What to Do If You’re Stuck in Sleep Paralysis

Let me start this by stating that I am not a doctor nor a medical professional. I don’t have any professional experience alleviating sleep paralysis. Rather, I’m just someone who has suffered from this terrible experience for most of my life. But, as someone who has regularly experienced this, I’ve developed my own tips and tricks that have helped me to wake up from my sleep paralysis as well as decrease the frequency of it happening. While everyone’s experiences are different and uniquely their own, I’m hoping that by sharing my experiences with you, I can help someone the next time they suffer through sleep paralysis.

What exactly is sleep paralysis?

If you’re asking this, it’s likely that you are one of the lucky people who hasn’t experienced sleep paralysis in their life (let me just say I’m very jealous). Or perhaps, you’ve only experienced it once or twice. Supposedly only 7.6% of the general population experiences sleep paralysis at least once in their life; however, scientists believe it’s likely anywhere between 7.6 and 50 percent of the population, as it’s likely many people who have experienced it don’t report it.

Sleep paralysis happens when you experience REM sleep while awake. In other words, your mind wakes up while your body is still asleep, leaving your unable to move.

The first time this happened to me, I was a teenager. In fact, it’s much more common for this to happen to teenagers instead of grown adults. In fact, I experienced this phenomenon almost every single day of my teenage years when I didn’t have to wake up for school. Any day I was able to sleep in, I, instead, woke with my body still asleep, unable to move. Unlike the way I’ve seen in portrayed in TV (perhaps most famously in the new adaptation they did of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix), I have never been able to open my eyes while experiencing sleep paralysis though some claim they can. Instead, I have complete spatial awareness without being able to really see anything. Somehow, I know exactly who is in the room with me and where- whether or not my husband is nearby and if there are any pets in the room- as well as what is and isn’t around me and exactly how it’s positioned. Yet, I cannot see anything. I just know. This became helpful when I taught my husband how to tell when I’m experiencing it, as I can know to alert him to wake me up.

Growing up, I went through the whole gambit of sleep paralysis experiences; I had it happen where I was still partially dreaming and wasn’t in control of my thoughts (though more often than not I am fully awake and completely in control of my thoughts), I felt the ‘evil presence’ people sometimes feel when they go through this. I felt the sensation that I couldn’t breath and that someone was pushing on my chest or grabbing my heart. However, 99% of the time, it’s just me being conscious in my body which is incapable of movement. So, what do you do if you’re stuck in this state of sleep paralysis?

How to get out of sleep paralysis

I felt I was in a good position with advantage in my sleep paralysis experiences, as I was in full control of my mind throughout most of the episodes, so I could problem solve. Naturally, when I was younger, the first way I learned to get out of it wasn’t the easiest way to deal with the problem, but it was mostly effective after some time. I learned to try and shake myself awake. Despite being paralyzed, if you can focus enough willpower on your body and keep trying to fling yourself over on your side, eventually, after dozens of tries, you’ll eventually wake with your body flopping over. Though the amount of strength, focus, and tries that takes is never easy.

As I grew more into adulthood and began living with my (then boyfriend) husband in college, the sleep paralysis continued over and never really calmed down. Lucky for me, I trained my husband to understand what it looked like when I was having an episode and how to help me out of it. I learned very quickly that I still had access to my vocal cords while I was in sleep paralysis. It was the easiest way for me to notify him that there was a problem. Though I couldn’t move my mouth, tongue or lips, I could still produce grunt-like noises. So, I learned to quickly make this shrill, grunt-like noise to alert him to my situation. When I began having episodes and I knew he was next to me in bed, I’d make these noises, and he quickly realized that was the ‘sleep paralysis noise’, and he’d shake me awake. Luckily, I can shake quickly awake with ease if someone realizes what’s going on. Not only did that work so well for us in college, it actually helped me break the cycle of sleep paralysis.

As I grew into an adult, I eventually stopped experiencing these episodes all together. That is, until I experience times of extreme changes to my schedule. I’ve learned that my body really does rely heavily on a very particular schedule-whether I like it or not- so I’m quick to have issues when it gets thrown off its sleep schedule. So, it’s imperative for me to stay on a schedule and stick to a careful plan when I’m traveling or in a new environment, otherwise I can easily get sick or face other issues.

