Howard is a regular lucid dreamer. He likes finding ways to increase his lucid episodes and enjoy the dream world.
Sleep paralysis is the muscular weakness (atony) that occurs during sleep that prevents us from acting out our dreams. Atony happens every time we fall asleep but we’re usually not aware of it. During sleep paralysis, a person can actually be awake or they can be dreaming that they’re in bed lying awake. The former happens at the end of the sleep cycle (in the morning) while the latter happens at the beginning (as you’re falling asleep).
Both types are usually accompanied by auditory and visual hallucinations and a feeling of weight on the chest. It often causes panic and is usually very frightening.
Most people don’t experience sleep paralysis often; many people only have one or two episodes in their life. It’s an excellent way to enter a lucid dream, though, so if that’s your goal you might want to experiment with getting into sleep paralysis intentionally.
WILD stands for wake induced (or initiated) lucid dream, which is when someone goes from being awake directly into a lucid dream.
How to Enter Sleep Paralysis
- The Hypnagogic State
- Sleep Paralysis Dream State
- Stabilizing a Lucid Dream
It’s good to be tired but not exhausted because you need to be able to hang onto some consciousness as you drift off. An excellent way to be relaxed enough is to make your sleep paralysis induction attempt after you’ve woken up from sleeping for 4-6 hours. This is the recommended time to try for everyone but for those new to it, it’s almost a necessity.
Many people also have success with attempts during afternoon naps when they’re able to fall asleep easily. If you tend to wake up during the night, give it a try then. If you don’t, set your alarm to wake you up. You can then make your attempt immediately or you can engage your mind for about 30 minutes by reading (about lucid dreaming, preferably) and then try.
Experiment with both ways and see which one works or gets you closest. It is highly recommended that you lie on your back. That sleeping position leads to sleep paralysis more than any other.
Regardless of whether you make your attempt during an afternoon nap, at your usual bedtime, immediately after sleeping 4-6 hours or with a 30 minute delay, you need to relax further. You want your body to be completely relaxed and eventually fall asleep while your mind hangs on to a shred of consciousness.
Begin relaxing your body by letting your muscles go limp starting with your feet and working up while breathing with a calm, even rhythm. After you’ve relaxed all your muscles, it’s important not to move. Not moving is one of the things that will help convince your brain that you’re asleep.
How to Relax Your Mind
- Looking at the darkness of your eyelids (you’ll also see some colors and patterns).
- Listening passively to the ambient sounds.
- Counting in your mind
- Imagining a repetitive scene or sensation like walking through your home, flying or falling.
Try to choose a method that suits your strengths. For example, if you are good at visualizing, then picture a repetitive scene or let the patterns on your eyelids form a scene. If you have trouble visualizing, try listening to the surrounding sounds (nothing too loud or distracting), or generate a repetitive sound in your mind.
I find the simplest thing that works is to maintain an awareness of my body as i'm lying there. I'll just think about my legs or arms. If you do this while not moving, they can start to feel strange so you might have to make a small adjustment to your position periodically if the sensation gets too distracting. But this will slow the process down, so try not to move if at all possible.
3. The Hypnagogic State
This is the bridge between wakefulness and sleep. Ideally, the relaxation brought about in step 2 will lead seamlessly into this. If you were looking at your eyelids, the colors and patterns will take over, becoming more vivid and moving on their own. If you were imagining a scene or sensation it will continue effortlessly. It’s likely that you will hear a buzzing or throbbing sound.
If you successfully drift into the hypnagogic state it’s common to realize it and be startled out of it. It might take a few experiences in this state before you can stay relaxed in it. If you stay calm in this stage it will transition into a…
4. Sleep Paralysis Dream State
In this state you will be dreaming that you’re lying in bed unable to move. There will likely be visual and auditory hallucinations and a feeling of heaviness, especially on your chest. It’s common to feel there’s some kind of presence in the room with you. If you recognize what’s happening rather than thinking you’re still awake, then you’ve achieved lucidity.
If you successfully reach lucidity, you must again remain calm to prevent waking up or losing your awareness. It’s common to panic at this point or not realize that you’re dreaming. It might take a few experiences with sleep paralysis to transition to the final stage.
