Say what, you want to know how to induce sleep paralysis?
Most people I meet are looking for ways to eradicate sleep paralysis (SP) from their lives, but some lucky and courageous dreamers have discovered that sleep paralysis also makes for a reliable portal into extraordinary dreaming.
In fact, some very popular lucid dreaming techniques–such as Stephen LaBerge’s WILD–actually function well for sleep paralysis induction.
Preparations for the Journey
Allow me one more disclaimer before launching into this primer. Isolated sleep paralysis (when SP is not a symptom accompanying narcolepsy or sleep apnea) is not a health risk in itself. However, isolated sleep paralysis can “stir up” emotional and psychological issues with regard to beliefs, safe boundaries, and the meaning of the life.
SP also may instigate other destabilizing spiritual experiences. When we undergo a conscious trip into dreaming, we are activating the archetypal story of the hero’s journey, and specifically, the hero’s descent into the underworld. You will be challenged, you may succeed, or you undergo ritual destruction, but either way you will return to the surface forever changed, and possibly reborn.
As Jung wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
When I prepare for a SP dream incubation, or if I feel it is coming on spontaneously, I limit alcohol, sugar, meat and processed foods in my diet. I tell my closest friends what I am attempting. I limit exposure to TV, violent imagery in the media, and spend more time in nature. These precautions serve to stabilize myself so I can encounter the visionary dreams with clarity, a courageous heart, and an open mind.
Stirring it Up
Many of the ways to bring on SP actually are about leveraging your own self-knowledge of your personal triggers for sleep paralysis, and then involve moving towards these triggers rather than away from them.
The most reliable method is to use the body’s own REM rebound effect after REM deprivation. Body posture also plays a big role. In general:
- Sleep on your back.
- Take a nap after being sleep deprived or jet-lagged.
- Keep an erratic sleep pattern.
- Maximize REM rebound by waking up 2 hours before normal and then nap later in the day.
For example, if I stay up late to finish a project and I am sleep deprived the next day, I will purposefully take an afternoon nap sleeping on my back. This mix of situation, posture, and desire is almost guaranteed to bring on an episode of SP.
Mental Practices for Increasing SP, OBEs, Hypnagogic Reverie, and Lucid Dreams
The following are mental practices and tactics useful in inducing creative hypnagogic hallucinations and lucid dreaming from SP.
They are all variations on a theme, namely: focus. We are all wired a little differently, so taken together these methods display a range in tactics at your disposal, depending on your interests as well as your own special abilities.
Wake-Initiated Sleep Paralysis (WISP)
This method is my derivation of the wake-initiated-lucid-dream (WILD) method, popularized by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold in their classic book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. I have found that the most reliable way to induce iSP is directly from the waking state.
WISP by Auditory Cues
Here’s an auditory way into WISP that works for me. If you have good balance, and are prone to auditory hallucinations during hypnagogia, this method is recommended. After closing your eyes, focus on a spot in the middle of your visual field. Notice the lights and colors as they come and go, but don’t follow them. Also pay attention to vibrations or quick “rushing” sounds in your ears. The “rush” may be accompanied by an electric shiver down your body or other sensations from your head down the groin. With a little practice, you can increase the vibrations by willing it to come back until the rushing vibration is a constant. You are now in paralysis––try to move to confirm it. This is how I enter SP directly from the waking state.
WISP by Vortex
This is the method I have used as early as six years old to fall asleep, which just goes to show that children are natural visionaries. Lying on your back, close your eyes and focus your attention in between and slightly above the eyes. When the lights and imagery begins to swim around, keep the focus. After a while, the spectral lights will “gather” around your point of concentration, like a kaleidoscope. Keep the focus, but will yourself to “enter” this imagery. With practice, if you are now in sleep onset, the imagery will expand and envelope the visual field. This imagery forms a vortex, and often is associated with those vestibular hallucinations of falling or flying. Go through the tunnel and enter the dream.
