People who have experienced sleep paralysis know how terrifying that feeling is. They feel being held down after just waking up or going to sleep. They are not able to move or scream, and at times it occurs together with the certainty that something or someone is in the room. They feel awake but can’t believe what’s happening to them.
Actually, sleep paralysis is a biological event and it should not worry you. It is a hiccup in the brain’s chemical soup as you transition from sleep to wakefulness.
If you are dealing with recurrent sleep paralysis, it can often be avoided by choosing better lifestyle choices, although new habits can take more time.
What causes sleep paralysis?
The main cause is REM (rapid eye movement) atonia. Atonia means lack of muscle tension.
REM atonia is important for healthy sleep. When falling asleep every night, the electrical nerve impulses are disconnected between your muscles and your brain. The brain can still tell your body to do stuff, but the body can’t respond.
Sleep paralysis happens when waking up and the REM atonia remains in place, though for a few seconds.
How to wake up from sleep paralysis?
Some of the following tactics may work for you, while others won’t.
Try to relax into the paralysis because fighting it forcefully will make you panic and increases the chance of experiencing scary hallucinations.
Try wiggling your fingers and toes gently. It will send signals to your brain that your body is awake and to stop atonia.
Move your eyes and blink. Look around the room. The goal is to awake your brain and body.
Move your lips and facial muscles.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Focus on calm and positive thoughts, such as a beach in the sun, or you ca sing an upbeat song in your mind.
Scrunch up your face like you’ve just smelled something bad. Do it 2-3 times in a row and the paralysis will break instantly.
After waking up, get up and turn on the light. Then, wash your face with cold water. If you stay in bed, the chance of falling back into sleep paralysis is really high.