5. Stabilizing a Lucid Dream
One way of moving beyond your dream sleep paralysis is to accept your immobility and imagine a scene where you want to be. It’s helpful to say to yourself that you’re dreaming so that when the scene forms, you won’t lose your lucidity.
Another way is to imagine yourself sinking into your bed. This can bring you into a new dream scene. Saying that you’re dreaming while trying this will help you hold on to your awareness.
My preferred method is to wiggle my fingers and toes as they aren’t usually affected by the paralysis. Eventually, the movement spreads into the larger muscle groups and my dream self is able to roll out of bed and stand up.
If you move beyond the paralysis you can perform your preferred reality check to confirm the dream (I like looking at my hands: if they’re wavy or hazy or in any way different from usual, I know I’m dreaming—it works for me 9 times out of 10) and then something to stabilize it. That involves engaging your senses. Look around, listen, and rub your hands and arms to ground yourself in the dream.
If you reach this point, congratulations! You’re now free to explore your dream environment with lucidity.
Sleep Paralysis/Lucid Dreaming Problems
- Relaxing too much: If your mind is too relaxed then you’ll simply fall asleep as usual. If you’re falling asleep normally, you need to pay slightly more attention to whatever you’re using to keep your mind engaged as you drift off.
- Not being relaxed enough: If your mind is too active you won’t be able to drift into the hypnagogic state. I once lay in bed for over 2 hours trying to drift off. Obviously, my mind was too active to fall asleep. If that’s your problem, you’ll have to try a different technique from step 2 or try one of your own.
- Losing focus during sleep paralysis: It’s easy to panic or become afraid in this stage. If you tense up and struggle against the paralysis, you’ll either wake up or be too distracted to achieve lucidity. It’s helpful to set it firmly in your mind before hand that you want to be unable to move and you want the unsettling sensations that come with it. It might take some experience to get desensitized to the fear.
- Not recognizing the dream: In practice, the process sometimes feels like you go from step 2 to step 4, from being aware of lying in bed to a slight fade out and back to lying in bed, except now you’re dreaming. Since part of the lead-in is to remain motionless, it’s possible to be in sleep paralysis and not realize it. It might take experience to recognize the subtle shift that occurs.
- A false awakening: This is another variation of not recognizing the dream. If you dream that you’ve woken up, the whole process can be derailed if you don't realize it. It’s good to be in the habit of reality checking every time you wake up to catch these deceptive spots.
It Takes Patience!
Inducing sleep paralysis and transitioning into a lucid dream can be very difficult. It's likely that it will take several attempts at each stage to get used to it enough to make it to lucidity. If you keep with it and give yourself some breaks (it can be tiring to try it many days in a row without success) you should get progressively deeper into the stages and eventually reach your goal.
Enjoy the process and your dreams.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: My grandfather plays his T.V really loud. Will noise interfere with this technique to induce sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming?
Answer: Most people will find that noise distracts them too much. An exception would be a consistent drone like static, but I think there would be too much variation in just having the T.V on.
jupitergirl1 on July 15, 2019:
I'm very thankful you've been able to give me those tips, and they've been followed closely. I've only done it twice, but I think I mentioned I don't normally sleep. Last night, when trying that technique, I did have a dream and I find that very interesting how when I try sleep paralysis I actually do successfully have a dream, though it isn't sleep paralysis. This is just a little quick update because I figured it may help you a little more on understanding sleep paralysis, I'm not sure, I just found it very interesting.
jupitergirl1 on July 12, 2019:
Thank you, Howard. I took a long break and just normally slept. I've had one dream in the past month, which is fairly normal for me. So, I'm happy to be back and try sleep paralysis again and relax more this time. I will definitely try this and thank you very much. It seems like it'll work more, especially because I'm unable to imagine things.
Howard Allen (author) on June 08, 2019:
I didn't post your comment because of the length. The gist was that you've tried for a WILD many times without success, you can't visualize things, and paying attention to sounds is too distracting.
