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Memoirs of a Lucid Dreaming Practitioner. Part I
Sleep onset, the first stage of NREM sleep.
One of the most unusual experiences at this stage is the maintaining of consciousness during the transition from waking state to dormant state. Seconds after hypnic jerks, which serve as a signal from the motor part of the nervous system about somewhat maintaining a control over the body, comes the paralysis, and the consciousness disconnects from reality, switching off to “sleep mode.” But if you keep the consciousness after the jerk, you can witness the process of transition to sleep “with your own eyes”. With your own mind, to be more accurate, because by virtue of the inevitable paralysis you won’t even be able to open your eyelids. Right after the paralysis you might even get soreness in the head and your whole body. It seems as if your brain gets suddenly imposed to a swelling current for 5-10 seconds at first and then to a decreasing one. We shall call each period of such increases and decreases in soreness “an impulse.” On the morrow of two or three impulses painful sensations pass off and the consciousness finally enters a dream relieved. However, in the middle of every impulse a drowsy person, whilst being helpless and paralyzed, gets anxious and in a cold sweat. Modern medicine insures that all of these fears are groundless, and sleep paralysis is harmless. But nevertheless you wonder every time: “What if I don’t wake up in the morning?”
The Nightmare, by Henry Fuseli (1781) is thought to be one of the classic depictions of sleep paralysis perceived as a demonic visitation.