Written by Kevin Morton
Sleep paralysis can feel like the most helpless thing in the world. You suddenly can't move a muscle, the body that you are so used to being cooperative to your commands becomes virtually unresponsive. You're overcome with sensations--a weight pushing down on your chest or vibrations coursing through your being. And if your episode is one of the 1 in 5 that comes with a dream-related hallucination you may be hearing voices, seeing nightmarish figures, or feeling their ghostly touch.
When I first heard of sleep paralysis several years ago as a student for the first time in Stanford Sleep and Dreams, I was intrigued. It sounded pretty dang amazing. But it wasn't until I put the sleep paralysis page up on this site, and started hearing the personal accounts of dozens and dozens of our visitors that I was truly and utterly blown away with the magnitude and prevalence of these experiences.
It's time to move from fear to fascination of your sleep paralysis.
It's said that most people will experience sleep paralysis at least once or twice in their lives. But how could something so prevalent, and frankly so potentially terrifying, have completely missed my attention for so long? There was certainly no "sleep paralysis help guide" presentation in my high school biology class....
I'm under the impression that SP is simply not talked about colloquially all that much. Many people who experience it for the first time, I think, have no idea what it is, and find it so frighteningly weird they stay a bit hushed up about it rather than sharing it with their friends. However, this ends up just perpetuating the problem in ways, because we can't share solutions and insight with each other on a subject that we don't talk about.
But someone is talking now, and in a big, big way. Allow me to introduce you to a work I have recently been reading that quite simply blows out of the water most commonly held notions about how people look at their sleep paralysis experiences, and in doing so offers remarkably powerful insights into treatment.
Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide is the work of Ryan Hurd, a dream researcher from California who turned his struggle with iSP (since he was 14 years old) and the nightmares that accompanied it into a resolve to figure out a way to deal with them.
The result transformed his life. Not only did Ryan learn how to lesson the frequency of his sleep paralysis episodes, but he even went so far as to learn how to take control of his SP nightmares and use them as gateways into the dream world and aids to lucid dreaming.
Ryan has turned his once debilitating and anxiety-laden episodes into enriching and exhilirating dream experiences, and laid out exactly how to do so. He states in the book that he used to have a signal in place with his wife so that she could help unparalyze him during attacks, but now he asks her not to unparalyze him so he can use the episode to transition into a lucid dream.
Even if you're not interested in lucid dreams in the least (you perhaps should be though, they are incredibly amazing), Ryan's book provides so many gems to help you both understand your SP and stop it from happening. From bringing together and summing up scores of sleep paralysis-related reasearch to laying out step by step how to conquer your episodes, this book is an incredibly empowering asset to anyone who suffers from sleep paralysis, or knows someone close who does.
Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide, released in early 2010, is extremely easy to follow, incredibly well researched, and full of interesting personal stories. If you're like me you'll find yourself consistently amazed with new insights and new possibilities in just about every one of the book's 102 pages. The book as a whole is divided up into three distinct sections, which Ryan goes on to describe as follows:
Part I is a practical guide for those who wish to stop having SP and take control when it does happen. It contains tips that will help you break SP tonight. These are tactics to employ while you are in paralysis so you can wake up immediately. Next, we'll turn to lifestyle changes that can lessen your susceptibility to SP. These tactics are mostly about changing certain habits, which takes most people about two weeks to cement into practice. Finally, Part I addresses the psychological aspects of SP, including how to get grounded and let go of your fear.
Part II is a focused study on the apparitions that occur in 1 out of 5 SP experiences. First, we will review the current theories about how apparitions form and what they have to say. These terrifying visions are the most misunderstood aspect of SP. Next, we will review the forms the apparitions may take, and provide some concrete strategies for preventing them from escalating into nightmares. Sometimes, the SP apparition can lead you on a journey to self-discovery. In fact, this "Stranger" is also connected to a long history of helpful figures such as spirit guides, angels, and ancestors. This section gives practical advice about exploring these intriguing possibilities.
Part III is a guide to thriving with SP. This section includes advanced dreaming techniques that are possible once you have mastered the lessons in Part I and II. Effective tactics are covered for inducing out-of-body experiences, lucid dreams, and hypnagogic reverie, all of which can be accessed from SP. The last chapter in Part III teaches how courageous dreamers can increase the odds of SP in order to access extraordinary dreams and visions.
If you suffer from consistent experiences of sleep paralysis, you really must not let the opportunity to read this book pass you by. It will provide you with a cohesive and easy to follow presentation of the most cutting-edge research on the subject, it will shape how you experience your sleep paralysis, and, if you apply the knowledge within, it will provide you with the tools to control your episodes.
When you download the book, Ryan also includes a free one-hour interview with sleep paralysis expert Jorge Sevilla, PhD, author of Wrestling With Ghosts: a Personal and Scientific Account of Sleep Paralysis, as well as a SP worksheet to help you manage and monitor your own success.
Disclosure: Also, when you purchase Ryan's book using the links on this page, this website receives a small amount of the purchase price for referring you. We use these funds to sustain the publishing of our sleep health articles, which we hope you and others find valuable. The author of this review maintains that it would contain the same praise or criticism regardless of this referral commission, as it's truly a useful book.
Ryan has also published a slightly expanded version of the e-book discussed below, in paperback form. If you prefer a hard copy, you can see the book on Amazon here: Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night
The image at right is the new cover, and the current prices for it on Amazon.
As a sampling of how Ryan's insights are influencing the field, here are what a couple of experts in the dream research community are saying about his work:
If you suffer from sleep paralysis, buy this book. Inside it are powerful techniques, real knowledge and experienced advice from a former sleep paralysis sufferer. Using practical techniques, insightful advice and scientific research, Hurd takes the SP sufferer on a journey from intense fear to real hope and empowerment. Benefit from his insight, and learn how to resolve your sleep paralysis for good.
- Robert Waggoner, author of Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self
"People who suffer sleep paralysis inevitably focus on their fear and discomfort, but rarely do they recognize that this strange experience also holds a huge potential for mind/body growth and enlightenment. Ryan Hurd, a brilliant researcher and emerging leader in the field of dream studies, offers a brand new perspective on sleep paralysis that provides both practical help and inspirational guidance. Hurd's excellent new book gives clear and effective advice about how to diminish the painful symptoms of sleep paralysis, while leading readers to a deeper appreciation of the incredible power of the dreaming imagination - a power that can promote greater health and conscious awareness in all of us."
- Kelly Bulkeley, PhD, author of Dreaming in the World's Religions: A Comparative History
Ryan also runs the website DreamStudies.org, where you can read more of his thoughts about dreaming, consciousness, and imagination.
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Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.
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Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.
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Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.
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