First, I suggest giving yourself a break by not trying the technique every time you try to sleep. It's more likely to work if you fall asleep fairly quickly, so only try when you're tired enough to fall asleep within 2 minutes. This could be a nap or after a night time awakening. You'll have to decide when you sleep the easiest.
Second, focus on the physical side of it. If paying attention to your arms and legs doesn't work, there's another thing you can try. It's called FILD (finger induced lucid dream). With this method you just barely move two fingers as you're falling asleep. There's no visualization and no listening; you don't even have to think of anything. You'll have to research this method to get all the details.
Third, try not to get too worried about your failures. Sleep paralysis can be very elusive. Your difficulty isn't unusual. It tends to come easier when we aren't trying too hard. A relaxed mind is better for all lucid dreaming induction methods.
Howard Allen (author) on May 25, 2019:
Not that I know of.
Haris on May 24, 2019:
Is there some kinda age-border for the ability to have sleep paralysis, and therefore, lucid dreams?
Howard Allen (author) on May 20, 2019:
That's right, Eric. Sounds like you need a little more time in this half and half state before reality checking. Of course, the longer you go, the greater the chance you'll lose your awareness. So, the trick will be finding the right balance.
Eric on May 20, 2019:
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely do end up waking myself up in these situations when I try to do the reality checks... When I try to do the movements of the reality checks, I get confused as to why I can still notice my body in bed if I am in the dream... this analytical mind ends
up waking me up!
So would you say the only helpful thing I can do at this point is continue practicing to relax more into that state and try to do the reality checks?
Luckily I don’t have any sleep walking history!
Thanks again! This is extremely helpful Howard!
Howard Allen (author) on May 19, 2019:
This sounds like an ideal state to turn into a lucid dream. It also sounds rare. Most people get startled awake in situations like this. It still happens to me too.
It sounds like most of the steps are taking care of themselves. If you're able to move during this experience, you should be dreaming at that point. I say this because it would be very unusual to be able to move your real body in that state and not lose the dream half of the experience. I'd go right to the part in #5 about reality checking. Confirm that you are in fact dreaming. If not, just stay relaxed a little longer and check again. You certainly don't need sleep paralysis to transition into a lucid dream.
Your awareness during the half and half state concerns me somewhat. You didn't mention having some kind of sleep disturbance that could blur the lines between the two states, like something that could lead to sleepwalking. I assume you don't have worries about this. Just be sure to confirm that you're dreaming before doing anything that could have real consequences.
Eric on May 19, 2019:
Hi Howard, allow me to rephrase this question, because based on your comment, I recognized in my sleep last night that I don’t think it’s sleep paralysis anymore... I noticed that I can definitely move my body if I wanted to.
So to rephrase my question:
When I lie down to go to bed, I often feel as though I’m drifting off into sleep and a dream state is beginning, but at the same time I can still notice my body physically lying there in bed... therefore, I am not totally immersed in the dream... I am half in the dream and half lying in my bed.
This doesn’t alpear to be sleep paralysis, but it sounds like the hypnagogic state where it’s when I’m dozing off but in this window of being in a dream state and still in physical reality. It happens almost every night after I wake up from 5 hours of sleeping in middle of night.
Is this a state that would be able to lead straight into a lucid dream? In other words, even though there’s no sleep paralysis, should I be ableto follow your steps above, and become lucid in this state?
Howard Allen (author) on May 19, 2019:
That sounds like one way of experiencing it, more like sleep paralysis than the hypnagogic stage. To know for sure you'd probably have to see if you could get out of bed.
Eric on May 19, 2019:
Hi! When I lie down to go to bed, I often feel as though I’m drifting off into sleep and a dream state is beginning, but at the same time I can still notice my body physically lying there in bed... therefore, I am not totally immersed in the dream... I am half in the dream and half lying in my bed.
Is this the hypnagogic and sleep paralysis state that you’re referring to? It happens almost every night after I wake up from 5 hours of sleeping in middle of night
Howard Allen (author) on April 15, 2019:
Some people find it very scary, especially if they go into it without wanting to. Seeing and hearing strange things is also common.