Nap and Mantra-assisted SP
Ben Phillips, one of my DreamStudies.org readers and a sleep paralysis expert in his own right, has this method to share. Essentially, he recommends taking a nap to disrupt your normal sleep patterns, and then use a spoken word, or mantra, to assist in falling asleep with awareness. Here is Phillip’s full method, in his own words:
- Wake up earlier than normal
- Stay awake for the whole day; go to work, school or if you’re unemployed, do something active.
- Between 7 and 10pm ,have a nap. This nap must be no longer than 2 hours. An hour and a half should suffice. It is important that once you wake from the nap, you don’t close your eyes or snooze, if you do you will dream and the chance of strong SP later will be diminished. Set an alarm or ask someone to wake you up.
- Stay awake for at least an hour, no more than four.
- Go to bed. When you lay down… any position will do, close your eyes and get comfortable. There are no particular meditative exercises to follow as long as you simply relax your body and lie as still as you can.
- When you are relaxed and your mind is settled, simply think of a name or a word… it can be any word.
- Repeat the word over and over again in your head. Imagine the word being spoken to you. Think of nothing else. Listen for the word in the quietness of your head.
- Do not pay any attention to any hypnagogic light blooms, only the sound of yourself imagining the word.
- After a short period of this concentrated listening the word should start to take on a life of its own and will probably be accompanied by other auditory sensations, such as intermittent bursts of rumbling, wooshing and a spatial hiss. There will be a distinct shift in awareness and perception. You are at this point on the threshold of sleep paralysis.
This next method is taught by psychotherapist and lucid dreaming pioneer Scott Sparrow. It is based on the centuries old traditions of Tibetan Dream Yoga. Set your alarm to wake up in the middle of the night. Sit up in bed and do 10-15 minutes of concentrative meditation or breathwork. Prayer is also effective, especially long prayers that you have memorized. Then, as you settle back to sleep, recall your intention to stay aware as you fall asleep (whether to enter an out-of-body experience, for example, or enter a lucid dream—your choice).
Middle-of-the-Night Reading and Journaling
A variation of Sparrow’s method is to set your alarm to wake you up in the middle of the night. You need to time your awakening for 3 or 4.5 hours after you fall asleep. Wake up, turn on a small bedlight, and open up a book on lucid dreaming or some other subject matter you find fascinating. Read for 15-30 minutes, and then go back to sleep. A variation that has worked for me is to journal about my intentions and read as well. Then use the WISP method to remain aware as you fall asleep. This method works because reading activates the part of the brain that also regulates self-awareness and critical thinking: the forebrain and parietal lobes.
Sleep Paralysis Signaling
Sleep Paralysis Signaling (SPS) was devised by Jorge Conesa Sevilla, author of Wrestling with Ghosts (which is sadly out of print but there are a few used copies on Amazon). Sevilla’s method is especially effective for launching directly into a lucid dream from iSP, although you can set an intention for a OBE as well.
When you realize you are in muscle atonia, start breathing “purposely and calmly.” At the same time, focus on a part of your body, such as the belly or chest area.
Imagine your body spinning around the navel or whatever central body part that is your object of focus. This will bring on the “vortex effect” that I mentioned in the WISP method.
Go into the tunnel, still practicing your breath to keep fears calm, and emerge through the end of the tunnel into a dream. Take special care to remind yourself “I am dreaming” when you enter the new dream space. From here, you can interact as you choose.
This article is adapted from my ebook Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer’s Guide, which you can download here as part of my Sleep Paralysis Kit. The kit comes with worksheets as well as mp3 recordings of a lecture on sleep paralysis I gave at Stanford University in 2012, as well as an interview with Jorge Conesa Sevilla, author of Wrestling with Ghosts.
You can also get my sleep paralysis book in print on Amazon.com here.
 Jung, Carl. Collected Works 13: Alchemical Studies, par 335, pg 265.
 Ben Phillips, private communication 2009.
First image: Portal by Alice Popkorn CC 2011