Q: I woke up once and couldn't move! I couldn't talk and had trouble breathing! I
thought I was going to die! What happened?
A: Sleep paralysis (SP) happened. Every night when you go to sleep, your brain shuts down your ability to move so that you don't act out your dreams. This usually happens around REM sleep cycles (which is why sleepwalking doesn't normally occur in REM sleep).
However, sometimes your conscious part of your mind wakes up before the rest of
the brain can re-enable its ability to move your body. That is why you couldn't move when you woke up.
Q: Why did I feel pressure on my chest and have trouble breathing?
A: You weren't really having trouble breathing, although I know from experience that the "pressure" can make it seem that way. The pressure you are feeling is believed to be just a result of the lowered blood pressure and relaxed muscles in your body. It is a common feeling. There is nothing wrong with you, and you will not suffocate or die or anything like that.
Q: But the aliens/old hags/etc. were after me! I could see and hear them!
A: Since part of your brain is still basically asleep, seeing and hearing things while under sleep paralysis is not uncommon. Put simply you are kind of dreaming.
Q: That was frightening. How can I make it never happen again?
A: Well, you can't really. Some people even want sleep paralysis to happen to them (as a jumping-off point for LDs, OOBEs, or self-hypnosis). It isn't so scary once you understand what is happening.
Q: How can I get out of it?
A: There is an easy process to get out of it.
1. Be calm. The paralysis happens every night. You are just now aware of it.
2. Move the fingers on one hand. Just focus on moving those fingers. The whole point of the paralysis is to prevent your body from doing large-scale movements while you are asleep, so focus on the small movements first. It will take a few seconds before they move, and even then it will be somewhat slow movements.
3. Once you can get those fingers to move some, focus on moving that entire arm.
4. About when you get that entire arm to move the paralysis will be lifted from your entire body.
Q: Once when I got out of bed I nearly fell over! I couldn't walk it off for several minutes, and in the meantime it felt like I was walking sideways!
A: This sometimes happens when you get out of bed too fast after waking up. Basically it is a combination of sleep paralysis partially in effect and some confusion over how to interpret sensory information in the inner ear (which deals with balance).
Don't worry too much about it. It can feel weird but usually doesn't make you fall.
Q: Is sleep paralysis common?
A: Apparently. Most of the people I have talked to in real life have felt it at least once. It isn't something people normally talk about, but it seems to be very common. I also see many people asking about sleep paralysis in newsgroups, wanting to know what happened. Hopefully this section will be of help.
|The FAQ Continues: Reality Checks|
|Back to Lucid Dreaming Nook|