Monday, January 11, 2010

A sleep paralysis experiment

After reading the Reddit comments on sleep paralysis and lucid dreams, I have just tried experimented with this stuff myself. First, some background. I've had sleep paralysis several times before. It's terrifying -- like being sucked into something, but not being able to move. Naturally, I fought it each time, successfully. After a few seconds of battle, I found the strength to open my eyes and wake up. The redditors suggested giving up instead and letting it take over you, so I wanted to try doing that.

The perfect opportunity presented itself this Monday morning. Normally, I go to sleep around 2am and wake up around 8:30. On Sunday, I had to get up at an unusual 5:30am to go to a volleyball tournament in a different city. The next day (today), I had to get up at 7:30 to run an errand, followed by a work meeting at 9:30. With all this sleep deprivation, by 10am, I was finding it hard to keep my eyes open during the meeting.

At 10:30, I was at my desk, tired, sleepy and ripe for a lucid dream experiment. I got comfortable in my chair, put my feet up, lay back, resting my head on the back of the armchair and tried to fall asleep.

It took about 30 minutes, and I had to be careful about keeping the delicate balance between relaxation and alertness to avoid actually falling asleep, but everything worked as planned.

I started feeling a tingling sensation in my limbs. My muscles got a little stiff with sleep paralysis, and I started hearing a loud high-pitched noise in my ears. I also felt a definite sense of fear. To test whether this was indeed sleep paralysis, I tried moving my fingers, but found that I couldn't.

I was wondering how difficult it would be to give in to the fear and stop fighting, but it turned out to be rather easy. I relaxed even more and let the fear take over. The noise in my ears got louder. Much louder. The muscle tingling intensified as well. I felt my heart rate increase. The screen went from black to white. It was like the "white light" or "light at the end of the tunnel" cliché that dying people talk about.

That experience lasted for only a second or two, and I started to wake up. I tried relaxing even more, but the whole thing passed, and I woke up feeling a bit agitated and excited. No lucid dreams, unfortunately. Instead of trying to do it again, I opened my eyes and decided to write down these notes.

I will definitely keep experimenting.

14 Comments:

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Benjamin said...

Interesting, but I don't fully understanding the underlying importance of the fact that we as human beings can experience sleep paralysis; it is as far as my knowledge goes, a state of being where one is between both sleep and wake where the brain disables the muscles to prevent the body moving during the defragmenting process of the brain, which can be better defined as dreams. What you may have been experiencing was an error where your mind allowed you temporarily to awaken from sleep while it forgot to reactivate functionality of the muscles. When you did not fight the fear, you made your mind aware of hire levels of brain operations, this likely triggered a panick from your mind as it forcefully reactivated your ability to move. If you fight the fear, you give other parts of the brain a different signal that makes the brain aware of the issue and allows you to more gradully gain control keeping you from injuring yourself. Theoretically it may be damaging to the brain to allow such an event to continue by not fighting the sleep paralysis.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger Quasar said...

How could you possibly try to relax when you do not have any control over your brain during sleep paralysis. Can you explain?

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Abednego said...

In sleep paralysis, you don't have control of your muscles, but you definitely have control of your brain. That's what causes the feeling of panic -- you observe yourself being paralyzed, and you are powerless to do anything about it. That and the loud noise.

I've tried inducing sleep paralysis a few more times since the time of this post. My sleep schedule is quite erratic, so I get a chance to try it often. I find it very difficult to hold on to the lucid dream state. Maybe I get too excited when it happens, which causes me to wake up.

I can usually make it last a couple of seconds at a time, and I see some faint, dream-like images that seem to come from nowhere. However, as soon as I try to "take part in the movie" in any way, I wake up.

 
At 4:42 AM, Blogger Misie Williams said...

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At 11:00 PM, Blogger Mia Torralba said...

I am new to researching this but I have been experiencing what I have come to know as "sleep paralysis" for a few years now. I have always been able to control my dreams and didn't realize until recently that most people can't do this. The first time actual paralysis happened I was almost sixteen and it scared the shit out of me. I saw movies like Insidious and other silly things that made me think I was being possessed or something especially when my mom told me she had felt something similar before. She was scared to death of it but I kind of wanted to see what would happen because I am just a curious person and not that easily scared. gradually as I became more comfortable with it I have learned not so much to "give in" to the fear but to simply NOT be afraid and let it happen the way you would any other dream. At first it was just noticing the paralysis for what it was, and then realizing I would eventually come out of it. This allowed me to relax and focus more on that pressure sensation that feels like your "energy" is being pulled from your body. It hasn't happened often, but I have been able to focus on staying in that state long enough that it feels like I can physically leave my own body and move around. It is harder the farther you pull- almost like a rubber band- when I break concentration I bounce right back. I KNOW IT SOUNDS NUTS but once I jumped out my 6-story high window and twice I have witnessed conversations going on in other rooms that I originally wrote of as dreams but then when I confronted the people involved, they shockingly confirmed that what I "dreamed" actually happened. Is this what people call Lucid Dreaming? or maybe I overheard the conversations in my sleep somehow and hallucinated the rest??? has anyone heard or experienced something similar?

 
At 11:02 PM, Blogger Mia Torralba said...

