Poncho-Liner Improvement: Pops and Zip

In my blog on foundation survival equipment, two of the items were a rain poncho and a blanket. Given how expensive good blankets are these days, many of you will have opted for a poncho-liner (aka “woobie”) instead.
Why a blanket/poncho-liner rather than a sleeping bag? A good sleeping bag is well worth having. In warmer conditions, however, a poncho-liner may be a better choice than that bulky five-season expedition bag you just had to buy, “just in case”. In colder conditions, a poncho-liner may be combined with a sleeping bag of more modest (and more practical) capabilities.
In case you have not worked it out, a more practical sleeping bag purchase would have been a two or three-season bag that can be combined with other items in colder weather, including another sleeping bag. Generally, several thinner layers trap more warm air than one very thick one.
The poncho-liner was designed to be part of a warm weather sleeping system. The instructions are that the poncho-liner is to be tied to a GI-issue rain poncho, with the rain poncho outermost. The soldier lies on one half of the combination and folds the other half over themselves. The snaps (poppers) on the rain poncho should not be used to fasten the opening if sleeping in a combat zone.
Tying the liner to the poncho may not be necessary. Threading the tapes through the eyelets may keep things together by friction alone.
Easiest knot is to make a loop at the base of the cord and pass it up through the eyelet. Make a loop higher in the cord and take it over the edge of the pooncho and pass the loop through the first. Hold the free end and pull the other side of the second loop to pull the first loop snug. This is very easy to tie and easy to undo with cold, wet hands. This is “two-thirds of a Highwayman's Hitch”.
Easy knot for attaching poncho to liner
The above method of using rain poncho and liner together has become known as a “ranger roll”, not to be confused with the packing method of the same name. It has been pointed out to me that this system resembles an Australian swag, with the obvious difference a swag uses heavier but breathable canvas.
The poncho and liner (presumably as a ranger-roll configuration) is designated as a sleeping system for temperatures above 50°F (10°C). Put another way, if your breath is fogging, make more elaborate sleeping arrangements.
Rigging your rain poncho as a shelter, such as a ridge tent or lean-to, will trap a layer of air above while you sleep wrapped in your liner. You will be better ventilated and more comfortable than the ranger-roll. Where tactically possible, a fire may be built before a lean-to.
Insulating yourself from ground-chill will also facilitate sleeping at lower temperatures. Place hay, browse, bracken etc between yourself and the ground. Wreckage such as seat cushions may be used. If you have an insulated kip-mat, it may be used instead of or in addition to the previous measures.
If you want to use your poncho as a shelter you will need to carry some cordage, pegs and possibly poles. The two hanks of cord I recommended adding to your EDC will do fine. Since most ponchos or liners do not have a waist cord such cord may be knotted around the waist when wearing a rain-poncho and/or poncho-liner. Bungee cords are an alternative to cordage for shelters, and may also be used around the waist if your brought them long enough.

Pocho Shelters

Some ponchos only have eyelets at the corners, or even lack these. Fit eyelets to each corner and the centre of each edge.
There are alternate options, of course. One of them is a bivi-bag and a pair of poncho-liners.
A poncho-liner is a sensible thing to acquire, even if most of the time you just throw it over yourself when watching telly in the colder months.
Useful though the poncho-liner is, there is room for improvement.
Below is a video of “Green-Craft's” poncho-liner improvements:

Personally, I found some of the modifications described hard to fully comprehend. Long, verbal descriptions on a video are not the best means of communicating information. The video could have benefited from some more illustrations and written lists.
I decided not to use many of these suggested modifications.
For one thing, I do not like “hand-warmer” pockets. Move with your hands in your pockets and you cannot defend yourself nor save yourself if you fall. Essentially, hand-warmer pockets are diametrically the opposite of what this blog is about.
I also had concerns that some of these modifications would affect the packability of my poncho-liner.
And I am short on funds, so cannot afford all the bits needed for the modifications even if I did want them.

