Sleep paralysis

Waking up feeling totally paralysed can be a terrifying experience for those who do not understand what is happening. Basically, the person seems to wake up but finds it totally impossible to move a muscle. Some people think they’re dead and are that they might be buried in such a state! The condition used to be called ‘Night-nurses’ paralysis’ because they were prone to the condition. It is most prevalent among those who are meant to be vigilant, but have lapsed into sleep. The night-nurse might put her head down for a few minutes, and then ‘awaken’ to, say, hear the footsteps of the Matron coming towards her. Unfortunately, the nurse finds that she is quite unable to move. Discovery of her sleeping on the job would mean dismissal!

The experience was really a dream – in dreaming sleep (REM) the body is totally paralysed (breathing is automatic). The body remains stuck for a while in natural REM paralysis, and the Matron was dreamed. There seems to be a partial state of wakefulness.

The remedy is simple. Rather than fight the immense paralysis, the thing to do is to just relax. The body and mind lapse into ordinary REM dreaming, and waking will come along a few minutes later.

I’ve experienced sleep paralysis myself, and was interested enough to conduct some research into the phenomenon. I found that in about 70% of cases, the individual reports the seeming presence of someone else – often having sinister intent – during the state. The most frightening examples were of being paralysed, with the mad axe-man breaking down the door!

Hypnotherapy may help greatly with sleep-paralysis in my opinion, by providing automatic relaxation during an episode, and switching the individual’s thoughts to a positive scenario.


We offer treatment for sleep paralysis in Egham, Surrey, London, etc.