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.

You're paralyzed.

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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Comments 6 comments

leann2800 5 years ago

I generally chatter my teeth or roll back and forth. I tell myself it is just a dream but that rarely makes things any better.


Kathi 5 years ago

Hi Ryan,

Thanks for posting about SP. I've had it ever since I can remember, and I'm 55 years old now. In all the times that I've had episodes, I've never, ever been able to tell myself it isn't real. It's completely real to me. I can see the clock next to the bed and the door to the bathroom, but I also see horrifying or bizarre creatures who come at me as though to attack. I have had an alien like creature sit on my chest and hold down my arms, I've seen a group of "evil" cheerleaders hanging above me, I've seen children, old men- it doesn't matter- it always scares the crap out of me as silly as they might seem when awake. I've read where other people start praying when this happens, but I am totally paralyzed, I can't pray or say anything or even think about praying because the experience is happening right then and there, and as far as my brain is concerned it's real. My vocal cords are paralyzed, too. What I've learned to do over the years is to gasp and then my body rolls away from wherever the "being" is and I finally wake up all the way. I've had five episodes in the past 3 weeks, and the latest one scared me so badly, I thought I was having a heart attack. You would think after all of these years, one would get used to SP and be able to handle it, but that's not been my experience. Each time is just as scary as the last. I have an appointment with a sleep clinic this week, but I don't have much hope that they'll be able to help. Before this, I would sometimes go 6 months in between and I could live with that, but this is getting ridiculous...


Erika Amelia 5 years ago

Thank you for posting this! Sleep paralysis is something I live with and until now I don't take naps because it almost always give me SP. Before I even read this, I've done one, two, three of your tricks. With difficulty that is. I did the opposite of no.4 a few times and boy did i paid for it. It felt like a seizure that starts inside the head and spread throughout the body. No.3 sounds like a good idea so i'll try that.

I also want to add another trick that usually works: counting 1 to 10 or more. It snapped the brain out of the dream into reality.

Thanks again!


jane 4 years ago

i am 20 now and since i was 8 i have experienced this feelings and i thought it was demons after me until now thank you for posting this up. And i hoe one day i will stop experiencing this.


Joel 2 years ago

I was having sp almost every night, and my 'demons' took the form of viscous wild animals. I also have had people i know compressing my chest in the dream and i found breathing hard, and trying to open my eyes worked quite well, even though I used to be a bit disturbed for a few minutes after. Recently I have been reading supplications and verses from the Quraan (I am a convert Muslim) before i sleep. This has helped tremendously. My advice,( and of course i am biased) is for you to research Islaam. I think this is a fantastic cure.


Bendon 2 years ago

ive only suffered from this maybe 4 or 5 times in my life n am 31 the first time when I was 16 and shit out of thought I was abducted by aliens! haha no shit scared the fuck out of me! cant remember the last few times but had it happen again last night n thought I was a medium with some ghost trying to connect through me sore a ghost n shadow trying to connect with me n took me maybe three times to tell him to settle down n id help him connect! but realised I was just haven't a weired dream n shit n went straight back to bed cause before that I was dreaming I was in the 6th sense in my own house n I was a ghost trying to convince a kid I was just a ghost n wasn't going to hurt him! seems fucked up hey! so glad I read up on this shit n realised it was normal sleep dream bullshit n I wasn't some wacko!

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