The Head Hole

Why did the inventors of the poncho-liner not include a head hole so that it could be worn under a rain-poncho?
Perhaps it was something to do with the commitment to the war in Vietnam? Warm clothing was not seen as a high priority?
Modifying your poncho-liner so that it can be worn as a real poncho is probably the most useful modification you can make, and it is relatively simple.
You will need:
• A 40 cm open-ended zip of suitable colour and finish
• About a metre of suitably coloured double-fold bias tape
• Sewing supplies. A needle, suitably coloured thread, pins, chalk, scissors/shears, a tape measure.
You do not want a zipper with shiny nor reflective teeth, so you will probably get a plastic zip. Colour and shades should be one that blends well with the basic appearance of your poncho-liner.
My poncho-liner is in German Tropentarn desert camo (aka “desert flecktarn” or “fleckdesert”), which is actually quite a good general-purpose pattern. Thus I brought a zipper described as beige.
I brought my double bias tape and the colour was described as “stone”.
If you have some scraps of suitably coloured or patterned material you can make your own bias tape by cutting it diagonally. Using different scraps will enhance the disruptive effect.
There are videos on how to make bias tape and how to join the different sections. You will need and iron and possibly a former.

The Cut

Decide which side of your poncho-liner will be the “outer” and which the “inside.” Also decide which part will be “front” and which “back”. My poncho-liner has a label in one corner so I arranged it so that this would be inside and at the back.
As evenly as possible, fold your poncho-liner width-wise. Then fold it lengthwise. The corner of the folds should be the centre of your poncho-liner.
Many blogs ago, I advised you to buy some chalk and add it to your EDC. You probably had several sticks left. Add some to your home sewing kit, it is times such as these it comes in useful.
Measure down from the centre corner 8 cm and mark a spot with your chalk. Make an 8cm cut through both thicknesses of the poncho-liner. Note that the cut you are making is lengthwise, going from back to front.
Unfold the poncho-liner. From the edge of the cut measure 19 cm and mark a point with chalk. I used a set-square here to ensure the line was perpendicular to a width-wise fold. Cut down the front 19 cm.
You now have a poncho-liner with a 35 cm hole in the centre. Check this fits easily over your head. Make it a shade bigger if necessary.

Fitting the Zip and Collar

Unzip your zipper into separate halves.
On the outermost side of the poncho-liner, place your zipper parts on either side of the head-hole.
Position them so that for each the teeth are on the opposite side to the opening.
You should be looking at the “back side” of the zipper and the puller should be on the front-side of the poncho-liner when fully down.
Pin each of the zipper halves so that the toothless edge is flush with the cut edge of the head-hole.
Note that your zipper is longer than the hole you cut. Make sure they are closely aligned. Try closing the zipper while it is still only pinned in position and adjust as necessary.

Fitting the Double Bias Tape

Once you are happy with the position of your zipper, you need to pin the bias tape into position.
I suggest you watch a few videos to familiarize yourself with how this tape is used. We are going to fold it all the way over the edge of the head-hole. If you look at the outer edges of your poncho-liner you will see a similar method has already been used to finish that edge.
Cut two lengths of bias tape about the same length as your zipper. Unfold the tape so that you are looking at its “inside”.
Place the tape, inside uppermost, over your zipper half. Align the inner edge of the tape so that it is flush with the cut-edge of the poncho and the toothless edge of the zipper. Pin in position and repeat for the other side.
You can remove the pins you put in to hold the zipper.
There should be pins securing both tape and zipper to the poncho-liner.
Note that if I was to do this again, I would use short lengths of bias tape to cover the top and bottom of the cut before adding the zipper. What I have done does not look too bad (on the outside!), but it could have been neater.


