Slaying the Sleep Paralysis Demon: 3 Practical Tips

The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli (1781)

It hits you suddenly and without warning.

Floating around in dreamland, the blissful scene is interrupted by a feeling of dread. You start to panic and don’t know why. Something’s coming. Something…dark.

The landscape shifts, and you’re awake and safe in your bedroom. Phew. Every detail of this space is exactly the same as it always was, except… what’s that static noise? What’s that shadow in the corner? It’s coming closer! It’s hovering over you!

Your first instinct is to run but find you can’t move a muscle. You’re frozen in place. You try to scream but no sound escapes your lips. The shadow is dragging you off the bed. This is how I die, you think. It’s taking me to hell…

The weight is unbearable. You hear your name ringing in your ear, clear as a bell. Your heart nearly pounds out of your chest.

Then, just like that, it’s over.

You’re awake, you’re safe, you’re scared out of your mind.

Does this sound familiar?

You’re not alone. As many as 50% of all people have experienced episodes like this at some point in their lives, and depictions can be found in art and literature dating back hundreds of years. Many cultures around the world have created their own delicious myths surrounding this terrifying phenomenon.

Today, we call it sleep paralysis.

My own experiences with “the Night Hag” began way before I formed permanent memories. I know this because I can recall a childhood episode very vividly, and remember thinking “ugh, this again.” Back then, it was simply a bodily sensation… the fear and hallucinations didn’t come until I grew older.

For years I suffered in silence because no one seemed to have any clue about what I was talking about, and I didn’t have a term to google back then. I actually had to try every searching every keyword I could think of before the words “sleep” and “paralysis” came together.

How did you learn about it?

After a lifetime of battling this demon and experiencing every flavor of it—from alien abduction to underworld kidnapping—I’ve developed my own methods of keeping the Pandafeche at bay. I’m happy to report that I haven’t seen the little bugger in quite some time.

Bon voyage, creepy shadow presence! I hope there are lots of cookies wherever you are!

Even though it hasn’t yet been fully explained by science, there are some great theories about why this happens to us, which we can explore later on. 

Tonight, I’ll share with you a few of the most popular tips for avoiding sleep paralysis, and one of my own.

A few things first:

  1. Consider seeing a specialist. Yes, I have to say it. If you’re experiencing sleep paralysis often, there could be an underlying disorder such as narcolepsy (the most common association) or severe stress. Let’s rule that out.
  2. The most widely-accepted theory for why sleep paralysis happens is this: A natural part of falling asleep is “atonia.” This is when your brain relaxes your muscles so you don’t act out your dreams.  Otherwise, you’d have a lot to explain in the morning! Sleep paralysis is likely the result of atonia happening while you’re awake. Add your body’s fight-or-flight juice, and you have some vivid hallucinations to complete your cocktail.
  3. You won’t die. Sleep paralysis, although soul-shakingly terrifying, is not physically dangerous nor poses a serious medical risk. I know you’ll be certain you’re definitely dying in the moment, but it’s nice to know right now while you’re awake and reasonable… that you won’t.

And now, some things to try.

Go the f*ck to sleep

(Ok, I just got this book as a baby shower gift, and I had to sneak it in there! Did you know Samuel L Jackson narrates it? I digress…)

But seriously, if you can help it, go to bed at a decent hour. At least rest your body and brain if you can’t fully sleep. That whole atonia thing? The mix up is most likely to happen when you’re over-tired. I know this is true for me, and backed by research.

However, I’ve also noticed that I get it really bad if I over-sleep or keep hitting snooze. Really anything that messes with your REM.

Don’t lay on your back

You may be a die-hard back sleeper, and I’m not judging—I’m team fetal position all the way—but studies have shown that there’s a correlation between sleeping on your back and increased episodes of paralysis.

This is probably because your soft palate relaxes and obstructs your airway, kind of like sleep apnea. So, although we change positions multiple times throughout the night no matter how you fall asleep, you should make a conscious effort to stay off your back.

I’ve had to learn this during pregnancy. My tip— try using a contoured body pillow for extra incentive and support.

(Personal recommendation: The Snoogle! OMG it is a dream. For someone who suffers from SP, it keeps me perfectly cradled in the right position and feeling super secure all night. Sorry hubby, you’ve been replaced!) 


Yes, the standard witchy advice works wonders for this too. Go hug your high priestess.

Research has shown that long-term meditation practitioners spend more time in slow wave sleep and as such regular meditation practice could reduce nocturnal arousal and thus possibly sleep paralysis.” Thanks, Wikipedia! It also helps you relax into your body rather than panicking, which makes it worse.

Another thing I like to do is a bit of preventative visualization.

