The sleep paralysis-lucid dreaming connection is something to be marveled at.
You see, when you’re in the sleep paralysis state, you’re at the literal gateway to consciously entering the lucid dream world. If you think about it, your entire body is asleep while your mind remains aware, something that is truly incredible.
Understanding sleep paralysis is critical if you are attempting to enter the world of lucid dreaming.
Have you ever wake up in the middle of the night only to discover that no matter what you do, you just can’t move? You’re fully awake and can see the room around you, but your arms and legs just won’t budge. This sensation can be accompanied by strange sounds or voices, and in some cases even frightening visual hallucinations!
If any of this sounds familiar, then you’ve experienced what’s called sleep paralysis, and it can be truly terrifying.
The paralysis can last a couple of seconds to up to several minutes, and can give you quite a spook if you’re not familiar with it. Extreme cases of sleep paralysis have even caused some to believe that their house was haunted or that they were abducted by aliens.
The good news is that sleep paralysis can be mastered, and even used to induce what’s known as a lucid dream, which can be absolutely exhilarating! First, let’s take a look at what causes sleep paralysis.
The Sleep Paralysis-Lucid Dreaming Connection
What’s this about intentionally inducing sleep paralysis you say? Who in their right mind would want to do that? Well, sleep paralysis is actually a key stage in entering a lucid dream or OBE (out of body experience).
It’s in this sensitive state that you can launch yourself into a wildly vivid and imaginative dream, all while retaining awareness so you can manipulate it.
You can also practice OBE techniques during sleep paralysis, which include crazy tactics like envisioning climbing a rope up out of your body.
Both OBE’s and lucid dreams require a mastery of sleep paralysis, so let’s look at how that’s done.
What Causes Your Body to Paralyze Itself?
Sleep paralysis occurs during the REM (Rapid eye movement) stage, a cycle of sleep where we have especially vivid dreams.
The body paralyzes your muscles during REM sleep to ensure that you don’t sleepwalk and act out your dreams. After all, nobody wants to run full speed into a wall while dreaming they’re running a marathon!
When you suddenly awaken in the middle of a REM sleep cycle, your brain can sometimes fail to recognize that you woke up. To your brain, you’re still fast asleep in dream land and should stay paralyzed for your own protection. Also, since you were vividly dreaming during REM sleep, sometimes dream material can carry over into your awakened state.
This can manifest in a number of different ways. Some feel a presence in the room, hallucinating objects or people, or feeling concentrated pressure in the chest or palm of hands.
People have also reported feeling their heart beating impossibly fast during paralysis, usually while feeling frightened by something they’re hallucinating. While heart rate does increase during REM sleep, this sensation is just another illusion caused by the paralysis.
How to Control Sleep Paralysis
So you’ve woken up, can’t move, and there are a few dog headed demons hanging out in the corner of your room. What to do? The first step is not to panic.Like driving a car, it will take some time to learn how to control sleep paralysis.
Since you have an understanding and awareness of what sleep paralysis is now, you can use that to your advantage in staying calm. It’s all just an illusion, and nothing you see can actually hurt you.Staying calm can also contribute to shortening the episode and returning to normal.
Probably the best tactic for getting out of sleep paralysis is to change your breathing pattern. While your body froze the muscles in your limbs, one thing it doesn’t take control away from is your breathing.
Your breathing will be automated when you wake up, but pay attention to the pattern. If you’re breathing slow and deep, try a few quick breaths. If you’re breathing frantically because you’re scared, slow it down some. This change in breathing will be a signal to your brain that you’ve woken up, and the paralysis should stop.
If changing your breathing doesn’t seem to help, you could also try wiggling your fingers and toes. Really concentrate on the thought of your fingers or toes springing into action and moving again. This can get the message across to your brain that you’re up and want to move.
If you still have no success, you can also try to move your lips, or try to rapidly blink your eyes. The tiny muscles in the lips and the eyes have a better chance at regaining control than the larger muscles in your limbs.
Inducing Lucid Dreams
A reality check is a task you perform habitually throughout the day to test if you’re in a dream. Obviously during the daytime you will know that you’re not dreaming, but the idea is to drill the habit into your routine. For example, say you check your watch every hour on the hour during the day. Then at night when you’re dreaming, since it’s become such an unconscious habit, you check your watch.
Checking time is a good reality check because in dreams time is notoriously distorted. So when you check your watch in the dream it’ll show some mangled mess that makes no sense. This is the dead giveaway that you’re dreaming, and will trigger lucidity.