I started off trying to use a “mini-sewing machine”. This was very cheap when I brought it. I notice the price is creeping up now!
After attaching the first zipper half I got sick of repeatably rethreading the thing, and realized I could probably do a neater job hand-sewing. Some sections would need to be hand-sewn anyway.
Sew along the crease of the bias tape that is closer to the hole.
Once this is done, fold the tape so that it completely covers the cut edge of the liner and the other crease touches the inside of the poncho-liner, the far edge of the tape tucked in.
Both creases of the tape are thus folded and both edges of the tape tucked in.
Sew just inside the edge of the tape so your thread passes through all four layers of tape, the zipper and the poncho-liner.

Finishing the Zipper

Close your zipper and tuck each end through the cut to the inner side of the poncho-liner.
Finish the ends of the bias tape so they are sewn to the zipper.
Since the top and bottom of my head-hole was untaped, I put a few stiches through the zipper and through the poncho-liner to close off any opening that remained.
Lastly, add a length of cord or tape to your zipper-puller.
This will stop it rattling. It also lets you easily work the zipper if your hands are cold and numb or wearing thick gloves.
If you can get some bootlace that matches the ties on your poncho-liner, that would be cool. I used a length of “desert-camo” 3mm budget paracord, which does not look out of place.

The Zipper Explained

Why use this configuration for your zipper?
When used as a garment, the teeth of the opened parts of the zipper will not contact your bare neck. You can roll the edges of the opening outward if you wish. This is shown in the photo immediately below.
There are other ways to prevent the teeth rubbing the neck, but the above method is one of the simplest and involves very little sewing.
Poncho-liner with zippered neck opening
The puller of the zipper is at the front when opened so that you can adjust the neck opening to vary ventilation or retain more heat.
The zipper I brought was described as beige but the actual colour was lighter and more yellow than I had hoped. Because very little of the zipper is visible on the outside, I got lucky and it blends very nicely with the rest of the poncho-liner. I think it may work better than the dark green zipper I also considered.
In practice, the zipper will usually be covered by a scarf or shemagh.
The zipper I brought was missing a tooth at the very top. This caused the puller to jam if the zip is fully closed. Fortunately, by tucking the very bottom and top of the zip, the last few centimetres of each end are not used, yet the opening can be fully closed. A combination of luck and improvisation!
Poncho-liner with zipper opening fully open
The bias tape I brought was described as “stone” in colour. I was expecting something with a hint of brown, but it proved to be a light, very neutral-looking grey. Not surprisingly, this colour and shade goes very well with both the zipper and the poncho-liner in general.
The camera flash probably creates a greater contrast than the naked eye sees.


Once I had fitted the zipper, I went about installing some plastic poppers (aka “snaps”, “snap-fasteners”). These may need special pliers to fit.
You will need something that can poke a small hole through the poncho-liner. I used a stout sailmaker's needle I have in my home sewing kit. A set of these is worth having. The smaller ones go in you EDC or travel kits, the larger into your home sewing and/or repair kit.
You can chalk the needle to make the holes easier to locate.

Getting the Poppers Right

Lay-out your poncho with the inner side upwards.
Mentally divide it into quarters. We will be installing poppers using the following rules. The reason for this will be explained later:
• Each quarter will have the popper halves all of the same time. A quarter will only contain “male” poppers or “female”.
• If a quarter at the top has male poppers, the quarter immediately below will have female, and vice versa.
• If a quarter on the left has male poppers, that on the immediate right will have female, and vice versa.
• Quarters that are diagonally opposite will contain the same type of popper half.
I started off by installing the corner-most popper halves. Concentrate on getting these right and then it is just a matter of using the same popper type for each quarter.
I installed the corner poppers 40mm in from the side edge of the poncho-liner and 190mm from the top or bottom edge. If you are on the large side, place the poppers closer to the edge.
Next, fold your poncho-liner width-wise. Use the top and bottom poppers you have just added if you wish.
From the width-wise fold, measure down 240 to 250mm and install a popper 40mm in from the side. Make sure each quarter of the poncho-liner has the same type popper-half.
When you are wearing the poncho-liner, using this popper forms a sort of sleeve. The opening is generous enough to allow for bulky cold weather clothing. You can also slip your hand in and use it as a hand-warmer, “Fu Manchu”-style.
You will want to add a few more poppers down the side between the “sleeve” popper. I chose to add three more to each side.
With your poncho-liner still folded width-wise, fasten the sleeve and corner poppers. Make another width-wise fold so the corner popper touches the sleeve popper. Mark where the fold is and install a popper. As always, make sure each quarter of the poncho-liner has the same type popper-half.
Install additional poppers between the sleeve and corner poppers and the middle popper you just fitted.