Before falling asleep, close your eyes and bring to mind the most recent sleep paralysis attack you’ve had. Try to recall the sensation in vivid detail, using every sense. Breathe deeply, and consciously relax each one of your muscles. Really sink into the bed. If you start to get anxious, remind yourself, “It will pass, if I just relax.” This will train you not to fight it, which again makes it worse.

I’ve also played around with pretending I’m a Hogwarts alumni and using the spell Riddikulus to transform the shadow presence… with hilarious results.

(If you like Harry Potter references, I have one last fun tip that I’m saving for my subscribers, so do sign-up for the email list.)

I hope this helps shed a little light on what’s been going on with yourself. Just remember, you’re not alone, you’re not gonna die, and you’re not possessed. Yay!

Alrighty. So we got some education, some history, and some tips… but there’s still a lot more to explore here.

Once you’ve tried the above, I’ve actually got some of my own weird little techniques I use to actually slay the sleep paralysis demon. They’re totally not what you find on these medical web articles…

I’m thinking of creating an in-depth course and will do it if there’s a demand. Would this interest you?

If so, enter your email below and then leave a comment here with your sleep paralysis experience! I will email you just to update you on this content.

Sweet Dreams,

x Bettie


Your Sleep is Sacred

YOU own the space behind your eyelids.

No one can take this from you but yourself.

Not your family, not your boss, not the ghosts of your past. Just you.

You may fight it, you may pretend it isn’t there…

…but at one point in the night you will surrender to the peace, again.

(Whether you like it or not.)

Your mind will go blank, your subconscious will take over, and you will let go.

You will meet your True Self. You will dance with the Universe.

The one you call out to in your darkest hour, in your throes of passion,

Will greet you tonight.

No need to wait until the final moment.

Close your eyes…

And let go.

You may cling to wakefulness, desperate to reclaim some part of your identity

That you sold to the collective dream.

Yet, with an ironic smile, it waits for you on the other side.

Hello, again.

Your spirit regards you tenderly, as if to say,

“You adorable sack of meat,

Why wrestle with a beast older than time?

Why resist the inevitable?”


Do you insist on being Other, on being Special, on being small?

Do you fear the softness in your heart, the tenderness you’ve locked away in a tower?

Or are you terrified of the dragon, all of your mess and violence and darkness?

There is nothing to be afraid of.

You were born of the same spark of creation.

There is no “good” or “evil”, only “acknowledged” and “repressed.”

There is no shame, there is no glory.

You are all that ever was and all that ever will be.

As the veil lifts over your subconscious,

Your Inner Child cries out to you…

A symbolic language only you can understand.

Are you listening to your dreams?

Do you scoff at their absurdity,

Or do you ponder their messages?

Do you wake within the dream

And realize you are the dreamer?

That you always are?

Tonight, like every night, you will meet the wholeness of who you are.

Tonight, like every night, the quiet darkness will heal your body and soul.

Tonight, like every night, you will rejoin the All.

You become You, you become Me, you become No One.

Here, the stories you tell yourself about your Self melt away.

You are left whole, perfect, and powerful.

What will you bring back with you when you wake up?

Who will you choose to be?

Every morning, your soul makes the curious decision…

…to incarnate into this game.

As the light pours in, your conscious puts the pieces back together again.

As you open your eyes, you slip on your character and rehearse your story, again.

And every morning, you rise, fresh and new…

If only for a moment.

Your sleep is sacred.

Own it.

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How to FINALLY Stop Hitting Snooze

Fellow semi-somniacs: how many times did you hit the “snooze” button this morning?

When did you finally wake up, and how did you feel? I’m willing to bet that you didn’t summersault out of bed singing to the sun.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve tried all the modern advice: put your phone in another room, go to bed earlier, turn on the lights…

and it works for a day or two…

but you fall back into your old routine in no time.

Here’s how you can FINALLY break your love affair with “snooze.”

  1. Know your sleep cycle

As you probably know, when you sleep, your brain goes through different stages. Light sleep, deep sleep, REM sleep… these cycles last about 90 min and repeat many times throughout the night.

We’ve all had that feeling of sleeping in waaay too late and STILL waking up as groggy as Billy the zombie from Hocus Pocus. Or, perhaps you can remember a night you only slept a few hours and woke up feeling more like Sarah Sanderson. (“I am beautiful! Boys will love me!”)

How is this possible? It’s all in the timing, baby.

If you interrupt a deep sleep cycle, no matter how long you slept, you’re going to feel a mess. (This is why experts suggest naps of less than 30 min.)

But how do you know WHEN to wake up? Does the classic advice of 8 hours still apply?

