The WILD Technique to Induce Sleep Paralysis & Lucid Dreaming
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 lucid dream, which is when someone goes from being awake directly into a lucid dream.
How to Enter Sleep Paralysis
1) Set-Up- 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.
2) Relaxation- 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.
Now for your mind- The goal here is to relax but not as completely as your body does. Here are some things to experiment with: 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, or imagine a repetitive scene or sensation like walking through your home or flying.
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.
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 relaxed but 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.