I am new to researching this but I have been experiencing what I have come to know as "sleep paralysis" for a few years now. I have always been able to control my dreams and didn't realize until recently that most people can't do this. The first time actual paralysis happened I was almost sixteen and it scared the shit out of me. I saw movies like Insidious and other silly things that made me think I was being possessed or something especially when my mom told me she had felt something similar before. She was scared to death of it but I kind of wanted to see what would happen because I am just a curious person and not that easily scared. gradually as I became more comfortable with it I have learned not so much to "give in" to the fear but to simply NOT be afraid and let it happen the way you would any other dream. At first it was just noticing the paralysis for what it was, and then realizing I would eventually come out of it. This allowed me to relax and focus more on that pressure sensation that feels like your "energy" is being pulled from your body. It hasn't happened often, but I have been able to focus on staying in that state long enough that it feels like I can physically leave my own body and move around. It is harder the farther you pull- almost like a rubber band- when I break concentration I bounce right back. I KNOW IT SOUNDS NUTS but once I jumped out my 6-story high window and twice I have witnessed conversations going on in other rooms that I originally wrote of as dreams but then when I confronted the people involved, they shockingly confirmed that what I "dreamed" actually happened. Is this what people call Lucid Dreaming? or maybe I overheard the conversations in my sleep somehow and hallucinated the rest??? has anyone heard or experienced something similar?

 
At 11:06 PM, Blogger Mia Torralba said...

By the way it is FUN AS HELL when you aren't scared anymore. It's like being able to do whatever you want and it feels like you are awake. I don't want to get rid of it I just want to understand it better.

 
At 12:34 AM, Blogger Abednego said...

Mia, that's very cool. I've only been able to make this happen a handful of times myself, but I can confirm that once you get over the terrifying feeling, sleep paralysis is indeed fun as hell.

I wouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions about your extra-sensory powers though. Is it possible that you simply overheard the people in the other room talking through the wall in your sleep? Now, if you can repeat this trick under controlled conditions, with the people in the other room whispering words that you clearly cannot hear, and you repeating those exact words after you wake up -- that would be very interesting, scientifically.

Don't confuse sleep paralysis with magic or anything paranormal. It's just regular human brains being confused about what's real and what is a dream. The effects are very cool, but certainly not magical.

 
At 8:45 PM, Blogger Jack Weston said...

I'm happy to find this blog and see the experinces some of you guys have had with sleep paralysis. I was around 17 when i first experienced the phenomena and at not knowing what it is, is ridiculously scary. I couldn't move and at the time thought i was awake but unable to move (i know realise that i'm fast asleep but my brain is awake and recreates and image of my room so it appears as though my eyes are open and i'm looking around) I always get an intense loud noise to accompany my paralysed state as well as a horrible feeling of fear and panic as though someone is telling me 'you're not meant to be here'. This caused me to try and scream and shout for my parents or sisters or anyone to help.

As i began to research the condition, i began trying to relax and go with the sleep paralysis, it's often when i'm falling asleep and waking up and in a 'half asleep' state, I now know when i begin to fall into the state as though i'm being sucked in - you know that feeling over your head you get when you yawn? it's the same as that - and now i use that as a marker which tells me to jolt myself and stop it from happening. But this feeling is hard to fight and it's very good at making you continue to be sucked in until you're in the state. Once there it's a constant battle to try and wake yourself up to fight the intense fear and panic i feel.

Sometimes though, it can be an all together different experience, the fear is less intense, the noises (mostly loud buzzing, ringing or machine-like) are quieter and i can control the experience, i often have an out-of-body experience where i can float or walk around my room, but i can never get further that the corridor outside my room, never the less this can be a pleasant and overwhelming feeling and i feel as though there a possibilities beyond this.

I sometimes also experience lucid dreams which i feel as though is related to my sleep paralysis as in i know i'm asleep, i know exactly what is happening - yet in my lucid dreams it's almost like your much further into the dream state and anything is a possibility.

 
At 10:50 PM, Blogger Abednego said...

Thank you, Jack. Your explanation is excellent, and it matches my experiences almost exactly. After I read about sleep paralysis, I've been trying to recreate that lucid dreaming state, but I haven't been able to make it happen for years, even though I try at least once a week. Can you make it happen on purpose? Have you found anything that induces that state or makes it more likely to happen?

 
At 7:05 PM, Blogger Apu Mridha said...

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At 10:35 PM, Blogger Ethan Wright said...

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At 5:19 AM, Blogger El Dacnomaniac said...

Well this is eye opening, everytime i get sleep paralysis, there is only a sinister evil omnipresence around and sometimes scary as fuck hallucinations, reading some of these compared to my experiences im surprised they can be "fun", ive read up on experiences and they are mostly always associated with the feeling of terror, are you guys sure youre not confusing sleep paralysis with lucid dreaming? Just wondering...i have had the ringing in my ear once...ive practiced my skills of waking myself up from the paralysis and regular dreams...so i experimented, i let the ringing and numbness take over but the ringing got too loud, and (maybe just a hallucination) my face was clenching from pain but there was no pain, just pressure, loud ringing, and the feeling of losing myself...so i woke up instead, not fun at all

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger Abednego said...

Yep, that sounds pretty similar to my experience. The last few times I tried to do this, I also ended up simply waking up, which is a lot less fun. I seem to have lost the ability to convert sleep paralysis into a lucid dream. But the terror does get a lot easier to deal with over time -- during the experience I keep thinking: "Yep, I know what's coming. I know what to expect next. Yes, I feel scared, but I know it's not a big deal."

 

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