If any of you have suffered from sleep paralysis, you will know that it can be absolutely terrifying. It is like being in a waking nightmare and while it isn’t damaging to the sufferer’s health, it is pretty traumatising and can lead to worse conditions such as insomnia.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, sleep paralysis is a phenomenon where a person is temporarily unable to move or speak, either as they are falling asleep or waking up. The body lock is often accompanied by terrifying hallucinations and voices – a common vision is ‘the man in the room’ whereby people can see or sense a demonic presence by their bed. Sounds fun right?
It is pretty hard to decipher how much of the population actually suffers from this condition, with study findings ranging between 5%-65%. But overall it seems like a lot of people get it at some point in their lives – even if you’re lucky enough not to have experienced it yourself, you are more than likely to know someone who has.
There’s not much you can do to prevent the start of sleep paralysis, but there are some techniques you can use to snap yourself out of it.
Wiggle Your Toe
Think of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. When you’re in the depths of sleep paralysis, repeat the mantra “wiggle your big toe” in your head. Focus all of your attention on the toe. Don’t give in until you feel it move.
Most of the time these little movements will tell your brain that you are awake and it will put a stop to the nightmare. This is equally as effective with other parts of the body such as your fingers.
Focus On Your Breath
During sleep paralysis, many people feel chest pain or pressure in this area. Controlled breathing can help get rid of this sensation, while also pulling you out of the dream.
Often people are in a panicked state and forget to think about their breathing. Next time you are suffering an attack, try to inhale naturally and then exhale deeply as if you are attempting to empty the lungs. Repeat this several times until you feel calm. Once you are settled you should be able to rouse yourself without too much difficulty.
Think Of A Loved One
Is there someone in your life who makes you calm? It could be a friend or family member or it could be someone you admire such as a celebrity or religious figure. Either way, before you go to bed, make sure you have this person in your head.
If you fall into sleep paralysis, try to concentrate on that person. Think of something inspiring they have done for you. This one is effective because it doesn’t involve any physical movements. The feelings you get when you think of them will overpower the thoughts of fear and anxiety associated with the nightmare – you should be able to wake yourself once the ambience is balanced.
Get Help From Your Partner
Sorry to people who sleep alone as this one really only applies to those who have a partner or someone they share a bed with.
If you do have someone, this trick is relatively easy. Basically just explain to them (if they don’t already know) that you suffer from sleep paralysis and they might be able to wake you when you are under. This should be obvious as sufferer’s breathing becomes rapid and heavy.
Some people are able to speak while they are in a session – if this is you, think of a safe word that you can say when you’re in a nightmare to indicate to your partner when to step in.
Try To Cough
This method is similar to the breathing one in that a focused movement can snap you out of it. As said, you won’t be able to move much during an attack, but it is possible to cough.
Coughing can be regulated. Focusing on this will draw your attention to your body, rather than the fear or hallucinations of the nightmare. You might not be able to hear the sound of the cough, but the physical sensation should be enough to enable an escape route.
Move Your Face
Your face or at least your eyes are the only body parts that can move during sleep paralysis. One experienced sufferer said the failsafe method to get yourself up is to scrunch your face a few times, as if you smell something gross.
Additionally, blinking your eyes in fast succession and looking around the room works. The intention is to mimic waking-like movements to fully awaken your brain and get out of the paralysis.
This isn’t technically a method as such, but it is important to be aware of this before putting any of these into practice. It is assured that one of these tips will be able to help you get out of sleep paralysis, but you must ensure not to take on all of them at once. Trying to concentrate on more than one thing will just lead to confusion.
Instead, pick one that sounds suitable to your experience. If it doesn’t work, try another until you find a solution that works for you. Then you can finally get that good night’s sleep you have been dreaming of.