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Not Able to Open My Eyes When Sleeping

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I took a nap a little bit ago for about an hour but something really strange happened. It started out with the dream I ended up having felt so real, I thought it was in real life. Now that I know it was a dream, I can’t really understand how I felt that the dream was actually real life. It turned out to be a nightmare-ish dream, at one point I got chased by construction workers with staple guns trying to kill me. Early in the dream, I had gotten high with a few of my friends but for some reason it made my breathing really labored. It suddenly got hard to breath, hard to walk and move, hard to see. It wasn’t a head rush in the dream, because it lasted for a while. (Most of my dreams are very realistic, but I’ve only felt thee real life thing a few times)
Half way through the dream I figured out that it was just a dream, not real life. Usually when this happens I’m able to wake myself up, or the dream ends and I wake up, and it usually only lasts for a few seconds longer after figuring out it was a dream.
But this time was different. Immediately as I realized it was a dream I was suddenly able to breath better (I was literally able to feel how hard the breathing was.) I tried to open my eyes but they wouldn’t open. I can feel my self awake now, I know I’m laying on my bed and it’s just a dream but I’m not able to wake up from it. At this moment I can remember feeling myself trying to force them open with sheer eye lid strength but still nothing. After failing at least 3 times I must have went fully back into dream land, somehow still knowing it was a dream.
I have no idea how to explain this, it was very scary. The breathing and the not being able to wake up, everything was so strange… I just want to know if this is some sort of medical/physical condition. Am I the only person this has happened too? I looked it up but everyone is saying that their dreams were already finished when they tired to open their eyes but I was still in a dream when it happened to me. ?

Not Able to Open My Eyes When Sleeping

Answered by on -


Thank you for your letter and sharing your concern. From your description it sounds like you had an episode of something called sleep paralysis. Here’s a link to more information about it, but it is generally very short lived and you move through it. While it can be scary it typically doesn’t have any lasting side effects.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Not Able to Open My Eyes When Sleeping

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Not Able to Open My Eyes When Sleeping. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 20 Sep 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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