What is sleep paralysis, why do I have it, and how do I get rid of it?

You’re not alone on this one


The first time I got sleep paralysis was in Freshers' Week. I was in bed, unable to move, but could feel the presence of someone standing in the corner of my room.

My memory was still blurred from JuJu’s the night before, and my first thought was: 'Oh my god, did I shag some weirdo last night?'

The truth was I did not get lucky. Instead, I got a visit from a sleep paralysis demon.

What is sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis occurs in between wakefulness and sleep. This stage is called REM (rapid eye movement) and is when your dreams occur.

However, if your body falls asleep before your mind, you may be left unable to move or speak, and this is when sleep paralysis may kick in. It is neither harmful nor long-lasting, but gives rise to some very bizarre experiences indeed.

The main cause of sleep paralysis is sleep deprivation following an alteration of sleep patterns, for example, when you have jet lag.

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Honestly it was the sleep paralysis demon that messed up my room, not me

Why do I have sleep paralysis?

Most people I’ve spoken to have said the first time they experienced sleep paralysis was at university. Fellow eager freshers and I were probably just exhausted from going out most nights and then waking up still drunk to make a 10am lecture. Take my advice and just stay in bed.

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Could your silly fresh antics be causing your sleep paralyis?

The most common episode was like mine: the feeling of there being a creepy presence or person watching you and a sense that they want to do you harm. A lot of people also feel a pressure on their chest as if someone is sitting on them.

In my most recent occurrence, I dreamt my neighbours were having a party. After getting kicked out of their house, they tried to break into mine through the washing machine.

Another wild example of just how weird sleep paralysis can get is when my friend, after a 15-hour bus ride in India, fell asleep and dreamt of an old woman performing magic on her, while feeling the pressure of Hebron, a city in Palestine, on her chest.

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How to deal with sleep paralysis

The trusty NHS have offered some solutions which include: going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time everyday; avoiding big meals, smoking, or drinking alcohol or caffeine before going to bed; and regular exercise, but not within four hours of going to bed.

I personally find that the best way to deal with it is to wake yourself up and actually get out of bed and walk around.

It's common after suffering from an episode to quickly fall back asleep again, only for it to return immediately, so you really need to try to fully snap out of it.

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I know we’ve all been told not to go on your phones and laptops before going to bed, but in this case it might actually be beneficial to go for a little scroll on social media in order to clear your mind. Unless you follow Billie Eilish on Instagram, it's probably going to be a less freaky experience.

We’ve all heard the creative writing cliché: 'I woke up and it was all a dream'. In the case of sleep paralysis, thank god.