Personally, I’ve found apps like Sleep Cycle to be immensely helpful in this department. This isn’t an ad, I’ve just used it and it works. It’s free, try it out.

Or, check out this free calculator and simply set your alarm for one of these times. This has also worked wonders for me.  I love that it gives you a few times to choose from.

I’ve found that if I wake up at just the right time, I feel refreshed and ready to get out of bed, no matter how much or how little I slept.

Of course, this tip works best when combined with a solid intention and a wee bit of planning from the night before

2. Set an intention

Even if you went to bed at the perfect time and woke up at the perfect minute and had the perfect amount of sleep… you’re still going to have the powerful temptation for just “five more minutes” of blissful bed time.

And why not? The world is cold and demanding out there! In your pillow cloud, Margot Robbie thinks you’re a god and your comforter hugs you with all the warmth in the world.

There’s no sleep as satisfying as those golden minutes between alarms, is there?

Yet, as you know, these pleasures come with a heavy price. You’ll finally have to wake up again, groggy this time, and late for life. It’s not worth it!

What if, instead, you were armed with a sword against the Sandman and a shield against temptation?

We can agree on one thing: the words we speak to ourselves become our realities. (Our thoughts become actions, our actions become habits, etc.) Self-hypnosis is so in right now.

Believe it: It IS possible to hack your mind a little and reprogram it to wake up, once, the first time.

It starts the night before. Try saying to yourself before you close your eyes: “When I hear [alarm sound] my sleep will end and my day will begin.”  Visualize yourself sitting up and stretching when you hear the sound.

I recommend you pick a new sound today to symbolize a fresh start.

Then, in the morning, when the alarm goes off, say to yourself: “I feel refreshed and ready to leave the bed. I’m open to what this day brings.” Open your eyes.

3. Give yourself something to look forward to

Ok, you’re up now. Maybe you’re in the bathroom scrolling though the news, or maybe you’re in the kitchen drinking some cold water.

Now, one little extra tip I recommend is making the bed right away. Yes… I’m saying it, too. However, not because it’s the first completed task of the dayalthough that is nicebut simply because it’s harder to get back into a freshly made bed and ruin all your work. A made bed says, “sleep is over, no looking back.”

Even if you don’t do this (no judgement), I highly recommend giving yourself one thing to look forward to in the morning. I suggest that it’s something that gives you pleasure and with some amount of productivity.

For example, I like to sit outside in the garden and record my dreams. You might like to listen to a new favorite podcast.

If you start waking up with time to spare but don’t do anything with it, your tricky lil mind is going to use that as leverage tomorrow morning when the alarm goes off. “What are you really going to do, stare at the cat? It’s so much warmer in here…”

It’s best to plan this out the night before so that you don’t have to make something up when you’re vulnerable.

With just three mini changes (time your cycle, set an intention, and give yourself a reward), “snooze” will be a thing of the past. The trick is to DECIDE. Your will makes all the difference.

Try it out and let me know in the comments below how it works for you.

x Bettie

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7 Signs You’re a Semi-Somniac

Confession: I thought I had made up the term “semi-somniac”, meaning someone who doesn’t have actual insomnia but suffers from chronic over-tiredness caused by poor sleep habits.

Like, pretty much everyone these days.

However, it turns out that not only is the term in use, but sciencey people have been studying sleepcrastinators like us for years.

Personally, I’ve felt the corrosive effects eat away at my own life.

At night, I was too stubborn to go to bed without feeling some little form of satisfaction. Some peace of myself I could hold on to.

Whether I was escaping into some dark comedy or scrolling through “just one more” article about side-hustles, I dragged my bedtime out later and later…

…chasing a feeling of “wholeness” I never found.

Then, in the morning, I was too exhausted to do any of the things that might have made me feel accomplished in the first place. I raced off to go work all day for someone else, and the cycle repeated.

It took Life several claps in my face to wake me up from this zombie spell. Thank you, Life. Perhaps it has also brought you here to me.

You, too, feel like one of us… one of the living dead.

And as one of the living dead, you’re stuck in limbo.

Not quite an insomniac…

…and therefore not sleepless enough to seek treatment…

but also not quite awake to your potential. 

You’re not alone.

Here are 7 signs that YOU are a Semi-Somniac:

1. You automatically hit snooze

Have you ever noticed how amazing you are at math in the wee hours of the morning?

With one eye open, you can calculate exactly how many more minutes of precious sleep you can get away with. (“If I skip the shower and settle for break room coffee, I can set my alarm for another…18 min…”)

Admit it. You’re not your best self when you’re stinky. And groggy. And beating yourself up for forgetting that one thing on the counter because you were running out the door. Snooze is not your friend.

