a signal to the spinal cord to stop the arms and legs moving. When REM sleep intrudes into wakefulness, some people report visual and auditory hallucinations and other symptoms, such as sleep paralysis, where they feel conscious but cannot move.

REM sleep intrusion on wakefulness was found to be more common in people with scores of 7 or above on the Greyson NDE Scale (47 percent) than in people with scores of 6 or below (26 percent), or in those below the threshold with no such experiences (14 percent).

“Our central finding is that we confirmed the association of near-death experiences with REM sleep intrusion,” said lead researcher Dr. Daniel Kondziella, a neurologist at the University of Copenhagen. “Although association is not causality, identifying the physiological mechanisms behind REM sleep intrusion into wakefulness might advance our understanding of near-death experiences.”

Kondziella added the 10 percent prevalence figure of NDE was higher than in previous studies conducted in Australia (8 percent) and Germany (4 percent). He said this could be explained by the fact they had been conducted on cardiac arrest survivors rather than the general public, as in this study.

Source: Spink Health

One in 10 Report Near-Death Experiences

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2019). One in 10 Report Near-Death Experiences. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jun 2019 (Originally: 30 Jun 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jun 2019
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