Finishing the Poppers

The poppers I had purchased were supposedly “beige”. They turned out to be way lighter than expected, and had a gloss finish! When installed on the poncho-liner they appeared like they were white.
Luckily, I have some enamel model paints, several in colours close to that of the poncho-liner. I used these to paint the outer sides of the popper halves. I did not bother to paint the inners. I suspect the paint on the inners will either wear off too quickly or affect functionality, but try it if you wish.
Painted poncho-liner poppers.
For the record, the colours I used were Humbrol no.84 Stone and Revell no.83 Leather Brown. None of the poppers passed through green areas of the camouflage, so I did not use any of my green paints. These are not exact colour matches for the poncho-liner, but if someone is close enough to see the difference camouflage is no longer an option!
Like most painting, a second coat will improve it. You can stipple the surface to produce a more matt-effect, or even sprinkle a little sand on the first coat. However, given that the surface of the poncho-liner is quite smooth, the practical value of this is moot.
While you are at it, see if the poppers on your rain-poncho could use some paint. 
Again, the flash on my camera probably shows them up more than the naked eye can discern them.
Below is a shot taken without flash.
Modified poncho-liner photographed without flash
You may not be able to avoid painting your poppers, but start off with some that are matt, medium shade and a natural or neutral colour if you can.

The Poppers Explained

Why did I insist such attention be paid to which popper half went in which quarter?
If you want to sleep in your poncho-liner, fold it lengthwise and tuck under the foot-end. You will find you can use the poppers to fasten the free long edges. Much more compact and less bulk than fitting a long zip on this edge!
Personally, I find sleeping like this a little restrictive and am more likely to use the liner like a conventional blanket. Part of the appeal of the liner as a warm weather sleeping system is that it does not confine you like a sleeping bag. Best way to turn the poncho-liner into a cold weather system is use it with a sleeping bag!
Obviously, if the poppers of the rain poncho on a ranger-roll should not be fastened in a threat environment, the same goes for the poppers you fitted to your liner when sleeping.
Wearing your poncho-liner? Two sets of poppers line up to create a sleeve-type opening. Those below can be used to close up the sides.
These simple modifications will take you less than a day, even if you have to hand-sew.

Sleeping Bags for Hostelling

A few weeks back I got talking about my experiences of youth hostelling when younger.
I didn’t get into hostelling until I was in my early twenties so was often the “old man” of a dorm. That said, I often struck up enjoyable liaisons with some of my fellow travellers. Some of these only lasted a couple of days until our paths parted, others were friendships that remained active for many years.
I was asked to write a little on the blog about my experiences and conclusions. .
One of the first topics I was asked about was sleeping bags for hostelling.

Do you really need a sleeping bag for hostelling, I was asked? My answer would be yes. 
While many hostels provide some bedding there are many that do not. It depends where you are in the world and whether it is an official IYH hostel or not. .
I will note that some of my most memorable experiences have been at “unofficals”, although by no means should you avoid the official places. There have been some fun times in those too. .
Another reason for having your own bedding is that there will be times when you want to travel overnight by train or bus, saving yourself the price of a room for the night.
This is not going to be a generic article on selecting sleeping bags. I will save that for another day if there is interest.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The most common mistake when buying your first bag is magnum-itis!.
A common mistake when buying a bag is to buy one that is too warm. .
Look around any hostel and you'll see several roommates with legs draped out of too hot five-season expedition bags. I did exactly the same when I brought my first bag (labelled as -15°C). I still have that bag but now reserve it for outdoor use or buildings that I know will be insufficiently heated. .
In truth, I have seldom used it. 
Use your hard saved money for a more practical purchase.
I soon invested in a one/two-season sleeping bag that folds up to the size of a rugby ball without the need for compression straps. My bag of choice was a Snugpak Merlin Softie 3, which I am happy to say are still in production. There are several variants available now. There are lengthened versions for the very tall. A tactical version has a reinforced lower for users that might need to sleep in their boots. (Put sandbags over them first!). 
Looks like the modern versions do have compression straps, probably because users expect them. My original stuff-sack neither had nor needed them.
The latest versions may have higher specs than my bag. According to its label my original bag is a “summer” bag for -5 to +10°C, comfort 0°C.

