Sometimes even I have moments where that barrier between dreams and reality seems like a thin veil, leaving only a window to question what was really the dream and what was real. Only a week before writing what you are reading here, I was stuck in a cycle of false awakenings – or otherwise known as sleep paralysis – Inception eat your heart out!
Sleep paralysis is when you cannot move from being asleep to being awake, which often follows the conclusion of a dream. The limbs wont move, the eyes wont open, it’s harder to breathe etc. It’s a claustrophobic feeling as if you are trapped in your own body. So, why does this happen?
Your brain sends different signals out to your body when you’re in different states of consciousness. For example, so you don’t jump out your window like you about to fly for real, your body is essentially disconnected from the dream activity that is happening whilst you sleep. You wouldn’t really want to go running outside in your sleep when you’re eyes aren’t open just because you think you are really running through the hills on a nocturnal adventure!
There are exceptions when your brain and body don’t communicate. Everyone has talked in their sleep and probably has gone sleepwalking. In fact I remember my brother as a young boy playing cricket with an imaginary bat in the hallway – bless his flannelette pyjamas!
These sorts of events are more likely to occur when you’re suffering from stress, depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, or when you’re not getting enough solid REM time – in other words when you’re not really relaxed. I’m sure many of you would relate!
After a rather emotional week, I got stuck in the sleep paralysis style of false awakenings. I kept on waking up from the dream to my bedroom, only to do something, then wake up again to that room. That’s right – I hadn’t really woken up! During this time I even heard my alarm going off in real life, was trying to turn it off in my dream, but couldn’t manage to do it! This was a rare occurrence where I was not quite aware or lucid enough to know the difference between the dream and reality. I also didn’t manage to wake up til an hour after I set my alarm. Ouch!
It maybe just a freaky glitch in the matrix of your mind, a once off occurrence – or like I said a bi-product of not being able to switch off, rest enough or slow yourself down. Of course it can feel a bit perpetual during the cycle because all you want is more rest – however this over sleeping, or struggling to get out of sleep is just as draining.
So what can you do to prevent this from happening and to try snap yourself out of it when you’re stuck in this place?
First, don’t panic. I’m probably more neurotic than all of you reading this put together but I’m also good at snapping myself out of these states before sleeping as to prevent these exhausting sequences! So here are a few handy tips to try out!
- Meditation before sleep – get the headphones on with soothing ocean noises or your binaural beats. It does WONDERS for your energy, sleep consistency and dream content!
- Gratitude – go over everything you’re grateful for in your life and really try to create that picture and feeling of how good things can be. Even better, send gratitude or love out to something you wish to create, then let yourself feel as though you already have it. It’s a good way of subtly training your mind to focus on what you want, and hey – a positive attitude goes a very long way!
- Write – get a journal and scribble out all those worries from the day. It can help you unintentionally solve things, or at least get them out the back of your mind so you can concentrate on dreaming about something more desirable… I’ll let you use your imagination there!
- Teach yourself Lucidity – being aware that you’re dreaming will help you snap out of this cycle of sleep. Have a read of this here to check out a bit more on lucid dreaming.