Sleep Paralysis is a brief inability to move or speak just before falling asleep or right on awakening, sometimes accompanied by auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations. This body paralysis happens each night as a natural side effect of sleep, protecting you from sleepwalking in your sleep. We normally are unaware of this since we are unconscious. Sometimes we are able to remain mentally awake during this process and experience powerful dreamlike hallucinations while feeling paralyzed. Sleep paralysis can be terrifying at first, especially if you do not know what is happening. If you find yourself in this situation, rest assured that you are completely safe and it is s hybrid-dream state of consciousness. Once the dreamer learns to overcome the fear and embrace the effects of sleep paralysis, they will find that it is in fact a launch pad for incredible lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences (OBEs).
Many dream experiences, including sleep paralysis, are a thought-responsive state. This means that allowing yourself to get overwhelmed with fear intensifies sleep paralysis and makes the experience scarier. If you experience sleep paralysis, one of the best things you can do is stay calm and focus your attention inwards. Focusing your attention inwards means focusing on your senses and your inner awareness, instead of panicking. Relax into it and let it unfold. Say a positive affirmation and repeat loving, peaceful things to yourself. A positive affirmation can be a prayer, or repeating something like “I am safe”, “I am protected”, “I am lucid dreaming”, or any variation that makes you feel more at ease. Many people find that embracing it with love and calmness changes it into a more positive experience.
Remind yourself that sleep paralysis is a temporary phase while preparing your brain for a lucid dream. Sometimes another person’s voice or touch, or even a big effort to move can stop it. But in general, it ends on its own. Sleep paralysis, while realistic and scary, is not inherently dangerous and will not harm you. Sleep paralysis is a natural phenomenon that many people may experience at some point in their life, especially while trying to induce lucid dreaming. Sleep paralysis can be very frightening and you may sometimes feel like you are stuck in a half-sleep state.
However difficult it may be to move, there are a few different methods you can do to ease yourself out of the experience and take your mind away from the fear. There is not one size fits all way to immediately stop a sleep paralysis episode, but most people who experience it routinely report that focusing on making small body movements (such as moving one finger, then another) helps them to wake up more quickly. Many people have also developed transition methods to work with it and induce powerful lucid dreams. These transition methods, such as the rope method, are based on focusing the mind in order to separate from the physical body, and into a dream body or OBE.
Once you are completely relaxed, visualize your hands grasping an invisible rope but do not actually move your hands. This rope method relies on an imaginary feeling of the rope, not so much a mental image. Focus on the rope's texture, thickness, and weight. Feel the tension in your arms between the strength of the rope and the pull of your weight. Continue to focus on the imaginary rope and imagine yourself putting one hand after the other. You can also do this using a ladder, or a stepping stone path. Use the rope to pull yourself up and start climbing. Feel your muscles contract when you pull, and your body moves upward. Imagine your actions in the pure darkness behind your eyelids, like forming a dream out of nothing. Keep going up for as long as you can. Climb up as you inhale and rest when you exhale.
This technique has been known to help a lot of people exit sleep paralysis and find themselves either in a dream or viewing their bodies from another perspective. However, do not have any specific expectations, just experience it and see what happens with a curious and open mind. Many people report feeling intense vibrations or electrical energy during sleep paralysis or at some point during the transition from wakefulness to sleep. If you experience vibrations as you climb, relax more. Remember it is normal and very common. The urge to move and wake up will be tremendous, especially if it’s your first time, but just relax deeper and deeper until the sounds pass.
Sleep paralysis can affect men and women of any age group. The average age when it first occurs is around teenage years. It is fairly common. Estimates of how many people have experienced sleep paralysis at least once in their lives vary from 10%-40%. Unless the episodes of sleep paralysis have an impact on your anxiety or your sleep, you shouldn’t worry too much about them. To avoid sleep paralysis, it’s important to address any underlying causes: improving sleep habits, regulating your sleep cycle, or treating associated disorders for instance. Sleep deprivation may trigger sleep paralysis. In this case, try to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night on a regular basis.
Another good way to avoid sleep paralysis is to have a calming and peaceful evening routine. Any negative and stressful emotions built up in your mind at night can have an effect on your dream content. So try not to watch scary movies before bed, and instead, clear your mind at night of the stressful clutter of daily life. Even though it can feel terrifying, there is no reason to be afraid of sleep paralysis. Knowing what it is should help you deal with the fear.
National Sleep Foundation: “Ask the Sleep Expert: Sleep & Parasomnias;” “Sleep Paralysis;” “Topics A to ZZZZs: Narcolepsy;” and “What Happens When You Sleep?”
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