7 Tips To Break Free From Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis is the stuff of nightmares – you’re frozen in place but feel like you need to run away from something scary. However, sleep paralysis is not technically a nightmare – it’s the result of entering deep sleep or coming out of it. You’re still somewhat aware, but your mind is playing tricks on you, making it all the more terrifying.

Because you’re not actually dreaming, there are some ways to take control of the situation and try to get yourself out of it. If you experience sleep paralysis on a frequent or even occasional basis, then you’re in a small group – but it can also give you a chance to practice and execute these seven tips for beating it…

1. Remain Calm

This is probably easier said than done, especially when an overwhelming sense of doom comes over you and you can’t escape it. However, one thing that some experts suggest is to try not to fight or struggle, as this can actually intensify the situation, according to DreamStudies.org.

So if you have a dark figure in your room that seems to be holding you down, don’t try to push back, notes the site. “Fighting back will also increase the fear, thus triggering the emotional centers of the brain and strengthening this lucid nightmare,” explains the source.

2. Slow Your Breathing

This can go hand-in-hand if you’re trying to relax, as fear can cause erratic breathing or ceasing breathing altogether. “If you control your breathing, you will control your fear, and your feelings of chest pain will lessen,” notes AwesomeMa.com.

The site says breathing deeply is key to waking up. “Try to breathe without obstruction and you will wake up without any trouble after only a few seconds,” it says. On that note, you may want to master relaxation breathing while awake too, as stress can interrupt your sleep cycles.

3. Wiggle a Toe

While your ability to move major muscle groups seems to have vanished during sleep paralysis, you still might be able to get yourself out of the state by attempting to wiggle a toe of finger, according to world-of-lucid-dreaming.com.

Don’t try too hard; gently focus on moving a digit, which could be successful in helping your brain realize you’re actually not dreaming and cease the atonia (lack of muscle function), adds the source.

4. Don’t Sleep on Your Back

This is more of a preventative tip than a way to come out of sleep paralysis, but many sources including WikiHow note how sleeping on your back can increase the likelihood of experiencing this problem.

“This may be due to the tongue falling back into the throat and causing a temporary air blockage,” says WikiHow about the connection of back-sleeping and paralysis. If you fall asleep on your side but then end up on your back (and in sleep paralysis mode), try affixing a tennis ball onto the back of your nightshirt to help break the cycle, it suggests.

5. Turn it into a Lucid Dream

These lucid experiences half in a dream state can be very interesting and non-scary if you can learn to guide the. Sleep paralysis can be a gateway to lucid dreams, notes world-of-lucid-dreaming.com. In fact, the source explains that some people induce sleep paralysis on purpose so they can launch into a lucid dream they have control over.

“You’re already halfway to a lucid dream because your body is, technically, asleep while your mind is consciously aware,” notes the site. The same source also has a more detailed description about how to have a lucid dream, noting total relaxation and conscious awareness are keys to achieve it.

6. Make a Face

AwesomeMa.com suggests that you “scrunch up your face” when you slip into sleep paralysis, noting it’s one of the most effective ways of breaking out of it. “Make a face as if you have just smelled something unpleasant in order to move your lips and facial muscles,” it notes, adding after a few tries you should be able to wake fully.

Along with making a face, moving your eyes (by looking around the room or blinking) is another way to beat the problem, it adds. These suggestions are along the same lines of moving a toe or finger, which the same source also endorses as a way of breaking out of the paralysis because it draws attention away from the chest and belly, which sleep paralysis mostly affects.

7. Train Someone to Wake You Up

If you sleep alongside a partner, or have someone nearby that knows you suffer from sleep paralysis, you can teach them to wake you when you enter sleep paralysis mode. Tell them they may hear a light humming or whimpering, see some twitches, or hear irregular breathing, all signs that you need to “get out”.

Be sure that they don’t violently wake you, as this can add to your terror. A simple tap or light shake should do the trick. Remind them you’re actually awake in this state, so a small outside disturbance should be enough to break out of it.

Jeff Hayward

Jeff Hayward

Jeff has more than 15 years of experience writing professionally about health, travel and the arts among other subjects. He continuously looks to improve his own overall health through exercise, diet and mindfulness. He is also a proud stay-at-home dad that loves taking photographs both professionally and as a hobby.