9 Ways to Wake Up From Sleep Paralysis (By Ryan Hurd)

Written by Ryan Hurd of DreamStudies.org, republished on LD4all with permission.

9 Ways to Wake Up From Sleep Paralysis
April 29, 2010 by Ryan Hurd

Sleep paralysis is the terrifying feeling of being held down after just waking up or going to sleep. You can’t move or scream, and sometimes this paralysis is accompanied with the certainty that someone –or something — is in the room. Quite simply, sleep paralysis is one of the most horrifying experiences in life, because we know we’re awake but can’t believe what appears to be happening to us.

The truth is, sleep paralysis is a biological event and it can be often prevented by attending to lifestyle choices, but making new habits can take time. So how do you wake up from sleep paralysis tonight? There’s not a lot of information available. Below I compiled 9 ways to get out now.

Note: Because this is such a personal thing, some of these tactics will work for you, and others won’t. Choose the ones that make the most sense to you intuitively. Think of these strategies as tools in a toolbox to bring out when the conditions are right.

1. Don’t Fight

If you feel like you are being held down and you can’t move, do not fight back. This actually will intensify the experience. Not only is fighting back likely to increase the feelings of being held down (so much that it may seem like you are being crushed), but fighting back will also increase the fear, thus triggering the emotional centers of the brain and strengthening this lucid nightmare. Controlling fear is the most important skill during these moments.

2. Surrender and Go with the Flow

Instead, try to relax when you notice SP starting to happen. Prepare an affirmation like “This is SP and I am okay.” If you feel pressure on your chest, see if you can “go with” the pressure rather than against it. It’s like winning a fight by having no resistance. For example, for me, I often feel like I’m being pushed into the mattress when I have SP. I let myself go, and mentally “pull” in the direction I am being pushed. What happens is I then “pop” into a full-on dream, or I can wake up directly.

3. Wiggle your Toe

Another excellent tactic that works for many people is to try to move an extremity, such as a finger or a toe. Most of the feelings of paralysis are in the belly, chest, and throat. So focus all you attention on the toe and try to move it back and forth. In many cases, this will break the paralysis.

4. Clench your Fist

This is a variation of the toe wiggle method. Clench and unclench your fist.

5. Focus on your Breath

An easy way to stop these nightmares is to do some controlled breathing. Controlled breathing does several things at once. For starters, it lessens the feelings of chest pain that sometimes accompany SP. Breathing is autonomic like the heart’s beating or digestion, so it’s not paralyzed like the big muscles in our arms, chest and legs. But breath can be controlled with attention or be affected by severe fear, which may be why SP sufferers “forget” to breathe when under attack. If you can control your breath, you can control your fear. Simply draw your breath in at a normal rate, and exhale fully, using all of your lung capacity. Notice that you can breathe fully without obstruction. This technique will keep you calm as the SP runs its course and then you will wake up without any trouble. A few moments of focused breathing with a strong intention to wake up is effective.

6. Lean into Love to Find Courage

Now is also the time to lean into unconditional love. For many, the surest path is in religious or spiritual beliefs. Regardless, focus on a figure that you admire and love. Think of someone who calms you down—someone who you associate with peace, love and safety. This could be Jesus, the Dali Lama, or someone you know personally. In my first SP nightmare when I was fourteen years old, I thought about the love and respect I had for a girl in my class. Embarrassing but true! It worked: the feelings of oppression and evil dissipated immediately. In this case, true love really does conquer all.

7. Getting Help from your Sleep Partner

If someone shares your bed, you can tell them about your SP attacks and what to look for when you are having a nightmare. For example, my wife used to shake me awake whenever I began to breath heavily and irregularly in my sleep. As it turns out, she was waking me up each and every time from an intense SP nightmare. Now when this happens, I tell her not to wake me up, because I actually use SP to go into a lucid dream.

