5 ways to Wake Up from a Sleep Paralysis Nightmare
Stop the Terror
Sleep paralysis nightmares strike most of us at least once in life. You're lying in bed, fully awake, and then you realize you can't move.
Often this sensation is accompanied by intense and realistic encounters with "someone in the room." This is the Stranger, and this apparition has been described in dozens of cultures around the world, and it always takes the form of your worst nightmare.
The good news is that sleep paralysis is a natural event, and it has biological roots. You're not being haunted by demons, in other words. The bad news is that knowing this scientific fact doesn't necessarily mean you'll escape from the stranger---regardless, modern and reasonable people find themselves being straddled by goblins and zombie-crones, even as they say "This can't be real!"
The key is controlling your fear, and remembering a few tricks that will help you wake from the SP state whenever you want.
1. Remind yourself you are in sleep paralysis. For many people just thinking this can make a difference.
2. Control your breathe. When we're scared, we hold our breathe or breath shallowly. Instead, breathe fully into your lungs and out again. Controlling breathe is an easy way to relax.
3. Wiggle your finger. Or your toe. For some reason, our extremities can break through the muscle paralysis of this dream state. Focus all your attention on the finger you want to move, and make it happen. This often results in instant awakening.
4. Don't fight. If you feel pressures on the chest or throat, fighting back will actually increase these feelings, as well as increase your fear.
5. Go with the flow, instead. Go where you are being pushed. You may "pop" into an out-of-body experience, or wake up.
The Science of Sleep Paralysis
Even though sleep paralysis is natural and normal, it is still one of the most terrifying experiences you'll ever have. It's not "just" a dream, however. We feel awake and alert. We can sometimes open our eyes and feel our bodies and see the bedroom.
What is happening biologically is a REM dream intrusion into sleep onset. It's more common if you don't get enough sleep, just stayed up all night long and are now gong to bed, or have a sleep disorder like narcolepsy.
But the psychological dimension to sleep paralysis has been ignored and dismissed, mostly because people don't like to think about how we're wired for the perception of ghosts and spirits. I'm not saying the spirits are real or not... only that humans have always seen them, in every culture, throughout history. You can't "rationalize" these experiences away, but you can work with them.
Some people have found that SP can be a reliable gateway into all kinds of extraordinary dreams. But first, you have to get a handle on that fear...
If you're interested in reading more about a holistic approach to sleep paralysis, check out this article about sleep paralysis treatment, based on my ebook Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide.
Here's another great hub about sleep paralysis.
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