What if you woke up paralyzed? A dark and spine-chilling entity approaches your bed, looking straight in your eyes and smiling threateningly ; it knows you can’t move. It slowly climbs your bed, staring at you malevolently. It moves over your chest and you feel its extreme weight preventing you from breathing. You desperately try shouting for help, but no sound comes out of your mouth. Sounds like a nightmare? No. This is a documented medical condition known as sleep paralysis … and it’ll happen at least once to most!
What is sleep paralysis?
According to most who’ve experienced it, sleep paralysis is one of the scariest episodes you can go through. Historically, sleep paralysis has been mislabeled as ghost attack, demonic possession, or even extraterrestrial encounter. Having experienced the “sleep paralysis demons” myself, I understand how people can believe such things.
In a sleep paralysis episode, people wake up paralyzed, trapped in their body and sensing a malevolent presence in their room. They often get terrifying auditory, visual and even tactile hallucinations. Strangely, the most commonly reported experience is that of being asphyxiated by a demon or a witch. It is intriguing that these sleep paralysis demons have been reported by most who’ve experienced sleep paralysis.
Fortunately, sleep paralysis has been studied by scientists and a satisfying medical explanation has been found. While dreaming, the brain naturally paralyzes the body for safety reasons so that, for example, our legs don’t move when we dream about chasing a rabbit. In rare circumstances, your brain can keep your body paralyzed even though you mentally wake up. You thus find yourself lying in your bed, fully conscious, yet only able to move your eyes – as they aren’t paralyzed during sleep. Since your brain still is half-asleep, you experience the same hallucinations than occur a dream, only with your eyes open. Obviously, most people panic when they wake up paralyzed, and this fearful mental state creates very, very scary scenarios. Sleep paralysis can occur before falling asleep or upon waking up, the latter being by far the most common.
An interesting fact is that your eyes are indeed physically open during the experience, so what you see is indeed your “real room”, but mixed with the hallucinations created by your brain. I used to think the room I saw was created by my mind, but recently, someone sleeping next to me noticed my eyes being open during an experience. Freaky, isn’t it?
How to deal with sleep paralysis?
At this point, you may wish you’ll never experience sleep paralysis! I’ve actually experienced sleep paralysis hundreds of time and thus have had the opportunity to study it extensively. Although it is a frightening phenomenon to the inexperienced. Sleep paralysis can be an invaluable tool if approached and understood properly. Sleep paralysis can be used to achieve altered states of awareness and to study the nature of the mind.
Using sleep paralysis to meditate. Since most meditation techniques usually involve starting out by relaxing the body, one can definitely use the fact that the body is asleep to achieve deep meditative and trance states super quickly. Implicitly, meditation techniques often aim to reduce your brain wave frequency. When awake, your brain will usually be in a “beta” state, which ranges from 13 to 30hz. Most beginner meditators achieve at most an “alpha” state, which ranges from 8 to 13hz…
But when you enter sleep paralysis, your brain automatically is in the “theta” state, which ranges from 4 to 8hz. This state allows for more profound meditative experiences, assuming you can cope with the initial hallucinations caused by sleep paralysis. Personally, I simply close my eyes, ignore the hallucinations and start meditating. After experimenting with many, my favorite meditation technique is Vipassana, but feel free to try your own! You’ll likely get auditory and perhaps even tactile hallucinations for a little while but keep meditating vigilantly and trust me, they’ll quickly fade away.
Using sleep paralysis to lucid dream. One of the fundamental goals when trying to lucid dream from a waking state (Wake-Induced Lucid Dreams) is to relax the body to the point where it is asleep while the mind is awake. The hardest step when attempting to lucid dream in this way is the relaxation phase, and the inability to sufficiently relax is why most people fail at it. However, if you wake up in a sleep paralysis state, 95% of the work has been done for you! Your body is fully relaxed, and the only thing left to do is to close your eyes, imagine a dream and enter it! Personally, I’ve had great success imagining myself “sinking” in bed and emerging in a new world of my choice.
Sleep paralysis can also help you fight your fears, since everything you’ll be experiencing is created by your own mind. Sleep paralysis has put me face to face with some of my fears and with time, it has become much less scary. Most of the time, I’ll just see random people looking at me, sometimes even friends of mine! They often talk, which is a great opportunity for me to “communicate” with my subconscious mind!
How to stop sleep paralysis
Although it has interesting uses, it is still useful to know how to stop sleep paralysis. This knowledge will also help not panic and maintain a calm mind during the experience.
Most tips I have read involve trying to move a toe or a finger to break the paralysis. I find this method’s efficiency to be very limited ; often enough, you won’t be able to move an inch.
The key to getting back to full wakefulness is to send a signal to your body so that it realizes that your mind is awake and stops the paralysis. Since the only two things you’ll be able to control in a full sleep paralysis are your eyes and your breath, you can take advantage of the latter and escape sleep paralysis by altering your breathing pattern. For example, by taking shorter or longer breaths, your body will notice the change and respond to it by stopping the paralysis. It takes less than 30 seconds to escape sleep paralysis with this technique.
Sleep paralysis is scary at first but it proves to be a fascinating phenomenon once you transcend the frightening stuff it induces. Your mind will be blown!