By Steven Bancarz| Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night terrified and been unable to move? Sleep paralysis is a phenomenon that occurs when a person wakes up from a sleep being unable to move, speak, or react. It usually occurs as a person is about to fall asleep or as they are about to wake up out of sleep, and is usually accompanied with breathing difficulties.
This may not sound like a big deal for those who haven’t experienced it, but it can be terrifying at times. You are totally paralyzed and unable to wake yourself up. When you are in a state of paralysis, it is the brains natural response to think that you are under attack, so your brain naturally enters into a state of “flight” mode.
Sometimes, sleep paralysis is accompanied by hallucinations or the feeling that there is an intruder in the room. Some people even claim to sense the presence of demonic entities that sit on their chest, or aliens that stand over top of them. In fact, the Chinese used to call this experience “Gui Ya” which means “ghost pressure”, and they believed that a ghost would come sit on your chest as you sleep and paralyze you.
What is the scientific reason reason this is happening? Well, there isn’t any confirmed theory out there yet. The most plausible scientific explanation is that it is thought to occur when the mind wakes up out of REM sleep while the body is still in a state of atonia to prevent sleepers from acting out their dreams. I would agree with this for the most part, but I have experienced sleep paralysis with my eyes open as I was sitting up in bed after waking up from a sleep, so I know for a fact my brain was not in a REM state of sleep because I had already been awake for several minutes.
In this article, we will look at what to do to stay calm during sleep paralysis, how to prevent it from happening, and how to use it to your own spiritual advantage.
What to do when you can’t move
I have had a great deal of experiences with sleep paralysis, and have now reached a point where it no longer bothers me anymore. The first time it happened to me, I tried to fight it and forcefully wake myself up from it. This only caused me fear and anxiety and was completely ineffective. If you wake up and realize you are in a state of sleep paralysis, don’t resist it. The minute you resist it, you will start freaking out. Accept it, and treat it as an opportunity to practice patience and peace of mind.
Conscious breathing really helps keeping your mind from entering freak-out mode. Breathe in slowly and consciously, and exhale slowly and consciously. Don’t panic. Make it your mission when you are in sleep paralysis to be as calm as you can, and treat it as a chance to be fully present within your body. Enter a meditative state of mind, and it will shortly pass with time.
There have been times where I have heard voices in my ear while being paralyzed, but I remained calm by meditating and practicing conscious breathing. It’s kind of like taking psychedelic drugs. You can give yourself a bad experience by what you choose to think about and where you allow your mind to wander.
It can only have power over you if you give it your power. Keep your attention inside your breath. Pretend that you chose you would experience sleep paralysis at that time, and full embrace the experience with peace of mind.
Prayer has also brought many people peace during scary experiences of sleep paralysis, so if you feel comfortable calling out to God or Jesus, that will only help bring you more comfort.
Preventing sleep paralysis
There are several factors that have been identified as increasing your chances of experiencing sleep paralysis. Some of these include physical fatigue, under-sleeping, and erratic sleep schedule, stress, and an overuse of stimulants. For me personally, oversleeping is what has caused most of my sleep paralysis experiences. Most of the happen when I choose to go back to sleep even when I am rested, or when I take a nap throughout the day.
So a big way to prevent paralysis from happening is to have a proper sleep schedule. Healthier sleep habits is the best thing you can do to avoid this experience. Another big way to prevent sleep paralysis is to not sleep in supine position. This is what supine position looks like:
When you sleep flat on your back in supine position, your soft palate is more likely to collapse and obstruct your breathing. This causes you to wake up out of deep sleep while your body is still in a state of atonia from REM sleep. Sleeping on your stomach (in prone position) or on your side is a good way to prevent this from happening.
Using sleep paralysis to your spiritual advantage
Sleep paralysis can be a burden for some, and an opportunity for others. Not only can you treat it as a test to see how present and calm you can become, you can also use it a chance to try to initiate an out-of-body experience or a lucid dream. Remember, some part of you remains in REM sleep while your waking mind is alert and attentive. What if this REM atonia is a sort of toolbox that enables you to use your will, intention, and visualization to leave your body and enter into new worlds?
Affirm to yourself that you are going to have an out-of-body experience, and visualize yourself hovering over top of your own body. Feel yourself starting to leave your body, and stay calm in your mind knowing that you will soon be outside of your body. Many people claim that they try to induce sleep paralysis on purpose as one of the beginning stages of astral travel.
Don’t think if yourself as a victim to a scary experience. Think of yourself as a pioneer on the edge of a world of lucid dreams and astral travel and create the experience you want for yourself. Science tells us that we are literally at the brink of the world of sleep and dreams and the world of waking life. Why not use it to your spiritual advantage and experiment a little bit?
The truth is, there is really nothing to be scared of. Nobody has ever died or been injured from being in sleep paralysis, and it usually doesn’t last for more than 30 seconds. Work with it, practice presence, clean up your sleep schedule, and if you feel like you’re up to it, use is as a launching pad for the exploration of other dimensions.