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Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Hypnagogic hallucinations” is a fancy phrase describing dream-like or hallucination-like experiences people have either when they are about to fall asleep or when they are about to wake up – exactly in that transition period from one state of being into another.

What Exactly are Hypnagogic Hallucinations?

They are known to be very vivid imaginations of things. In fact, they are so vivid that you really think you are hearing some sounds or seeing things and you are not inside a dream which may make it really scary, but the experiences are as real as it gets, same as real life or inside a dream.

More often than not these experiences tend to be very disturbing with people getting really scared. It is not really clear why people do not naturally see more positive things and rather, instead, have hypnagogic hallucinations which leave them in fear, but in my personal opinion it is the bombardment of all kinds of scary images through movies or the internet or games so there is a bias overload of negative imagery compared to positive ones and it would be logical that the brain spends a lot more energy processing this larger quantity of negative data, so we “see” it more often.

Types of Hallucinations

Hypnagogic hallucinations seeing shapes

A visual image depicting hypnagogic hallucinations.

  • Auditory – the most common type
  • Visual (seeing / imagining)
  • Tactile (touch)
  • Olfactory (smell)
  • Gustatory (taste)
  • Kinaesthetic (bodily or movement sense)
  • imbalance in brain chemistry
  • substance use and withdrawal
  • extreme starvation
  • dementia
  • schizophrenia
  • fever
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • psychotic depression
  • delirium
  • obsessive compulsive disorder

Causes of Hallucinations

  • Brain Damage or Injury
  • Hallucinogenic Drugs
  • Medication Side Effects
  • Sleep Deprivation & Exhaustion
  • Meditation, Prayer & Sensory Deprivation
  • imbalance in brain chemistry
  • substance use and withdrawal
  • extreme starvation
  • dementia
  • schizophrenia
  • fever
  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • psychotic depression
  • delirium
  • obsessive compulsive disorder

Similar Sleep Disorders Can be Found in the Same People

People who have hypnagogic hallucinations could also be suffering from:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • insomnia
  • sleep paralysis
  • and cataplexy

,although it is not necessarily so, just the chance is higher as those conditions tend to be more connected to one another.

Moreover there does not seem to be any distinction between males or females – the condition has an equal chance of affecting either gender.

Connection between Hypnagogic and Depression

Hypnagogic hallucinations are also linked with depression

This is because on one hand a person is having a shocking experience either prior to sleeping or as he or she starts their day and, on the other side, this is not really something people talk about with one another because of the fear of being seen as “crazy”. Just thinking about telling your friends that you regularly imagine bizarre things already brings about a clear image of their facial expression upon hearing such a thing. The scary thing is that according to a study conducted in the UK of a large amount of people (5000) nearly 40% reported having hypnagogic hallucinations. This was done by a phone interview and the number does look abnormally high. Either there really is a major problem, which I think is unlikely because if half the population is suffering from something on a daily basis then there would be a lot more discussion on the topic. Or, which I think is more likely, is that a lot of people are reporting issues which indicates that definitely, at least a small portion of the population is suffering from this condition.

Are Hypnagogic Hallucinations Perhaps Lucid Dreaming?

Hypnagogic hallucinations lucid dreaming

Some reports of hypnagogic hallucinations are similar to lucid dreaming.

For people who have never read about lucid dreaming this connection would not be possible to make, however it is very clear that when people are having hypnagogic hallucinations(who do not know about lucid dreaming) they report all of a sudden levitating or coming out of their body, floating in the air. These are exactly the kind of experiences people have when starting to practice lucid dreaming. These are equated to kindergarten level experiences and those who have practiced it for many years are at a much higher level having full control of their dreams. This, naturally, is something extremely difficult for science to connect. There is no device in existence which can measure these experiences in laboratory conditions under the supervision of scientists.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Finally we arrive to the bad news. It is practically impossible to diagnose if a person is suffering from hypnagogic hallucinations. Tests can be conducted in a sleep lab looking for signs of insomnia or narcolepsy which are treatable and very closely related to this condition, however since the causes of hallucinations are so numerous and as there are no devices available to measure these hallucinations the patient is likely to receive a generic treatment of sleeping pills or anti depressants or other anti psychotics.

The good news is that hypnagogic hallucinations never bring any physical harm to your body by themselves, however, I would argue that since the person can be mentally affected and fall into depression and isolation with the inability to discuss or share then there are indirectly actually harms coming to the physical body from hypnagogic hallucinations (unless of course they are just lucid dreams which are harmless).

7 Comments

  1. Oh I totally agree, I think hypnagogic hallucinations are not what everyone think they are – they are lucid dreaming and people don’t know what’s happening to them because they are untrained
    People need to develop spiritually! Meditate!

  2. these hypnagogic hallucinations are really freaking me out
    I really don’t know what to do about them

  3. Its practically impossible to talk about hypnagogic hallucinations with friends or family
    I find it difficult to explain it and also people don’t really understand it

  4. I also can’t seem to communicate that these hypnagogic hallucinations are a big issue for me, other people don’t understand, but they really set my day. For example if I have them when I wake up the rest of my day could be completely ruined.

  5. Hypnagogic Hallucinations are a scary thing and I am happy I don’t have them, but they also sound very interesting to me

    • After reading about Hypnagogic Hallucinations I don’t know if I feel scared or excited… its terrifying from one side but very curious and exciting from another

  6. reading about Hypnagogic Hallucinations was amazing, interesting

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