Sleep paralysis can be scary and overwhelming. But you can help wake yourself up from an episode by moving your fingers and toes or forcing a sudden and intense movement.

Sleep paralysis is a parasomnia that can cause a temporary inability to move or speak. It can occur as you emerge from the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stage and begin to regain consciousness.

During a sleep paralysis episode, all your senses are active, and you have full awareness, but your body is still asleep. Although sleep paralysis isn’t physically harmful, it can cause you to feel overwhelmed or anxious.

Learn more about how to wake yourself up from sleep paralysis and how to manage your episodes.

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Sleep paralysis can be alarming, but it’s not dangerous. It typically passes within a few seconds to 2 minutes.

During an episode, there are several ways you can help wake yourself up, including the following.

1. Moving a small body part

When you’re experiencing sleep paralysis, it can be helpful to focus on trying to move a small area of your body, such as your:

  • fingers
  • toes
  • eyes, by blinking rapidly

Doing so can help prompt your body to wake up and regain full consciousness.

2. Forcing intense movement

Anecdotally, some people have reported that intense movement—such as jerking, coughing, or twitching—may help snap you out of a sleep paralysis episode.

However, not everyone will be able to do this. Some people find it easier to form movement, while others may have to wait for the episode to pass.

3. Taking deep breaths

During sleep paralysis, it’s common to feel a heavy pressure on your chest. This can make it difficult to breathe and increase feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.

It can be helpful to focus on taking full and deep breaths during this time. Try to remember that this is temporary and will typically pass in a few seconds. This can help you stay calm until you can fully wake up.

4. Asking for help

If you regularly experience sleep paralysis, it can be beneficial to share this with someone, such as your bed partner, if possible.

Consider telling them what sleep paralysis may look like for you. For example, some people often find that they can open their eyes during an episode but can’t talk. If you’re comfortable doing so, you can ask your bed partner to help wake you up if they see you having an episode. They could touch you gently or help you sit up and force your body to wake up.

After an episode of sleep paralysis

After you’ve woken up from sleep paralysis, it can be beneficial to get up and move around. This can help ensure that you don’t immediately fall back asleep and experience another episode.

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There are currently no treatment options for sleep paralysis. However, some research has suggested that having good sleep hygiene is essential to preventing these episodes.

If you have a condition that affects your sleep, like insomnia, and you’re experiencing recurrent sleep paralysis, a doctor may suggest taking sleep medications. Common examples include eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zaleplon (Sonata).

If an underlying condition is causing your sleep paralysis, treating it will usually prevent episodes from starting again.

If you regularly experience sleep paralysis, a doctor may suggest focusing on your sleep quality to help you manage your episodes.

Helpful methods may include:

  • Maintaining good sleep hygiene: This involves going to sleep at the same time every day and ensuring that you get enough quality sleep each night. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a day.
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol: Try to reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evenings, for better quality sleep.
  • Avoiding devices before bed: It can be beneficial to put down electronic devices, like smartphones and tablets, 2 hours before sleep. These devices produce blue light, which can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep.
  • Ensuring that you’re comfortable: Having a comfortable mattress and pillow can help promote healthier sleep. It can also be beneficial to create a quiet, dark, and cool sleeping environment.

If your sleep paralysis is interfering with your day-to-day life or causing anxiety, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can identify lifestyle measures that may be able to help reduce your episodes or the anxiety surrounding them.

They can also confirm whether an underlying condition is causing your sleep paralysis and, if so, develop a treatment plan for it.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about sleep paralysis.

What is a sleep paralysis demon?

A sleep paralysis demon is a generic name that people often use to describe the threatening or scary presence that some people see or feel in the room during an episode. This is known as a hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucination.

Other people may use the term to describe the temporary inability to move and the feeling of suffocation during sleep paralysis.

Can sleep paralysis last for hours?

Sleep paralysis doesn’t last for hours. It’s temporary and typically lasts for a few seconds to 2 minutes.

Is sleep paralysis dangerous?

Sleep paralysis isn’t dangerous. Research has suggested that it has no long-term consequences and doesn’t pose a risk to your physical health.

Sleep paralysis is a type of parasomnia that can cause a temporary inability to move or speak when you’re between phases in your sleep cycle.

Although it’s not physically harmful, it can cause you to feel overwhelmed or anxious.

During an episode of sleep paralysis, there are several methods that you can try to help wake yourself up, including:

  • moving a small part of your body
  • taking deep breaths
  • asking for help from your bed partner, if possible
  • forcing intense bodily movements

If your sleep paralysis is interfering with your day-to-day life or causing anxiety, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can identify lifestyle measures, like improving your sleep hygiene, to help manage your episodes.

When you’re experiencing an episode of sleep paralysis, it can feel alarming. But it can be helpful to remind yourself that it’s temporary and will pass in a few seconds. This can help you stay calm until your body fully regains consciousness.