You could also have your partner respond to a verbal request. This only works some of the time, because some people cannot speak in paralysis. But some can. Choose a short word that is easy to say. “Help” is a good choice. When you’re in paralysis, focus your attention on your throat and say “Help.” Don’t try to say it as loud as you can; what may happen is that your imagination will take over and you will only say the word in your dream. Instead, say it forcefully but without screaming.

8. Coughing for Help

A variation of using your voice is to try to cough into wakefulness. Like breathing, coughing can be autonomic or consciously regulated. By coughing on purpose, you can jar yourself awake.

9. Write out the Plan

The suggestions above all have helped hundreds of people get out of SP and get some sleep. Not every tactic will work with you. But having too many tactics in your mind can actually be counterproductive. So it is important to make a plan, almost like the fire escape plan you may have for evacuating your family home in case of emergency. Write it out; this will cement the plan in your mind and make it easier to remember when the paralysis comes on strong.

10. The Ultimate Method

I know — I said 9 ways, but this is the single best way to wake up from sleep paralysis and it’s really in a class of it’s own. When you realize you are in SP, scrunch up your face. In other words, make a face like you just smelled something bad. Snarl and squint. Do this two or three times in a row and the paralysis will break IMMEDIATELY. I’m not sure why it is so effective, but unlike the pinky wiggle, this method is foolproof.

After you wake up, get out of bed immediately and turn on a light. Wash your face with cold water. If you just stay in bed, the chance of sliding right back into sleep paralysis is pretty high.

Ryan welcomes discussion of this article and will be dropping in to reply to your comments.

M8 respect for your effort, but I’ve experienced this many times, and with time, I’ve learned how to stop it, in most of cases, I’m using this 10th metod(something like that,I just wait a “chance” and then “hit”, other words, when this happens, when I find out that it’s smaller than before, I put all my energy to make that look >.<)
It happened me last night, and 3 times in a row I’ve broke paralysis in beggining.
Also, there’s a topic about it, I didn’t saw this topic.

Haha, I love this article.

Honestly, i wish there was stuff like this when I joined… I used to be paranoid of SP to the point that I didn’t want to dream…

I think I was a little bit worse than normal, but I mean, I still remember asking a lot of people about it with none of the answers I sought…

These are the answers

Now just to send this article back in time.

Thank you to Ryan Hurd, I still haven’t had sleep paralysis in my now 3 years of my focus on dreaming, but I will make sure that if it does happen to scrunch up my face (probably after the methods that make more sense to me) Still unsure if they’d work for me, but one doesn’t know until it happens, correct?

Is normal, while SP I hear heavy sound in my ears, it’s unbearable ?

Great article, but I don’t think of SP as an scary experience, it’s very interesting and I just love pulling sensation, just like described in article feeling of being pulled toward mattress. I would describe this sensation like there are a billion little hooks attached on my body and someone or something is pulling me down with strings!

Just awesome! :grin: Oh, and the best part of all this when I woke up whether is just SP or LD the feeling of my heart racing, it’s like my heart would like to come out of my chest, like there is no enough place for heart beats, I don’t know, it just make me feel ALIVE! :grin:

I agree alot with dB_FTS. I enjoy SP. And as you mentioned, it can be a tool to easily step into an LD so under no circumstances would I wish to break SP.

I experience it last night and it was awesome! I was vibrations like some crazy phone and then all of a sudden I was floating… good time :happy:

Yeah, about breaking it… I sometimes do that on purpose just to relive it again, I know that’s crazy because the goal is LD, but still! :grin:

dB_FTS, First I want to say that you have been really helpful with this start of my journey and I am going to see if I can get into SP again tonight and stay in it so I can attempt to have a lucid dream. I don’t think it is gonna be that easy but I am just hoping that I can become Lucid by staying in SP. If this works I will be so siked and happy. I have been skeptical about Lucid Dreaming and just want to get it to work. It will :help: so much if I could just have like a test dream like here’s your test of a LD now go learn and have many more. :eek: This would be very helpful and make me confident with learning how to perfect it. :content:

I do number 5, except instead of focusing on my breath I simply hold my breath. It has worked every time so far, and has also worked for when I wanted to awaken from my lucid dreams.