Anonymous girl 13 on April 15, 2019:
Uhm, so my friends have said that sleep paralysis is very scary and sometimes they can't leave it. I also had one friend say that they tried this and still unwillingly enter this today and it makes them not want to sleep. Is this actually scary or, what? Cause they also say that they see a demon, so, yeah.
Howard Allen (author) on March 15, 2019:
A metronome could work. Anything that you can think about (just barely) while falling asleep can work.
I don't usually see anything other than the room I'm in. I tend to hear random sounds or wind blowing.
Whether you should try it again, I don't know. If you want to explore the sensations, then sure. If it's just going to be a source of anxiety or fear, it might be best avoided.
Dustin Hartman on March 15, 2019:
Would a metronome help? Also I once experienced SP at my friends house while watching ghost adventures. He lives across the street from a church and when i was watching tv I was trying not to fall asleep so I kept waking myself up. So I woke up but was flat on my back staring a nun in the face as she was holding me down by the throat. Scariest experience of my life. Couldn’t breath or move for a solid 5 seconds. I’ve been trying to experience it again to get a better understanding but I’m terrified. I’m tearing up pretty bad typing this. I think I’m most scared of thinking negatively and waking up to very bad images or anomalies. Should I not try since it was a very bad experience? Or should I try for one more experience to see? Also what do you normally see when you go through SP? Are they usually plesent dreams(like going fishing or seeing a passed loved one) or are they usually dark and evil?
Howard Allen (author) on March 02, 2019:
Usually we see the room we fell asleep in. Seeing creatures is also possible. People are often afraid during sleep paralysis, leading to some unsettling visual and auditory hallucinations.
Luka on March 02, 2019:
What happens if you open your eyes while being in sleep paralysis and can you see any kind of creature in sleep paralysis
Howard Allen (author) on December 10, 2018:
If that happened while you were awake, it's not normal. If you were in a dream, there's a wide range of unusual things that are normal enough.
AlexWziuuum on December 10, 2018:
My whole body was shaking, is it a normal reaction while inducing sleep paralysis?
Howard Allen (author) on December 01, 2018:
Feeling like something is on you is common, as is hearing voices or other sounds. I'm not sure why it affects your energy the next day, unless it's interrupting your sleep cycle. My experience with sleep paralysis is intentional (except for some episodes as a child) so I can't offer any advice on how to avoid it.
May Thin Khine on December 01, 2018:
I have encountered sleep paralysis several times but mine is a little different. It always happen before i fall sleep and i feel like a demon is on my body and i sometimes here voices like 'sorry girl' 'poor little girl'. And when i have encountered this, i feel extremely lazy the next day. Why is that and how can i get over this?
Howard Allen (author) on November 14, 2018:
Yes, Most people find it scary. If you're used to it and realize what's happening then it doesn't have to be. But it's still possible for an experienced person to get lost in the moment and panic as well.
Wilson P. Hillsbury on November 14, 2018:
Is sleep paralysis scary?
Howard Allen (author) on October 06, 2018:
Glad you're getting some relief now. It's one thing to seek these dream phenomenons as a hobby but quite another to be plagued by them constantly.
Willow0517 on October 06, 2018:
I have been on medication which allows me to fall into a deeper sleep and not experience sleep paralysis, night terrors or lucid dreams anymore. For over 30 years I experienced at least one of the three (if not all on a nightly basis). Occasionally if I’m really tired it still happens. I had an episode of SP a few weeks ago
Fin from Barstow on July 28, 2018:
Thanks. I've always been curious about lucid dreaming and how to control it. You've broken them down into succinct steps that are recognizable and make sense looking at how I respond in the dream state.
I used to have a couple of the similar dreams - the pressure on the chest and the noise and flashing lights - when I was younger and they frightened me immensely. I was told later that they may have been seizures. I'm still a little confused.
I m familiar with the stages and will try and follow them the next time I am aware of them when I am lucid.
Colleen on July 22, 2018:
While asleep so i think,i felt and seen something crawl real fast up my blanket and grabbed a hold mo my hand and I was trying to sing out and open my eyes but couldn't, I woke and then went back to sleep. This had happened about 32 years ago also.
