Sleep paralysis has been documented across cultures and throughout history. For many people, it can be a terrifying ordeal. Up to 50% of people experience it at one point in their life. For another 5%, it is a chronic disorder. People often experience it as a consequence of lucid dreaming techniques and are deterred from continuing - thereby missing out on opportunities and benefits that dream control engenders. In this tutorial, I will explain the mechanism that underlies this immobilization and how to either beat it or use it to enter a lucid dream.
Sleep paralysis is a state in which a person is awake and alert but unable to move or speak. During the REM stage, motor neurones throughout the body undergo hyperpolarization resulting in almost complete atonia. This natural and necessary intervention prevents us from acting out as we dream. The problem occurs when a person is awake and conscious, but their body remains in an atonic state. They feel trapped within their body.
While immobilized, many people experience vivid hallucinations. They might hear humming, whispering, footsteps, or someone calling their name. They may see supernatural creatures or a shadowy presence in the room. Many accounts throughout history report demonic figures sitting on their chest and restricting breathing. Such incidents likely account for a plethora of abduction and paranormal narratives.
Polysomnographic studies show that this temporary nocturnal paralysis positively correlates with shorter REM latencies and fragmentation of the REM phase. Disruptions in sleep patterns - like those employed by lucid dreamers - can precipitate the onset. This immobilization might be terrifying, but you can beat it. More importantly, you can use it to enter a lucid dream with no loss of awareness.
It is imperative to assuage panic. Don't struggle against the immobilization as this will only increase the dread. Remind yourself that sleep atonia is a natural and necessary function. Relax. Focus on positive imagery - imagine yourself lying on a beach, flying over a resplendent countryside, laying in the tender arms of a loved one. Keep it positive.
Try to make small movements. Begin with your face. Aim to blink or move your lips. Focus on moving a finger or toe. These slight movements can compel your brain into disposing of the sleep atonia.
Sleep paralysis can be a porthole to a lucid dream. You are almost there! Your body is asleep, but your mind is consciously aware - the defining characteristic of a lucid dream. Yet you are trapped in your physical body. You are not in the dreamscape.
Imagine the scene you want to enter. Focus on the minutiae. Engage your senses. Image the wind on your face, the smell in the air, the feel of the ground beneath your feet. Explore the scene, engage with it. Move awareness away from your physical body by focussing on your dream body.
When you have achieved sufficient dissociation from your physical body, you will transition into the dream. A popping sensation often accompanies this shift in realities.
Sleep atonia is a natural and vital process of sleep. Without it, we would batter our partners black and blue as we thrashed around in our dreams. Experiencing this state while conscious can be alarming, but it is what you make of it. It is terrifying only if you allow it to be. Hallucinations which occur during this stage arise from the same neural foundations as dreams, and as such, can be manipulated in the same way.