When I was traveling to Germany for close to two weeks this year, that was the perfect time for my body to slide back into its old habits. While I, thankfully, adjusted well going to Germany, like with any trip for me, the transition to my schedule back home was pretty difficult. I had to force myself to stay awake to normal times the first week I was back (as my body was really stuck on the German time- which was 9 hours ahead of LA time). I would do pretty well until about 10pm, when I would inevitably crash, partially because my husband goes to bed earlier than me, so it was harder to stay awake with everyone in bed in our house.

Because I was going to bed earlier than ever, yet my body was used to sleeping in until 8 or 9am on my normal-pre-trip schedule, my body got confused and did its own thing. Since I went to bed very early and got more than 8 hours of sleep, but my body still wanted to sleep in later due to my normal schedule, I found myself experiencing sleep paralysis every single day for the first week I was back in town. Oh boy! My old friend was back!

Unfortunately, my husband gets up earlier than me now, so for most of these episodes, he wasn’t around to help. So, I was back to relying on some of my old tricks. The most effective way I’ve found to get out of sleep paralysis if you’re on your own is to start small and increase. What do I mean? I focus on moving just a small part of my body first. So, I focus on just the tip of my finger. It’s easiest to get control of a small part of yourself and allow it to grow. So, I begin tapping my finger, then with more focus I can turn that finger tap into the full shaking of my hand. With enough continued focus on it, I can turn the handshake into a full arm shake that inevitably wakes me up. So, now, if you find yourself in sleep paralysis without anyone nearby, I highly recommend focusing on moving just your finger and allowing that intention to grow into your hand and inevitably into your full arm.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone with you, talk to them about what’s going on, and I recommend coming up with a symbol for them- something you know you can do like a grunt- to let them know to wake you up.


Why am I experiencing sleep paralysis?

If you’re a teenager, that alone is likely the reason why you are experiencing this phenomenon. Luckily for you, you will eventually most likely grow out of it all together. Many who believe in psychic phenomenon believe it happens to a lot of young intuitives as they begin to grow and discover their power, as well.

If you’re an adult, it’s not that easy. Studies have linked stress disorders, such as anxiety, PTSD, and panic disorder to sleep paralysis. In my case, that’s likely it, as I’ve been diagnosed with panic disorder, so apparently there is a connection there. Experts recommend drinking less caffeine (especially before bed) and keeping on a more regular schedule.

If it’s something that you have experienced in the past but haven’t in years, there’s likely a habit change that is causing it to surface again- in my case it was jet-lag. Jet-lag is actually a regular cause, so if you’ve recently traveled, that could be your answer.

Sleep paralysis and OBEs   

Lastly, I’ll point out that many people interested in metaphysical topics will tell you that sleep paralysis is the first step to having an OBE. While I’ve never been calm enough to give this a try throughout my many experiences in sleep paralysis, if you do find yourself stuck and are unable to wake your body, it is possible to try and see if you can have an OBE or out-of-body experience (ie astral projection). To do this, it’s said that when you find yourself in sleep paralysis to imagine yourself at the foot of your bed looking over yourself. From there, if you are able to project yourself astrally to the foot of your bed, you can begin thinking of anywhere you’d like to go, and you’ll project there. It helps, supposedly, to start by going from your room to the next, etc, until you get the process down.

After another week of adjusting back to my schedule at home, I’ve watched the episodes of sleep paralysis slip away from my life again (thankfully!). But it has become a goal of mine to try and remain calm and have an OBE if it happens again. We’ll see. If it does, I’ll update you. But for now, I hope my experiences with sleep paralysis have been able to offer you with a few tips and tricks on how to break yourself out of it when you’re having an episode as well as to why you could be having them.

Good luck with your adventures, and I wish you all wonderful nights of rest without waking to being stuck in your body.  

Malorie Mackey

Malorie Mackey is an actress, published author, and adventurer based out of Los Angeles, California. Throughout her experiences, Malorie found a love for travel and adventure, having journeyed to over a dozen countries experiencing unique locations. From the lush jungles of the Sierra Madre mountain range to the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, Malorie began adventuring and writing about her unique travels. These travel excerpts can be found on VIVA GLAM Magazine, in Malorie’s Adventure Blog, in Malorie’s adventure show “Weird World Adventures” and in the works for her full-length travel book. Stay tuned as Malorie travels the world bringing its beauty and wonder to you.

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