Whether they've watched a video, or seen the memes, most new lucid dreamers know something about sleep paralysis. They know sleep paralysis happens every night. They know it's scary. They know they're likely to come face to face with a "sleep paralysis demon". And they know that sleep paralysis is necessary for lucid dreaming. If you nodded along to anything listed above, I want you to try something for me. For the remainder of this article, forget everything you know about sleep paralysis. Most sleep paralysis "facts" beginners learn early on are either completely wrong or misconstrued. The current mythos around sleep paralysis is the result of rhetoric and misinformation passed down from lucid dreamer to lucid dreamer in a nice, long game of telephone. It started from a poorly understood sentence in Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, became a hot topic in early lucid dreaming forums, went viral on social media thanks to 4chan memes, and is now being spread via the YouTube algorithm.
Just like any game of telephone, information on sleep paralysis has become more and more distorted over time. This article is here to change all that. To cut the proverbial phone line and teach new lucid dreamers the honest truth about sleep paralysis. Let’s start fresh.
What is sleep paralysis?
Sleep paralysis is a term used to describe a sleep disorder where a person is awake during REM atonia.
REM atonia happens every night during REM to prevent you from acting out your dreams. REM atonia is not sleep paralysis.
By way of WebMD, sleep paralysis is a medical condition characterized primarily by full body paralysis. Secondary symptoms may include a sense of dread/fear and hallucinations. About a quarter of the world’s population has experienced sleep paralysis at least once in their lives. And an even smaller percentage of those people suffer from chronic episodes.
When does sleep paralysis occur?
Barring abnormalities, sleep paralysis occurs only during REM sleep.
It is most likely to occur alongside other sleep disorders. As such, there is no known method for inducing sleep paralysis. Because of all this, unless you already suffer from sleep paralysis, you won't experience it while lucid dreaming.
What about WILD?
Even when performing WILD, you will not experience sleep paralysis.
During a WILD attempt, by the time REM atonia hits, you'll already be in a dream.
When you WILD, you pass through NREM on your way to REM. During NREM, you may experience hypnagogic hallucinations (abbreviated HH).
Many new lucid dreamers incorrectly equate sleep paralysis with hypnogogic hallucinations. Hypnagogic hallucinations include flashing lights, vibrations, spinning, falling sensations, etc.
These hallucinations occur primarily during NREM sleep, whereas sleep paralysis occurs only during REM sleep. Hypnogogic hallucinations are not sleep paralysis.
Remember, it's only sleep paralysis if you can't move.
At this point, if all this information is making you feel overwhelmed, my best advice is to forget sleep paralysis even exists. If you haven't experienced sleep paralysis before, lucid dreaming won't change that.
As a topic, sleep paralysis is entirely tangential to lucid dreaming. Anyone who actively seeks out sleep paralysis is hindering their ability to become lucid. After all, time spent seeking sleep paralysis is time not spent practicing lucidity. Hopefully this article has given you a good grasp on what sleep paralysis is and what it's not. If you found this article helpful, please pass it along to someone else who needs it. And if you have any questions, or need clarification, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.
Don't be afraid. Stay lucid.
Author's note: I adapted this article from an old guide I wrote for DreamViews in 2012. At the time, it sparked a change in how the community discussed sleep paralysis. I'm hoping this article has a similar impact on our newest generation of oneironauts. Only time will tell.