Another method of inducing a lucid dream is known as the WILD (wake induced lucid dream) technique. This idea involves waking yourself up after about four or five hours of sleep, enough for about two full sleep cycles. You stay awake for a few minutes and then lay back down to go to sleep.
When you go to sleep this time, however, you try and stay a little bit consciously aware of what’s going on. As you drift further away from thought and closer to sleep, you will actually enter the dreaded sleep paralysis!
Converting Sleep Paralysis Into Lucid Dreams
In order to turn sleep paralysis into a lucid dream, we need to first induce the sleep paralysis state. As previously mentioned, the WILD technique involves staying a little bit conscious while drifting your body to sleep. To do so, it helps dramatically if your body is completely relaxed and already tired, which is why it’s recommended to wake yourself up after two sleep cycles.
You’re effectively in the middle of a full night’s sleep, so you’ll be a little groggy. This grogginess is actually what we want, so try to avoid waking yourself up into full awareness. The ideal situation would be going to bed at around 11:00 PM, and then setting an alarm to wake up at 3:00 AM.
Once you’ve awakened, try not to turn on any lights or do any activities, just stay half awake and tired for a few minutes. After this, lay down flat on your back with your limbs slightly spread apart. Try and lay as if you were floating effortlessly down a river. Take a few deep breaths while releasing all of the tension from your entire body.
Silencing the Mind
The next step is to close your eyes and completely quiet your mind. This can prove extremely difficult for some, especially those who aren’t familiar with meditation. Basically, you want to shut down your internal monologue and just let random thoughts enter your mind and leave with no reaction on your part. Some find it helpful to focus on their breathing to silence their mind, and others use what’s called a mantra.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat over and over in your head to occupy your mind. Basically, you want to recite the mantra, but not give it any conscious thought. It’s just filler so you’re not stuck in total silence, which is where some overactive minds can take over and start thinking at a million miles per hour!
Breathe deep, stay relaxed, and stay focused on letting your mind wander. That may seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible. The idea is to have a tiny part of your mind staying aware while the rest of you drifts off into unconscious nonsense.
Hypnagogia and Sleep Paralysis
After quieting the mind and letting it wander, you will begin to enter what’s known as the hypnagogic state, which is the period between wakefulness and sleep. This is also where, you guessed it, sleep paralysis comes into the picture.
Before that though, you may begin to notice hypnagogic patterns. These patters are random colors and shapes seen on the back of your eyelids. Don’t be alarmed by this, as it can take you out of the entire experience! Instead, stay calm and go with it. Inducing a dream is all about going with the flow, so let the patterns take you deeper into your meditative state.
During this phase you may experience what feels like a lead blanket being laid on top of you. This is sleep paralysis taking place. Once again, do not panic! Allow the paralysis to relax you instead of frightening you, and continue to enjoy your hypnagogic patterns.
Making the Leap
At this point you may start to see flashes of a dream coming on, such as images of people or places coming into focus out of your hypnagogia. This is a sign that you’re getting close. Stay relaxed and let the visions continue, all while retaining that tiny bit of awareness. It’s in this state that you can choose to let the random hypnagogia form the dream, or begin visualizing a dream of your own.
Letting the dream form out of the hypnagogia is the easier option, as it just involves letting your mind do what it wants while you stay aware. Once you’re fully inside of the dream world, you can take control and change it to what you want.
If you choose to visualize a dream, begin picturing the dream you would like to inhabit. Think about the landscape, the sights, the sounds, the people, everything and anything involved in your special happy space. Try and be as vivid as possible when imagining them.
Once you’re seeing and hearing a dream world around you, it’s time to inhabit a dream body or astral body to interact with the place you’ve created. If you’re on a beach, imagine the feeling of the sand in between your toes, and the breeze blowing your hair. The more physical it is the better, as it will help you take on dream form.
Once you can feel yourself in the world, the last step is to dissociate yourself from your physical body. Let all sensations of you lying in bed drift away, and fully focus on the actions your dream body is performing. Before you know it, you’ll be fully immersed in your dream with no feeling of your physical body!
Overcoming the Fear
So now that you’re equipped to stop sleep paralysis in its tracks and turn it into something beautiful, give it a try! Lucid dreaming takes a lot of practice, but it’s totally worth the effort. All it takes is a few nights experimenting with different techniques to find the one that works for you, and the rest is up to your imagination!