Sleep paralysis is without a doubt one of the most terrifying things that can happen to your body.
While I haven’t experienced sleep paralysis myself, I have spent quite some time studying and dissecting the phenomenon.
What is sleep paralysis, why does it happen and can you die from it? These are just some of the questions I’ll answer below.
What is sleep paralysis?
While – as said above – extremely scary, sleep paralysis is a phenomenon that’s not particularly harmful for the body/mind of the sufferer, above and beyond the immediate panic it causes.
When you suffer from sleep paralysis, you will find yourself unable to move or speak for a few seconds or even for minutes, as you’re waking up or falling asleep, even though your mind has already reached full consciousness.
I suspect that sleep paralysis is brought about by the alternation of various sleep stages, or rather, by the various stages between a state of wakefulness and full sleep.
Sleep paralysis can occur for a person once in a lifetime, or even multiple times during a single night. There are of course people who never experience it, and given the short- and long-term psychological shock resulting from the condition, such people should probably consider themselves lucky.
We all heard horror stories of people getting stuck in sleep paralysis for hours and even days, and ending up almost buried alive, while being perfectly aware of the fate that awaited them all along.
Most likely to affect young adults and teenagers, sleep paralysis is the stuff of nightmares – according to those who suffer from it. While some sufferers describe the feeling as the closest thing to being buried alive, others say it feels exactly like being stuck between being asleep and being awake.
Why does sleep paralysis happen to me?
There are several answers to that, and none of them are nearly as scary as the condition itself.
The causes for sleep paralysis can be sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, some medications, and I personally suspect that sleep deprivation may be part of the package as well. I do know for a fact that narcolepsy is one of its potential triggers too. Youth is logically a factor as well, as it’s obvious that this sleep disorder plagues 10-25 year-olds more often than other age categories.
I believe that there has to be a genetic component to it all too. I have found that sleep paralysis may have something to do with the control of circadian rhythms, and this is where the genetic factor seeps into the equation.
To all the above, we obviously need to add all the factors usually responsible for sleep disorders in general. As such, PTSD, panic disorder, depression, anxiety and mental disorders have to be added to the tally as well.
What exactly happens during a sleep paralysis incident though?
During the REM stage of sleep, unlike the brain, the muscles of the body are “unplugged.” This explains why most people cannot act out the dreams they have, no matter how vivid they may be.
When sleep paralysis strikes, the victim simply wakes up (regains consciousness) before REM is finished, hence the muscles will remain unresponsive for some time.
Can sleep paralysis kill you?
Sleep paralysis is definitely a scary phenomenon, often described by sufferers as something akin to a paranormal experience, rather than an actual sleep disorder.
Indeed, over history, different cultures have come up with different (often terrifying) mythic explanations for the issue, but the truth is that sleep paralysis causes no physical harm to the sufferer whatsoever.
As such, it is obvious that it will not kill you either. I can tell you for certain that to date, there are no documented cases of fatalities attributed to this problem.
If you happen to experience a bout of sleep paralysis, most likely you just need to improve the quality and the quantity of the sleep you get.
If you think your sleeping habits are all as healthy as possible, yet you still experience sleep paralysis, consider going to a sleep disorder specialist to get qualified help.
Is sleep paralysis dangerous?
As said above, sleep paralysis is not dangerous in a direct, physical manner at least.
The psychological impact of the condition over long-time sufferers should not be neglected though. Not only will sleep paralysis ruin one’s sleep quality, it will – through this pathway – affect various other areas of one’s life too.
If the condition becomes such that it indeed has a significant negative impact on your life, by all means, you should contact a sleep disorder specialist.
How To Wake Up From Sleep Paralysis
Sleep paralysis can be very frightful, and knowing what to do when it happens could be a vital tip in reducing the fear that comes with it.
This infographic by 25 Doctors clearly itemizes 5 tips to help you wake up from an ongoing episode.
- Don’t fight it or struggle with it because it is only temporary. The more you fight it, the longer it might last.
- Relax your mind. Tell yourself that it is not a strange demonic attack, and that you’ll be alright.
- Try to wiggle your toes or clench your feet, these could awaken your body, and help to stop the episode.
- Taking deep breaths could help calm you down, being conscious about the breaths you are taking can interrupt the episode and wake you up.
