I have, over the past year, solved various aspects of my particular version of sleep paralysis, through mental training and also modifying my posture when I sleep. However, it still occurs occasionally when I fall asleep carelessly, most often when I wake up in the early morning, get up for a bit, and then go back to bed.
I’ve attempted to describe the sensation in a couple novels and stories, but I’d like to attempt to describe it here in a less artful and more prosaic form right now, because I would like someone to hear about it and to find out if anyone else out there experiences anything like this. As an example, I will use what literally just happened to me about half an hour ago.
I woke up at 5:15am, no bleary eyes or anything, just awake. This is a bit earlier than usual, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I got up and hung out in my living room for a while. I was reading some HP Lovecraft, which may seem relevant, but isn’t, really. I was feeling hungry and my stomach was rumbling, but I didn’t eat breakfast.
Around 6:30, as my wife got up to get ready for work, I went back to bed. I heard her eat breakfast, and leave the house. I fell asleep.
Next thing I knew, I was sitting back in the armchair in the living room. The floorboards were creaking, like someone was walking around. I knew my wife had already left. I told myself that it is someone upstairs. The noises grew more frequent. I became a little frightened.
Then, I realized I was not in my armchair, but in my bed. I opened my eyes. Alright, I was dreaming. I grabbed my phone from the bedside table and go to check the time. As I hold the phone before my face, both the phone and my arm vanish. I hadn’t moved my arm to grab the phone at all; that had also been a dream. Alright. I grab my phone from the bedside table and go to check the time. It vanishes again. I try to move my arm. It won’t move. I try to move my legs. They won’t move. I lie back.
At moments like these, I’ve realized the most effective tool is resignation. Forcing myself awake only makes it worse. So, I lay back and let it happen.
A few minutes later, I was talking to my wife as she put on her socks. Then, I remembered that she had left for work already. She disappeared. Then, I was talking to my wife as she checked her phone. Once again, I remembered she had already left. I still felt like there was someone in the house, though. I grew frightened. I couldn’t move a muscle. I explained patiently to myself that I was dreaming.
My eyes opened again, this time facing the window. The curtains were closed, which they never are in the morning, and there was a pale blue light outside. The window pane kept opening and closing by itself. Once again, I knew it was a dream. I tried to move again, just to check if I couldn’t. Still no. I watched the window open and close for a while, and then fell into another dream.
This one was more likely inspired by my Lovecraft reading. I was entering a dusty old church for a sermon by an old man that people had been warning me about. They never told me any specifics, just that there was some irregularities to his sermons, and that most people had gradually stopped attending over the years.
When I entered, we all sat at desks, and began to take an examination. The exam questions were in the form of images reminscient of Facebook memes, with a person standing before a black background, and then a question in white text about what they had done or thought. The exam seemed to be about esoteric philosophers. I hadn’t heard of any of them.
A proctor reached under my desk and pulled out a ratty tome. She accused me of cheating. I told her I hadn’t brought the book, and in fact had never heard of the author. “I haven’t heard of any of these people, to be honest,” I said. “I don’t even know how I ended up writing this exam, or if I ever took this class, or where I was just before I showed up.”
She smiled. I remembered I was dreaming. I tried to open my eyes. I remembered my sleep paralysis. Shoot, I thought.
I quite wanted to wake up now, so I invested all my strength into lifting my arm in the real world. Nothing happened. I gave up. I thought I’d just stick it out in the dream world until it decided to let me go. My vision turned white, and then there was a flame, and then I was entering an elevator in an old apartment building with gross-looking carpet and wood-paneled walls. As I stepped in, my eyes opened again, and I was awake.
I was sitting on my armchair again, watching a video on my laptop. However, I also felt that I was in my bed, staring at the ceiling. I don’t quite know how to describe this sensation of being in two places at once, except to say that I was in two places at once. I could see both as clearly as the other, and knew equally about each, and it didn’t bother me much in the slightest. Eventually, the scene in the armchair faded away, and I was left in bed, now fully awake.
I still couldn’t move for a while, and my eyelids kept drooping. I knew that if I let my eyes close for more than a few moments, I would fall asleep again, and I needed to break the cycle before I let that happen. I just lay there keeping my eyes open, until finally I could move my right arm around. I should mention that none of my limbs were asleep or tingly or anything; they just wouldn’t move. After a few minutes, everything came back to normal, and I opened something up and started reading on my phone to keep myself awake.
That was a lot longer than I intended, but I wanted to explain it fully. These episodes are some of the strangest experiences in my life, and this one happened to capture most of the characteristic elements. There are definitely worse ones where almost the entire cycle consists of my wife appearing and disappearing, which can get quite disturbing after a while. This time was relatively tame, and I think a lot of that is due to my recognition of what is happening, and calm attitude.
It used to be that I would get frightened and force my eyes open, even during full dreams, and that would lead to terrible moments when I was wide awake in bed, paralyzed, trying to scream but unable, and finally gasping and croaking my way into consciousness in a painful and uncomfortable way. So it’s a lot better now! Still odd, though.