Many of us have experienced the sensation of sleep paralysis and it can feel very frightening at the time. This can happen either whilst falling asleep or upon waking where the individual cannot move or speak and is caused by the mind being awake before the body does, which gives a feeling of being completely immobile and trapped. It is common amongst young adults to experience this and also with anyone suffering from a mental illness including anxiety.
When we sleep, our mind sends signals to relax the muscles so that we do not act out what we see in our dreams, basically. This is known as Antonia and it basically keeps us from harm. What people find most unsettling about this sleep paralysis phenomenon is that they cannot wake themselves up. They feel like they are kicking, screaming, and fighting but this gives more of a sense of pressure and just makes the feeling worse.
There are a few ways that can help you to wake up when you are in this state and some things work better for different people. Some say they wiggle their toes or fingers to get a sense of their body which can help to wake them up but this can only be done when they are relaxed. If this does not work for you then you could try clenching your fists. Some say this has helped them to fully wake up if they cannot do anything else. Scrunching up the face is also an effective method. If you can scrunch your face or wiggle your nose it can wake you up pretty quickly.
People experience sleep paralysis differently and if it is a regular occurrence then your partner can be aware of the signs and help wake you. Some have the ability to open their eyes which can make it even worse but if your partner sees you like this then they can wake you. Some also say that they can cough which is again, another way to get your partner’s attention.
Naturally, the best method is to relax the best you can and go with the flow. Normally, after waking up paralyzed the first instinct is to panic but once you realize what is happening you can relax into it. Some say their chest feels tight which can seem unsettling but if you focus on this and relax the chest muscles then you can feel the relief that will initially wake you up.
Once you have awoken it is important to get up and out of bed because if you fall back to sleep then you are likely to experience this again pretty much immediately and this cycle can continue for a while. Get up and move around. If it is time to get up then do so or if it is not, get up and make yourself a drink, read for a while, or do something that calms you until you feel sleepy again. Experiencing sleep paralysis can be very scary especially if you are experiencing it for the first time but try not to think about it too often if it does happen as it only makes it worse. Most people have experienced this at some point in their lives so there is nothing to worry about and there is nothing wrong with you. The symptoms usually clear pretty quickly if you relax and remember that you will not be trapped there forever.
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