- Make a face, this movement in facial muscles can go a long way in restoring your boy’s motor activity.
The above tips could help you wake up from an episode. However, remember that you can avoid sleep paralysis altogether by getting enough sleep regularly, avoiding anxiety, and sleeping on your side or abdomen.
Can you go into sleep paralysis during the day?
Sleep paralysis can obviously only occur when you are going to sleep/waking up.
While you’re up and about during the day, it cannot strike, but the problem is that it can in fact be a sign of narcolepsy, another sleep-related disorder, which causes extreme daytime drowsiness in sufferers and which makes people fall asleep suddenly. Coupled with narcolepsy, sleep paralysis can thus strike during the day as well.
For an “average” sleep paralysis sufferer though, daytime is safe-time.
Can sleep paralysis lead to lucid dreaming?
As I stated above, most sleep paralysis sufferers describe the experience as a paranormal one, unlike any other sleep disorder. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that many people think of sleep paralysis as a pathway to lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences.
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Before we delve any deeper into this issue though, let us make clear what lucid dreaming is. A lucid dream is a dream dreamt by a person who is actually aware that he/she is dreaming.
According to some experts, sleep paralysis is a key stepping stone to OBEs and those who possess the “ability” to experience sleep paralysis, can theoretically turn it into lucid dreams and OBEs.
The way to achieve this is quite simple.
When lying there in sleep paralysis, just imagine yourself in a dream. It can be a dream you had, preferably recently, or it can be a dream you want to have.
Needless to say, the science behind lucid dreaming and OBEs is really shaky at best, and non-existent at worst.
There are advocates who believe that sleep paralysis can be controlled to a certain extent, and even auto-induced. Knowing the possible triggers (already detailed above) is obviously the first step in this process.
This, however, takes us to the next question:
Can you trigger sleep paralysis?
To try initiate sleep paralysis, you need to bring some of its triggers to bear. You can start off sleep-depriving yourself and messing up your sleeping habits.
Obviously – as I said above – there are certain chemical triggers that can be “called upon” as well, such as alcohol and drug abuse, but I’m not going to recommend you go down that road, for obvious reasons.
While sleep deprivation is much less intrusive than substance abuse, you should still be aware of its negative health implications: it has been associated with increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. You need to be prepared to sacrifice your ability to focus as well as your alertness.
Breaking your sleep cycle into bite-size bits with frequent naps is another way to usher in a possible sleep paralysis incident.
One of the best ways to completely mess up your sleep cycle is to add a nap from 7 PM to 10 PM. Since sleep paralysis occurs upon going to sleep or waking up, make sure you wake up and then go back to sleep multiple times a night.
Sleeping on your back is always a good idea if you’re looking for sleep paralysis-trouble. Whenever you wake up, get your mind going by reading a book. When awake enough, try to go back to sleep, by lying on your back and relaxing. Repeating a sort of mantra or focusing in a certain point in your visual field during this time is also a good idea, since it will help keep your mind awake while your body goes to sleep.
The most important and obvious symptom of sleep paralysis is being awake/aware of yourself/your surroundings, while being unable to move. Remember that.
If your little sleep paralysis experiment turns out too well and you end up opening a can the contents of which you cannot handle, be sure to seek professional help.
Again: sleep paralysis will not hurt you physically, but it might have a massive negative impact on your psyche.
Does sleep paralysis lead to astral projection?
I can tell you that sleep paralysis – as scary an experience as it may be – is the perfect time for the bold to try astral projection.
In fact, the situation is quite perfect for this sort of exercise. Since your body is already immobile, and since you are already somewhat detached from it, going all the way and elevating your astral body above your physical shell should be much easier than on any other conceivable occasion.
How do you go about it though?
Raising your vibration is the first step. You need to shake off those links chaining you to your physical body, and this is indeed the best way to accomplish it.
Ask your spirit guides and angels for help. If you can indeed accomplish this, it will be well worth the effort.
How do you know if you’re indeed “there?”
You can try lifting your arm. If you can actually see your “astral arm” lift through your dual consciousness, while your physical arm remains immobile on the sheets, you have accomplished a certain degree of astral projection.
Once you manage to completely shake off the shackles of your physical body, you will find that the pull of your physical form will weaken.
What are the best films about sleep paralysis?
Check out this blog post about my favorite sleep paralysis movies.