“Never fear, Bettie!” You say. “A hot cup of joe is going to make it all better. Joe understands.”

2. You don’t fully wake up until coffee

Joe is a liar. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my daily cup of café con leche every morning since I was a teen. A cup of Jose, if you will.

Alas, using caffeine as a crutch to make yourself feel more awake than you are is a big red flag that you’re not getting the rest you need.

Maybe for you, it’s not coffee, but tea. Or the treadmill. Or your signature maca matcha energy smoothie. Maybe it’s crack. I don’t know your whole life.

The point is, if you’re relying on something other than your own brain chemicals to snap yourself out of Zombieland, it’s time to get really honest with yourself.

3. You feel like a zombie

Dragging your feet, sniffing your armpits, slurping liquified brains out of a protein shaker. Mhm, called it. Zombie.

You may rouse briefly from your waking dream after a few sips of java, look around, and identify all the other zombies in your midst.

Filling up again in the break room, you nearly run into one. Perhaps it’s in the redness of their eyes, or the blankness of their stare, but you recognize them as one of your own.

“Rrr,” you say. “Rrr,” they reply.  

You share a moment of glazed eye contact that seems to say, “here we are.” How romantic.

4. You delay bedtime until the last minute 

That’s about the only romantic thing happening in your world. Exhausted after a long day of humaning, with everyone else finally asleep, you cling to the last shred of personal time left in your day.

Sleep procrastination is a real thing.

Because we feel like we sell ourselves every day to other people and corporations and obligations, we put off sleep as long as possible in order to reclaim… something.

“Viva la resistance!” you whisper to no one in particular, as you scroll through your favorite mindless app.

Will there ever be a cat meme funny enough to satisfy your search? A Facebook video touching enough to lull you to sleep? A list article insightful enough to bring you back to yourself? Ehem.   

5. You can’t find your “off button”

After busting out your sleep math skills again, you put the phone to charge next to your bed (you rebel, you) and close your eyes.

Finally free from its cage, your mind runs laps around the bedroom, peeing and leaving scratch marks on the carpet.

No matter how hard you try, you can’t settle your brain down long enough to slip gently into that good night. So you flip on the TV.

Let’s look at that again:  the reason your mind races at night is because it is caged all day!

Most of us who live our lives for other people and others’ ideas, most of us who don’t practice mindfulness or meditation during the day, most of us who have to stay focused on the tasks at hand…

…find that we can’t control our thoughts at night as they have been champing at the bit all day. And once they are free to gallop around in the darkness, many of us find ourselves sedating them back into captivity.

6. You rely on stimulants and depressants

If you need uppers to wake up in the morning, you probably need downers to settle into sleep.

You’re not alone: more than 9 million Americans use prescription sleep aids, with many more self-medicating with alcohol etc.
(aha, snuck in one stat)

Of course, the problem with this goes beyond the vicious cycle of addiction to stimulants and depressants. The long term effects of both can be pretty nasty on your body and mind.

Even something as “minor” as dehydration (caused by both caffeine and alcohol) can wreak havoc mentally and physically.  

7. You don’t have a night time routine

No, having a glass of wine while watching your favorite late-night comedy is not what we’re calling a “bedtime routine.” (I would know.)

Neither is: finishing up those emails in the dark, doing the dishes after the kids are in bed, or crawling home from a happy-hour gone too far.

Do you have habitual activities that trigger your mind and body to start getting ready to sleep?  

The irony is that if you actually did have a real evening routine in place, you’d likely go to bed feeling much more fulfilled and accomplished, you’d wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day, and by tackling the day, go to bed feeling much more fulfilled and accomplished.

Delicious, right?

Good Sleep is Not Just a Dream…

The good news is, if you already have any habits in place (even “bad” ones), it won’t be all that difficult to make changes for the better.

You have the power to regain control of your life and it starts at sunset.

Or sunrise, if you prefer.

In other words, what you do before bed affects your quality of waking life, and vice versa.

Luckily for you, I’ve come up with a step-by-step guide that I truly feel will get you back in the driver’s seat.

The principles have worked for me and my, um, test subjects… and I will be providing them for free to those in my email list, one day at a time.

Subscribe now and you’ll be one of the first to get it. In the meantime, enjoy the freebie, “6 Quick Steps to Fall Asleep NOW.”

Try it for yourself and see what sleep may come. Sign up, but only if you’re ready to make real change.    

Together, we’ll wield the riding-crop of your mind and tame your thoughts. “The day is over. It is time to come home.” If it helps you to envision me holding the whip at first, I’m happy to oblige.  

What will you achieve when you wake up?

x Bettie