Between sophomore to junior year of college, I had the scariest season of my life. The summer that I had nonstop sleep paralysis. Story time…
Paranormal Activity had just come out (you could date me that way) and that movie fucking terrified me. I thought it was a solid scary movie.
At that time I was moving into an apartment with my college roommates, but I was the first one there because I was taking summer courses and they weren’t back from summer break yet. Important bit of context – I watched Paranormal Activity, got spooked by it and basically went back to my empty ass apartment.
Life lesson: Don’t watch a scary movie and move into an empty apartment by yourself.
It was supposed to be four dudes, but it was just me in an empty, spartan apartment.
So I entered, that night of sleep, feeling quite disturbed from watching the movie. And that’s when I had my first episode of sleep paralysis.
But first, what exactly is sleep paralysis?
What is sleep paralysis?
My experience of sleep paralysis is that my body falls asleep, but my brain is still awake. My brain is this in-between state where it could still generate dreamlike things.
Here’s the scoop from WebMD:
Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes.Web MD: Sleep Paralysis
When this happens, my eyes are open but my brain is conjuring up images from the subconscious. A movie projects out in front of me.
The onset would always be this drumming in my ear, like dramatic footsteps pounding up the stairs. boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. It would get increasingly louder and my heart rate would go up. I’ve come to learn that this was the onset of what would be some pretty like disturbing imagery in my mind.
Having just watched Paranormal Activity, I saw a lot of demonic images. It was always a witch of demonness. I would see this face appear right over mine and it was scary as hell.
During this entire “experience,” I’m physically struggling against my own locked body. My extremities – finger and toes – have a tiny bit of control. But my bigger limbers are completely locked in, as if I was strapped down. Maybe 1 out of 10 times I would actually be able break out of this. In those moments I would then actually wake up, and feel kinda like I narrowly escaped.
Most of the time it was futile. I would start praying. God, Jesus, please save me. At first I thought this had something to do with my spirituality. During one episode, the witch mocked me, saying Jesus, Jesus, Jesus as if to say Hey, praying isn’t going to help.
This happened almost every night. It was like mini PTSD. I had anxiety going into sleep (which is a great feedback loop) with the thoughts: Is it going to be today? Is it gonna be tomorrow?
I started identifying these patterns and realizing that, the drumming in my year. it would be, I caught on to that and I realized that like early on, if I’m aware of to this drumming, I could turn my body real quick and switch positions and I would avoid the whole scenario.
So I got better at dealing with it. I kept Googling and talking to people about it, and learned that sleeping on the back is a common cause of sleep paralysis. Bingo!
I usually start sleeping on my back, then roll to the side. Sometimes I sleep with my hands on my chest, or almost clasped. That would be a surefire way to trigger sleep paralysis. if I want to do that tonight, I would just sleep straight in class, my hands over my chest and kind of be in a locked position already.
It kind of makes sense. I started learning to begin to fall asleep on my stomach instead, where I’m kind of locking myself in a position where when arms down and I’m like this, and this is like kind of how I fall asleep with my head to the pillow. that’s actually how I prefer to fall asleep these days.
It has like the fastest sleep onset for me. I learned that trick from Tim Ferris and, that was a huge win that basically reduced these episodes by like 80% so sleep position was another one. at that time, I wasn’t meditating.
I wasn’t aware of having a meditation practice or breath work or anything like that. So I might have tried, meditations and, working things out and, and letting go of thoughts in my head. during this time I have no idea how I made this like weird connection in my head because.
For a long time, I’d been fascinated with the idea of lucid dreaming, like who wouldn’t want to just create their dreams, right. And be awake and alive in their dreams and do whatever they want.
It’s really hard to explain how I got here, but the consistent drumming in my year that would lead to sleep paralysis. I wondered what if I just totally accepted that instead of resisted? And if I could take the other door from there into lucid dreaming, because I was effectively awake already, right?
it felt like all the drumming was someone knocking at the door and it could have led to two doors. One was the sleep paralysis and the other was perhaps control over my dream state because, try as I might, I always struggled to, have this like wakefulness state in my sleep.
So I thought it was a key. And so, One time I worked up the courage. basically I put myself in an open position on my back basically, and kind of expecting this to happen. so I was priming myself and the drumming in my years started happening. It got louder and louder and I was like, bracing myself.
I was like, here we go. Like, what’s going to happen. I’m going to either see some fucked up imagery. Or I could direct and push my brain into this other direction. lo and behold, that first time I entered a lucid dream state it was magical.
all of a sudden, I wasn’t seeing like all that stuff planted over my face, but I was like, Oh shit, I am in a lucid dream. It was an open grassy field. And. I ask myself, , okay, now what do I want to do? Like how long is this going to last? I better have some fun.
So I basically just started flying around everywhere and it was fantastic. It was a feeling of some exercise of agency over my brain and my brain chemistry and my sleep that whatever was happening to me, wasn’t just. completely out of my control and always ending in a bad state.
So, that’s amazing. so that was the scariest season of my life. basically for. At least a month, at least like 30 days straight, maybe even two months, it was sleep paralysis every night. I think this is a long way of saying I’m not cut out for horror films or, I will never watch a horror film, just willingly on my own and just like go to sleep.
that’s another time. I have a lot of other thoughts about the horror industry and watching horror films. if you ever have sleep paralysis, consider some of these things that have worked for me, play around with their sleep position. I do think there are some like well-documented sleep positions to avoid sleep paralysis. I would also play with some supplements like, melatonin, something that like really knocks me out like melatonin plus L-theanine, maybe even CBD or THC products, or maybe they might have the opposite effect, make things more, make dreams more fantastical.
So that was the scariest season of my life. if you have experienced sleep paralysis, I would love to know what your story was, your craziest stories are and how you dealt with it.