Sleep paralysis, that’s the term which I didn’t recognize when I first battled with it. I thought our house was haunted. It was frightening. I thought I’m going crazy. There were times that I didn’t want to sleep or go back to sleep anymore. But later on, I found some methods on how to avoid having it as I battle with sleep paralysis episodes.

As far as I could remember, it was in College when my sleep paralysis started. What is sleep paralysis by the way? Before I give the exact definition of it, I’ll explain to you what it’s like based on my experience. You’re asleep but you’re partly conscious. You wanted to move but you can’t. You see entities but they’re not there.

According to NHS, ‘‘Sleep paralysis is a temporary inability to move or speak that occurs when you’re waking up or falling asleep.’’

Battle with sleep paralysis and how to avoid it
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Sometimes, one may also hallucinate during sleep paralysis episode, that means, you see, hear and feel things that are not even there. For which reason, I cross out that belief that our house is haunted by ghosts or bad spirits. The experience seems so real though, that I swore, somebody was preventing me to breathe in my sleep.

Before I discuss how I fight sleep paralysis episodes using the intervention and avoidance methods which I have learned personally and was later confirmed through research, let’s touch some facts about sleep paralysis.

  • Stress, life crisis or a new life situation, mental disorder can trigger it 
  • Sleep paralysis occurs when REM (rapid eye movement)sleep cycle is disrupted. Dreams occur during REM, and our body relaxes. Our body undergoes a transition from REM but when it doesn’t synchronize with our brain, sleep paralysis happens since our brain is already conscious but our body is still in a paralyzed state. 
  • Sleeping position is also another factor for sleep paralysis episode occurrence. 
  • Everyone can experience sleep paralysis once in his lifetime. 
  • Some see demons, ghosts, and imp-like creatures during sleep paralysis episodes (I do)
  • There’s no cure for sleep paralysis, you just need medication if it disturbs your sleep pattern or if it’s getting really serious

What will you do if you’re having an episode of sleep paralysis?

Here are the interventions which I use whenever I experience sleep paralysis:

Don’t panic

I did, and it wasn’t good. I woke up as if 10 devils were after me, pulse raced, heart pounded and I could hardly breathe. Sleep paralysis can’t cause your death, but panic will. Fear can kill us. When our heart couldn’t handle the exertion, this will lead to cardiac arrest. I learned from it, whenever I am aware (like always) that I am being paralyzed in my sleep, I wait and try not to panic.

If ever that you’ll experience it, just calm down, although you think somebody’s on top of you, just think, you’re just dreaming and it’s not real. Focus on positive things and look forward to the things that you can do when you wake up.

Try to move one part of your body or just wait

This is the continuation of the above method, after realizing that you’re having sleep paralysis, and you want to move out of fear, you could try to move one of your fingers. Just one, and it is enough. Sometimes, it’s not easy to make one finger move. Before when I was not yet educated about sleep paralysis, I used to panic, tried to move and when I couldn’t, I gave up with a thought about my death. Tough. No kidding.

You can also wait, just relax and avoid moving when you’re paralyzed in your sleep. Sleep paralysis will pass, as long as you don’t suffer from cardiac arrest from panic, you’ll wake up unscathed. There are no demons in your room or a witch sitting on top of your chest, they’re not real, they’re just hallucination.

Now, let’s talk about what you can do to avoid the possibility of having a sleep paralysis episode.

Modify sleeping position

How I love sleeping on my back (supine position) but because of this, I suffer from sleep paralysis. What I do is I change my sleeping position. Sometimes I sleep on my side or my stomach. There are also times that I say, heck with it, I love this position and I’m going to sleep now.

I would say, not to sleep on your back, but there are reports also that people suffer from sleep paralysis although they’re on their sides or stomach. It has also happened to me, so I try to modify my sleeping position once in a while. 

Get enough sleep

Some individuals who experience sleep paralysis are the ones who undergo life crises or new changes. Sometimes, it also depends on what job you’re practicing. I began to have it when I was still a nursing student, and as a nurse already, I still have it. The last time I had it was days ago. I came from my night shift, and I had not only one episode of sleep paralysis, but I also had two or three episodes when I was sleeping. I was very hungry for sleep as if I am combating with time too since I also thought how long or short I could sleep before I wake up again.

That can’t be stressed enough, lack of sleep can lead to different disorders and health problems.

You can do the following to have adequate sleep:

  • Limit the use of electronic devices like smartphones and laptops, especially in the bedroom or in the bed
  • Don’t bring your work to your bedroom
  • Have a consistent time of sleeping and waking up
  • Indulge yourself with a convenient and comfortable sleeping atmosphere
Pinterest graphic on how to battle with sleep paralysis episodes and how to avoid it.

You’re not a nurse, a doctor, or a fireman, or a teenager, but you are suffering every night or every week from sleep paralysis, it’s time to assess yourself, why is that happening?

Sleep paralysis seems to have an association with psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety. Alcohol and drug usage is also one of the factors that sleep paralysis occurs. So if you’re suffering from sleep paralysis, and you’re taking drugs (addictive), you don’t have to wonder if you’re having hallucinations (even if you’re not sleeping). We have just celebrated the Mental Health Awareness week this month, and it’s very important to be mindful of our own mental health and status, and how we can take care of it. 

Sleep paralysis doesn’t seem to be a serious case, but if it disrupts your everyday life and disturbs you mentally, it is best to see your doctor and seek professional guidance and help.

How about you? Did you hear about sleep paralysis before? Have you already experienced it and how did you feel about it? Most of all, what steps you are doing to avoid sleep paralysis?