Gyrus from Dreamflesh made this connection between false awakenings and sleep paralysis: in both of these altered states, we feel like we are “awake” and aware of our surroundings. In a false awakening, this certainty of “awakeness” turns out to be a lucid dream about where we are actually sleeping. In sleep paralysis, we also feel awake but the situation is a little more complicated. Here our self-awareness is active and we may even have eyes open, but our bodies are still under the paralysis of REM sleep. The more we struggle, the more it feel like we are being “held down.”
I wrote about the creepiness of night terrors about a year ago on my culture shock blog, so I won’t go on at length here. Even though the REM paralysis is probably what is happening on the “exterior” levels of our reality, we really can’t reduce the entire experience of night terrors to biomechanics. After all, many people throughout history have described intense visitation dreams that follow from the initial feeling that “someone else is in the room.” These night visitors have ranged from dead relatives to benign ghostly apparitions to scary demonic entities to figures of light and peace.
These meetings have provided countless dreamers with deeper understandings of the psycho-spiritual realms that may be open to them. From my perspective, this isn’t evidence of the “supernatural” but an indication that we still need a more radical materialism to account for what is natural.
So rest assured that the experience of night terrors doesn’t have to be nightmarish. The best thing to do is to try to relax as much as possible, and if that doesn’t work, dig deep into your belief structures and find a way to trust in the moment. The experience will open up like a flower and you may find yourself in a whole kind of new dream.
I just spilled pickle juice all over myself so I gotta run.
Update: check out the comments to the previous post for Gyrus’s clarification about the distinction between these two states of consciousness.