When is Sleep Paralysis not Sleep Paralysis?

I wake up. Everything seems normal, though something doesn’t quite feel right. I’m in my dorm, in my overly-messy room. My roommate is in the main room watching TV. My phone, which is currently on an app called Rest M.P., is playing a mix of sounds I called “Rainy Night at FAU” (crickets, rain, thunder, owl). It’s 7:45 pm… already dark. I’m supposed to be sleeping until 9:15 pm, so that I have enough sleep to get me from 10 pm to 6 am at my new job. But for some reason I keep waking up… this is the third time. Somehow, I’ve heard a song I want to try and look up. I assume it’s a song my roommate was listening to and I heard it. I remember lines from the chorus, so I go to search.

As I’m reaching for my phone, it again strikes me that something is wrong, but I’m not really sure what.

I input my password into my phone.

It doesn’t work.

I try again.

It doesn’t work.

Then it hits me.

I’m still asleep! Let me wake up and I’ll try again.

So I roll over in my bed as if I’m going to sleep. How this will wake me up, I don’t know. But I know it will.

And sure enough, I wake up. My roommate is still watching TV, but I shrug that off, thinking that probably leaked into my dream.

As I reach for my phone, again I feel as if something is wrong. So this time I pause for a moment to take stock of my situation. I realize that there’s an odd quality about reality. It’s as if I’m still high from vaping a bowl of marijuana (which I actually haven’t touched since summer 2013).

I must still be asleep.

So I try waking up again. And I do.

For a little bit, I’m convinced I’m awake. It’s the failure of my password on my phone that makes me realize that, again, I’m not actually awake.

Suddenly, my desire to wake up goes from a want to an urgent need.

First I start trying to find the position I’m sleeping in, thinking that will help to actually wake me up.

I can’t find that position.

So I think that maybe I need to get out of bed and leave the room. I do get out of bed, but I really don’t want to leave the room. For some reason, the fact that my roommate is out there watching TV is keeping me from leaving the room. So I get back in bed and try one more time. I’ll “go to sleep” so that I can wake up.

It doesn’t work.

I freak out.

I basically start throwing a temper tantrum.

“WAKE UP!!!!” I scream, pounding my seemingly empty bed and crying. “PLEASE WAKE UP! I NEED TO BE AWAKE! LET ME BE AWAKE! PLEASE!”

My roommate knocks on my door. “Are you okay in there?”


Now I’m actually awake. And I can tell the difference. Things no longer seem like I’m high. And my roommate isn’t here. He’s off at his own job. So I try to go back to sleep. When I realize I can’t, I sit down at my desk to write this blog post.

I have dreams like this all of the time. Usually, dreams like this accompany sleep paralysis, which means I generally can’t move during them. My sleep paralysis dreams are often strange like this. There’s no scary entity or presence in the room, but the need to wake up is always overwhelmingly urgent, and I freak out. I always feel like I’m going to oversleep if I don’t wake up then and there, miss my alarm, and then miss something extremely important. My mom would tell me that I should try just going back to sleep, but it’s impossible. I absolutely have to wake up because I’ll get in lots of trouble if I don’t. And even if I know better, it doesn’t matter. I have to wake up.

Sometimes, like this time, there is no paralysis. I am able to move “freely”, but that freedom is limited by usually strange, random, and meaningless barriers. Sometimes it’s like in a video game, where I know there are areas of the dream I simply can’t go, even if I think I’m actually awake. Sometimes, there are physical barriers.

In this case, it was my roommate.

I need to say here that these barriers are never negative. They are random. Often it’s been my family. If these were negative barriers, my family should never manifest as a barrier because I have an incredible relationship with everyone in my family and love them very much. I have no negative feelings, that I know of, towards anyone in my family. I’m pretty sure the barriers are simply pulled from my surroundings, or sometimes from what I’m thinking about.

When I have dreams like this, with all the hallmarks of sleep paralysis minus knowing that I’m paralyzed, the barrier manifests either as it would in those old video games, or manifest as people I don’t want to bother.

The last time I had a dream like this, I fell asleep while reminiscing about my grandparent’s cottage in Cape Cod. So I fell asleep, and had this dream. The difference between the dream and the reality was much starker: instead of being in my dorm, I was in my Grandparent’s cottage in Cape Cod. The barriers to my movement in the dream was my family. My brother was sleeping in his bed, and I didn’t want to bother him, so I avoided his section of the room. My parents and grandparents were watching TV in the living room, so I didn’t want to go in there. My movement was thus restricted to my section of the bedroom my brother and I were sharing, and the kitchen.

And yet it still took me a while to realize I was actually asleep. And when I did realize I was asleep, it was again three tries to wake up before the urgency hit, then a fourth try followed by the panicked tantrum. My brother woke up to find out what was going on, and I woke up in my dorm.

And in case anyone’s wondering, it just so happens that these last two instances occurred while living in the dorm. I’ve been having sleep paralysis and dreams like this for a few years now that I can remember. They’ve happened in both the apartments I lived in while in Florida, as well as in the house we lived in while in Georgia. I’m guessing they happened even before that, but I don’t remember.

I’m really not sure what to make of these. Why do I get sleep paralysis? Why do I get dreams that are otherwise like sleep paralysis but without the recognition of being paralyzed?

They’re frustrating because when I wake up from them, I have some energy for the next hour, but then I’m usually very tired the entire day. So they’re clearly affecting my ability to sleep, and causing me to lose sleep.

Plus, these are the dreams that stay with me. I forget most of my dreams, unless they come up like this.

I think I want to participate in a sleep study, in the hopes of finding out what, exactly, is going on. But I can’t find any in my area at the moment. This is also why I wish the technology existed to let me record my dreams. If I could actually rewatch my dreams later on, it might help me to pinpoint what’s going on… and even if it doesn’t, it’d be pretty damn cool… 😀

About Nathan Hevenstone

I'm an SJW, Socialist, Jewish Agnostic Atheist, Foodie, and Guitarist. Hi! https://allmylinks.com/jimmyrrpage
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1 Response to When is Sleep Paralysis not Sleep Paralysis?

  1. medivh says:

    Well, I can say that you’re not alone in the whole not-paralysed-sleep-paralysis thing. For me, it’s usually when my alarm goes off, but I’m not rested enough to wake up normally. I’ll “wake up”, go over to my alarm and snooze it off – except it doesn’t stop going. I’ll mash the button a few times before I realise I’m still asleep and the alarm sound is leaking through. It’s been taking three or four times of trying to force myself awake to deal with the alarm of late too.

    Not a sleep specialist or anything like that, but this seems to me to be a specialised case of lucid dreaming. I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done, but I have trouble with rooms being too bright when I sleep. I guess the general advice I’d give is, is there a way for you to improve your sleeping conditions? Eye pillows, ear plugs, better mattress, better pillows? It might take the lucid bit out of your dreaming.

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