Frank2Aware on June 22, 2018:
I have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder intelligently named idiopathic hypersomnia. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot known about my condition other than narcolepsy has been ruled out but many of the same experiences apply. Occasionally I do research to find additional studies as time goes on in hopes that someday I can stop taking 60mg of adderall before bed. I came across this post as I nearly always, unintentionally, have the best lucid dreams in the morning after I forget to take my medication at night. Since this has been a lifelong condition, waking up paralyzed, or feeling like an elephant is laying on your body, or simply not having the finger strength to open a pill bottle, is the norm. I don’t recall ever having “demons” or scary experiences but I absolutely hate it when I do everything humanly possible to smash and destroy my alarm clock only to later realize I was stuck in a VERY real lucid dream where my cognitive thinking process was just the same as being awake. Most of the time, however, it’s like living in a virtual reality world where you have control over your thoughts and actions all while your body physically lays stiff in bed. Unfortunately, virtual reality is not real and this condition can severely impact the real world by not being able to reliably wake up for things like a job, or eating, or needing to pee. My body is physically paralyzed so I don’t pee the bed, luckily, but just imagine how frustrating it is to see yourself pee but not feel any bladder relief in a lucid dream. So for those looking to achieve a state of lucid dreaming, it is possible, as there just happens to be an extremist out there with their own set of complications.
Howard Allen (author) on April 20, 2018:
Sounds like a good method. I try this sometimes too. I have the same problem with being startled out of the dream by something loud or dangerous. (I forget it's not really dangerous.)
that dude that wont say his name. on April 20, 2018:
what works for me is right wen i wake up immediatley adjust my position and wait until i shortly lose consiousness, then i start visualizing things with the small image i get in my eyes, i then feel a pressure all over my body, as if my whole body was being pressed, i then perfectly reach sleep paralysis, i can then imagine what i want until i dream it, the issue is that i panic sometimes and wake up due to noises like screaming and gunshots
Howard Allen (author) on March 10, 2018:
Depression and other mental disturbances seem to increase the chances of sleep paralysis.
Suraya Paniagua on March 10, 2018:
Um this happens when your depressed I remember one time I was sad my uncle and Grandpa died a day before the other and the night they did I remember I just wanted to get rest and sleep and...I woke up and I saw this girl or adleast I felt something in my closet moving towards me but I couldn't move and I was trying to yell for help ....I was just stuck....as soon as I felt her gone I felt pressured on my chest and I still couldn't cry out for help
unknown_person on February 20, 2018:
I agree with Howard Allen. I think we go into sleep paralysis every time we fall asleep but we don't notice it. But when we don't notice it then it's not as bad as when you actually notice it. If that makes any sense...
Howard Allen (author) on November 14, 2017:
No. We enter sleep paralysis every time we fall asleep, so it's perfectly normal and not dangerous. We usually aren't aware that it's happening.
The only possible problem I can think of is if someone became terrified during the experience and had some medical condition that is aggravated by stress.
cod guy on November 14, 2017:
people said this can kill you while doing this? is this true?.
learner love on October 23, 2017:
ookay!!! thanks @Howard Allen ........i think i have tried lucid dreaming before..as far as i remember i do that.....but when i am tired i dont do that.
Howard Allen (author) on October 22, 2017:
Many people panic during sleep paralysis and find it frightening as you did.
Fortunately, you can explore lucid dreaming without getting into sleep paralysis. Most of the ways to get lucid don't involve that stage.
learner love on October 22, 2017:
i had sleep paralysis i remember clearly..i read this article for the first time today and also that people can try to be in this stage..but it is really frightening. its like something is over you and you just want to be outside this safe.
i have had this five times.....not often..but it happens. first one appeared while i was sleeping and i was really frightened.
i tried to shout but the voice wont come out. it was like someones holding my hand forcefully. it was the first time i panicked in my dreams.
people want to try it they sure can but i wont recommend anyone to try it..it is really bad.
i wanna know about lucid dreams....i am not cleared about it.