My Merlin Softie has been all around the world with me and is still good to go. I have used it for both hostelling and camping.
I prefer bags with two-way zips for hostelling and similar travels. They provide better ventilation and are easier to get into in a dark dorm room. 
Some designs can also be zipped together, if your bag has a right hand zip and your loved one's a left.
The compact size allows me to carry a very small pack, with plenty of room for everything else. 
The larger sleeping bags often take up most of your rucksac volume or become large unwieldy lumps lashed to the outside. 
Should conditions be colder than expected, I can always add more insulation in the form of clothing or blankets. Taking insulation out of a heavier bag would not be possible. 
Conceivably I could use my lower performance bag inside another bag.
I suppose if I had my time again I'd buy a one or two season bag and a two or three season and have a really versatile system for all conditions.
I have a lightweight down bag that might work well with the Merlin but I cannot recall any instances where I was cold in the Merlin bag. 
Bear in mind that many of your travels will be to warm places in summer and you will see that such a bag is more than adequate. 
You’ll spend a third of your time on holiday sleeping, so a good bag is a good investment.
Many hostels will provide blankets but expect the guest to provide a sleeping bag liner. A sleeping bag liner is basically a sheet sewn into a bag-shape to keep the bedclothes clean. Some hostels may also have sheets or bags for hire.

For a long time I carried a simple, easily washable cotton sheet bag, both for hostel bedding and to protect my own sleeping bags.
One morning in a German hostel it disappeared from my bed! The maid had mistaken it for one of the hostel’s sheets and sent it on to the laundry. This was my last morning before moving on to Holland, so there was no way my bag would be returned to me in time.
The hostel owner was most embarrassed by this and gave me a set of sheets as a replacement. Once I'd returned home I set about sewing these sheets into a replacement liner, with two modifications:
  • One was to sew the sheets into a mummy shape to match the shape of my sleeping bag.
  • The other was to sew round the opening several pieces of brightly coloured material. This was partially to make my bag instantly recognizable to prevent the same happening again, and also so that I could locate the opening of the bag by touch, saving me from using a light and disturbing my roommates.
Although quite reasonably priced, liners can be very easily made, and there's no reason why they have to be white.
Make them from something you can recognise in an instant and line the neck with something that feels different and identifies it further. Some of you may consider a piece of lace.
I’m still using my homemade liner. Nowadays you can find pile liners to make your bag warmer. There are also silk liners and pertex ones, which have tempted me but I have yet to try.
If you are a restless sleeper who often gets tangled up in their bed clothes, you can make or modify your liner so it has separate legs.

Horseshoe Rolls, Blankets and Gum-blankets

While researching the “Soldier’s Load” a conflict that was often mentioned was the American Civil War (ACW). Sherman’s “March to the Sea” was a frequent topic. From the Confederate side we have “Stonewall” Jackson’s Shenandoah Campaign where infantry covered 670 miles in about a month and a half.

