Weird Dream: Was This Sleep Paralysis?

From what I’ve read, sleep paralysis usually takes place while the person is awake, or at least trying to wake up, but can’t move. I’m pretty sure that the whole incident that I’m about to relate was a dream, though.

Last night, I went to sleep and had some weird and very vivid dreams. (Some of them involved insects, a huge phobia of mine–I was convinced that I was awake, and even wished/hoped I was dreaming.) Later on, I was in bed, sleeping (in the dream). I vaguely remember hearing the doorbell ring and trying to get up, but being unable to speak/open my eyes/anything. I started feeling panicky, and I think eventually I was able to break out of it.

I also vaguely remember it happening a second time, but I’m not sure.

I also took a sleeping aid before going to bed (NyQuil). I’ve done so in the past with no ill effects.

I did read that a lucid dreaming episode can precipitate sleep paralysis, which makes sense considering the order of dream-events for me.

I’m no expert on sleep, dreams, or sleep paralysis. But I have had vivid and often lucid dreams all my life. I know that sometimes, I think I’m awake but can’t move. Other times I know I’m asleep but can’t move. And many times I have the sensation of struggling to surface from sleep but can’t do that either. I don’t know if any of these are technically sleep paralysis but that’s sort of how I refer to the incidents.
FWIW

I don’t think yours is proper sleep paralysis. I used to dream of things like alligators chasing me and not being able to move. That is extremely common among people.

I also get true sleep paralysis and it is, quite frankly, terrifying. I am mostly awake yet I can’t move most of my body. However, if I focus on one little body part like a left pinky, I may be able to use force of will to get it to move a millimeter and then I just repeat the action until I have use of that pinky. I can then use that to poke the next finger until it responds. Once you have a whole hand working, you are almost home free. You also need your arm but you can walk your hand across the bed you your fingers and your arm will respond. With those tools, you can gran, move, and shake most body parts out of paralysis. The hard part has always been my lower legs where I either have to just pick them up and drop them on the floor or do some type of odd crunches to make them functional again.

This procedure usually takes between 1 and 2 minutes but that is going as fast as possible because having a paralyzed body is no fun.

I’ve posted this story before, but it is related to the OP.

When I was in college studying psychology we spent some time talking about dreams, where they come from, what they do, and even some time talking about lucid dreaming. There were some things that were given as ways to improve your chances of having a lucid dream. I don’t remember what all of them were, but some were things like: keep a dream log, try to effect things in your dreams, try to keep a thought in your head to follow you into your dreams, things like that. If you are interested, you can probably find a Wiki article about how to induce lucid dreams. I followed the steps and decided to I was ready to try it. It was a hot summer night and I decided in my dream I would dive into a pool, and swim a few laps.

Let me tell you about sleep paralysis at this point. Your brain fires the neurons in your sleep that it would while you are awake. So, your brain is actually trying to make the muscular movements that you would if your were awake. Were these movements to be done, you would never get a restful sleep. Hence, sleep paralysis. Your brain sends your body into a semi-paralyzed state when you enter REM sleep. It is believed that a failure of this system may be the cause for sleep walking.

Anyway, back to the story. So I awake in my dream on a diving board about to dive in. Well, I hit the water and began to sink. I tried to swim, but my arms and legs would not respond. I kept sinking to the bottom of the pool. I could see the water getting deeper and I hit the bottom. I fought to hold my breath and finally scared myself awake.

That was my first and last attempt at lucid dreaming.

SSG Schwartz

I have had episodes of SP in which I was probably half-dreaming and half-awake. It would all seem frighteningly real until I woke up fully and noticed that the room, surroundings, etc., were different in reality.

No, sleep paralysis happens while you are … wait for it! … asleep. It’s what generally stops people actually running while they dream of running, and so forth. What you are probably thinking of are those occasions and people where this spills over briefly into wakefulness.

Whether you were awake or asleep, what you experienced was certainly sleep paralysis.

Thanks for the replies, all.

I was confused because of the Wiki article:

I’m not sure if I was waking up from REM sleep or not…I’m pretty sure I was asleep.

It was a scary experience, but not as bad as SSG Schwartz’s experience. I’m not that freaked out by it. And I guess I’m a little curious to see if it happens again.

Yeah - I had something like that happen a few times when I was about 11. The first time it happened, I was terrified to the point of hysteria when I finally got myself moving. I was afraid to go to sleep the next night, to the point where my mother called the pediatrician for a sedative or something (I only used it for a couple of days).

Wikipedia discusses it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_paralysis and there’s a lot of info out there. Whoever mentioned that “sleep paralysis” refers to the expected paralysis while actually sleeping - that’s true enough I suppose but the term is generally taken to mean the paralysis when you’re mostly awake.

Bleah, I have had this off and on all my life, and had it just this morning. It happens more often when I’m under a not normal stress. Between 3AM and normal wake up of 6:30/7 I had a series of ultra vivid dreams, totally alternate universes with fully formed people, a whole lot going on in the ol brainpan.( In light of that Wiki link, no wonder my REM body put body reaction to a minimum.) When the alarm went off, my mind woke up, but my body was totally paralyzed. What’s weird is that you can see with your awake eyes, but can’t move a muscle, it’s all frozen.

For me, it is a scary state, but , I’ve had it before, and just drift back to sleep. Then, there is a series of short dreams, kinda willy nilly vignettes, followed by awakening. There is, always after that, a feeling of fuzzy headed heaviness that persists til mid morning for me.

Mmm, going to bed now, for, hopefully, a better night’s sleep.

This happens to me nearly every night as I’m falling asleep. Sometimes I can’t tell at first whether I’m awake or asleep, but once I realize I’m dreaming, it takes every ounce of concentration just to get my body to wake up or to move. I often get the vibrating head sensation at some point too.

I don’t know what causes this but it only started when I was 21 and I’m 31 now, but I never experienced it even once before I was 21.