Yeah, I’m with Beeclock, just hold your breath and you wake up. I used to struggle to move a limb but too many times i would be in such an awkward position (Legs crossed and laying on my arm) I had to find another method.

Well this was certainly worth reading, and I’ll keep it in mind.

I had my most intense SP ever this morning. What happened was I was about to fall asleep and I thought about lucid dreaming and how one should stay calm, because I felt my heart beating very fast. That triggered me noticing my SP. I knew what was happening and was pretty happy with myself for not freaking out. I was thinking “hah! How ridiculous that all those people seemed to think it was a scary experience”. I remember moving my lips and moving slightly. I sort of felt as though I had broken it.

So I opened my eyes.

Bad idea. I felt I deserved it afterwards though! Thanks for the article.

When I’m in SP I can’t pick up my head :help: (or move my body obviously.) When I struggle I can’t break it but when I relax I can. I never knew it was SP before I found this site. (And this thread.)

Why wake up when it can give you a lucid dream?

We have had this disussion before but recently I read a forum piece on teleporting. When you have the “thing behind you” or “walking it mud or tar” feeling…just teleport. Dreams are jumpy anyway so we do it even when we don’t want to some times. Waking up is good but as some have said “why?”. Just try teleporting to someplace else.

i understand how sleep paralysis works n all, but it happened to me last night where i feel something pushing me down into the bed, but i was able to scream and call for help(i was wide awake when it happened, and when i screamed it didnt stop) so i need someone to explain this to me

Interesting experience, artfreak. I had something similar last night: I woke up in the middle of the night because something touched my face. When I opened my eyes, I saw an extremely large spider hanging from the ceiling right over my head, covering it completely, touching my face with its’ legs and whiskers. :neutral: It freaked me out so I jumped out of the bed and by doing so, I hit the spider that it flew to the porch door which is just behind the bed. I spent the next couple of minutes trying to stop it form getting out (I had a strong feeling that it shouldn’t be allowed to leave the room) and to catch it from between the curtains and the outside roulette but I messed it up and it escaped because I didn’t drop the roulette completely to the floor. :wam: I could hear it crawling on the roulette and window, then, after a while, all went quiet.

I’ve had my share of FA’s so I thought this was a FA at first, but after confirming a couple of times that I was wide awake, this kind of puzzles me… :neutral:

Anybody else had something similar?


Sweet I can’t wait to Try that 10th one. But just in case my fiancée knows to wake me I’ve gotten to were I can move my arm then tap on her or shake my head and she’ll feel it and wake me. But to wake myself I’ve had to make myself nice quickly andabruptly to wake myself up. If this world that will be awesome

Most the time I have to move my leg or shake my head abruptly and very quick to easier up but if my fiancée is with me then I just shake my head against her or, I’ve gotten to were I can move my arms slowly with allot of effort in part thanks to my kung fu. But I’ll shadow my head against her or put my arm on her then tap my fingers on her to wake her so she can wake me but if this works then I’ll use it and ifit does worth then maybe I’ll try relaxing and go with it to try to go into a lucid dream. But most the time I try not to have those. I have them allot but there usually very bloody gory and I’m fighting with people and out usually end in more than one fatality. And I dispize violence I love all life I train to fight so I don’t have to and if I do I can take out the person with out much effort and without hurting them to bad that way way I’m safe and there ok. But I like them when there not but 90% if the tone it’s like that I wish it wasn’t but I’ve had a pretty hard life fighting was a normal thing until Pepe started realizing that the little guys worse to need with than the big guy. But anything top ad or maybe help so if I do stay with it then I don’t have such horrible dreams would be greatly appreciated thank you and sorry skit the spelling errors I tried yofix them but I’m using a phone and everyone I click on something the scream jumps and I wind up s some were rose on the page thanks again