A distinctive element of these campaigns was the use of the “horseshoe roll”, occasionally called a “croissant”. During the blogs on the WW2 Soviet infantryman I mentioned that what was often described as a blanket roll was in fact a rolled greatcoat, which was also used as bedding. The horseshoe rolls used by ACW soldiers were blankets, but they were not just blankets.
It is a matter of record that many ACW soldiers on both sides discarded their issue knapsacks and carried most of their gear in a blanket roll. There are a number of videos on-line showing you how to construct a horseshoe roll. Key point is that they are rolled LENGHTWISE. A very good article on how the ACW soldier carried his gear can be found here and is worth reading.
The horseshoe roll was generally not just blankets. Spare clothes and other suitable items were carried wrapped within it. Often the blanket itself would be protected from damage and weather by wrapping it either in a shelter half or a gum-blanket.
The shelter half of this conflict was a simple square of cloth. Two could be buttoned together and rigged up in various ways to make a very compact two man shelter. Rifle-muskets or local materials provided support.

The gum-blanket was a relatively new invention. It was a cloth coated on one side with a waterproof coating such as vulcanized rubber. The gum-blanket served as a ground cloth. Materials such as hay, cut long grass, bracken or similar can be piled under the gum-blanket to serve as a mattress. If a shelter cloth had been lost or been discarded a pair of soldiers might sleep on one gum-blanket and rig another up as cover. A single sleeper might wrap himself in his blanket(s) and sleep within a folded gum-blanket. The gum-blanket also served as a rain cape. Rain ponchos were constructed in the same way as gum-blankets but many soldiers used a single gum-blanket for everything. The shelter half might be discarded in favour of just the gum-blanket. (Note that some books clearly confuse gum-blankets with rain-ponchos).

Some comments on sleeping in blankets in the field are relevant here. I cannot do better than quote Horace Kephart:
“To roll up in a blanket in such a way that you will stay snugly wrapped, lie down and draw the blanket over you like a coverlet, lift the legs without bending at the knee, and tuck first one edge smoothly under your legs then the other. Lift your hips and do the same there. Fold the far end under your feet. Then wrap the free edges similarly around your shoulders one under the other. You will learn to do this without bunching, and will find yourself in a sort of cocoon.”
It will be noted that this arrangement tends to place a double thickness of material between the sleeper and the ground, reducing ground chill.
The horseshoe roll was supposed to be carried from the weak-side shoulder, allowing the rifle-musket to be more easily fired from the strong-side. If your activities are less bellicose the roll can be alternated from one side to the other to rest one shoulder. The end parts of the roll needn’t be at the lowest point. Such a configuration apparently hindered access to the cartridge box when worn from the left shoulder so the ends were often shunted back.
After the civil war the American Army issued a set of leather straps designed for constructing a blanket roll. This seems excessive both in weight and complication of maintenance. Use some cordage and a parcel wrap of half-hitches. For some suitable knots see my free book on the subject.

The shoulder roll can be easily discarded if needed. On the negative side it is not a very good way to carry items that you might want while on the move. Accessing the any item within it requires stopping and unrolling the roll and then reconstructing it. It is better used to carry “end of day” items. Using a gum-blanket or rain poncho as the outer cover of the roll has the disadvantage that if it starts raining you will have disassemble and reassemble the entire roll. This article describes several ways to carry a gum-blanket or similar item separately.
Osprey Men-at-Arms 214 US Infantry Equipments 1776-1910 (p.23) adds:
By the Spanish-American War Of 1898 the Army had devised a regulation manner of rolling and wearing the horseshoe roll, as Plc. Charles Johnson Post, a New York infantryman, found:
‘In the business of making a blanket roll, you lay the blanket on the ground, put into it your tent pegs [3 pegs] and your half of the two tent poles—for each man carried but one-half the tent—and then arrange your towel, socks, shirt, and extra underwear and roll up the blanket. Then, turning your attention to your half of the tent, fold it lengthwise. This you lay on top of the blanket roll, fasten it at the ends and the middle, much as if reefing a sail, then bend it until it takes its horse-collar shape, fasten the two ends—and there you are ready to stick your head through and sling it. It is excellent. But—and this we learned on our first march to the transport— the blanket roll must be made sloppy, not neat. A hard, neat horse collar will bear into the shoulder like a steel bar, so roll it loose and floppy for the part that lies over the shoulder and with no baggage inside the center section—just at the two ends. It looks like a clumsy, amateur sausage lying out straight, but it is soft on the shoulder. In Cuba our horse collars made us look like a bunch of hobo blanket- stiffs.’
Rain ponchos and similar items made from modern materials may be too light and fragile to form the outer layer of a horseshoe roll. Using them in this fashion may increase the likelihood of them becoming damaged or punctured. A heavier duty item such as a canvas shelter half or a groundcloth may be more suitable. There are a number of websites that explain how to make your own gum-blanket/ groundcloth by painting one side of a cloth with black latex paint.

Night Demons, Sleeping and Yoga.

Regular readers will know that this blog is mainly concerned with survival and self-defence. The blog does allow me to occasionally address more diverse topics that I like to think of as ways of surviving the rat race or defence against the perils of modern life.
The night before last was unpleasant. I awoke in the early hours and experienced an episode of sleep paralysis. (Somewhat misnamed I have to observe). As I awoke, I was disorientated and struggled to recognise where I was. I had a feeling that I might not be alone. I tried to make a noise but no sound came out and I was unable to move. The feeling passed and I regained movement. I tried to sleep again. As I lay there a wave of “immobility” affected my feet and began to move up my body. I felt myself dropping off into sleep but also had the feeling this was something being imposed upon me so fought against it. The rest of the night I had difficulty remaining sleeping.
The next day I read up a little on sleep paralysis. Very interesting stuff. Most people will experience a couple of episodes of sleep paralysis during their lives. It appears that as the body’s physical motion is inhibited one’s paranoia goes into overdrive and familiar surroundings and sounds will be interpreted as potential threats. Hence the feelings of fear and that there is another presence in the room. Nature of the threat varies with the experiencer's cultural icons. A friend told me he had an episode of sleep paralysis where he heard a demon whispering unintelligible words into his ear. The same friend is a long time sufferer of tinnitus so it seems likely this was his paranoia perceiving the usual background noise differently. 
One of the things I learnt from the British NHS website was that if you are experiencing sleep paralysis you should attempt to wiggle your fingers or toes. I was also reading about related folklore Stories of supernatural creatures that sit on your chest during the night and stop you moving or make breathing hard are common to many cultures. Interestingly at least one tradition suggests you can drive the creature away by attempting to bite your thumb or wiggle your fingers! Or you should attempt to steal the creature's hat!
The NHS site yielded some useful information on improving sleep patterns. A useful tip was to tidy my bedroom to create a less chaotic and more relaxing environment. If nothing else I no longer trip over stuff as much when going to bed! Most of us are aware that drinking coffee close to bedtime is not a good idea but many of us will overlook the ingestion of other stimulants such as smoking or caffeinated soft drinks. Unusually for me I had drank a can of coke after dinner that night, so wonder if this might have contributed to my unpleasant night?

Strenuous exercise close to bedtime is to be avoided, the exception being sex, the one form of exercise that can be both vigorous and sleep-inducing. Not a particularly practical option for me currently so I looked at the second best option, relaxing using yoga. The yoga that I am most familiar with is the “Salute the Sun” sequence but it occurred to me a set of exercises intended to be performed in the morning might not be the best choice to relax me before bedtime. I came across this set of exercises which you can even do in bed! I didn’t do the full eight minutes for my first attempts but did find them quite effective. I had not expected to fall to sleep very quickly last night given how stressful the previous night had been but I did notice I did feel more relaxed and less restless while I was lying in bed. I will persist with the yoga and see how it goes.
Update: Since I first wrote this, I have had a couple of minor events. My half-awake mind tries to counter-attack, and making a palm-strike has much the same effect as wiggling fingers or making signs against evil. A similar reflex seems to wake me up if I dream of something particularly disturbing.
I hope that this information has been of some interest or help to some of you. Pleasant dreams!