Hallucinations During Sleep

Sleep Hallucinations – Research & Treatments

Hallucinations during sleep are a phenomenon that can target any sensory perception, be it visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory or other. Hallucinations are often confused with both illusions and dreams. Sleep hallucinations occur in the state between waking and sleeping (the person is considered to be technically asleep during these hallucinations though), as opposed to dreams or lucid dreams, which occur while asleep.

What’s The Difference Between Illusions & Hallucinations

Illusions occur while awake, and are classified as a sensory misrepresentation of an external stimulus, while hallucinations occur in the absence of any external stimuli. Hallucinations most often occur in the stages before or after sleep, explaining their connection as a sleep related phenomenon. Hallucinations can occur at any time, though this article will only look at hallucinations as they are connected to sleep. Hallucinations are common, most notably sleep related hallucinations, with over 10% of the population experiencing one at some point.

Hypnogogic, Hypnopompic Hallucinations & Sleep Paralysis

The two forms of sleep related hallucinations are called hypnogogic (hypnogogia) and hypnopompic (hypnopompia) hallucinations. Hypnogogic hallucinations occur just before sleep, and may be accompanied by sleep paralysis, a state in which the subject is physically immobile, but fully conscious. Hypnogogia and sleep paralysis often cause fear, moreso than in sleep paralysis during hypnopompia which is often considered as part a dream by the subject, as well as feelings of difficulty breathing and muscle tightness. Hypnopompia occurs upon waking, and may also be accompanied by sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is much more common in hypnopompia than in hypnogogia. Sleep paralysis is often confused by the person experiencing it as part of a lucid dream, which accounts for the high number of recalled dreams with elements of being frozen in place, or being unable to move. Common hypnopompic experiences include the sensation of falling and the feeling of a presence in the room.

Distinguishing Dreams From Sleep Hallucinations

Hallucinations can cause confusion, as they will often be indistinguishable from reality in your mind. In contrast, upon waking from a dream, most people will clearly recognize it was a dream they were experiencing, or may immediately forget about the dream entirely upon waking. Hallucinations may also cause fear, especially upon waking, as they may include clear and complex visual images, that may be distorted or make no sense realistic sense.

Sleep related hallucinations can occur in as many as 25% of people, as opposed to under 5% for non sleep related hallucinations. They are most commonly found in young adults and teens, and frequency of hallucinations seems to decrease with age. Females are more likely to experience them than are males.

Known Causes & Treatment of Sleep Related Hallucinations

Sleep related hallucinations may be a direct result of alcohol or drug use, or could be due to insomnia, anxiety, stress or other factors. People with narcolepsy have a high rate of sleep hallucination occurrence.

Sleep hallucinations may not need treatment, as they often occur infrequently and do not affect sleep quality. They may be a sign of mental stress though, or if coupled with daytime sleepiness, even narcolepsy. If the hallucinations are causing fear or anxiety, or to validate its causes, you may want to talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist.When issues of mental stress are suspected, you may be advised to contact a therapist, or practice relaxation techniques before bedtime to help the mind shut down. It may also be advised to stay out of bed until feeling extremely tired, to avoid laying awake in bed and having the mind wander onto issues that may be causing you stress or anxiety. It has been shown in studies that the clearer a person’s mind is, the less likely they are to hallucinate, or even dream.

If the hallucinations are the result of medication, drug or alcohol use, it may be advised to refrain from their use, and you may need to change medications if this is the case.

Any suspected case of narcolepsy should be consulted with a sleep specialist, and an overnight sleep study performed to look into it further. Narcolepsy can be a debilitating disorder that can be treated.

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  • I was sleeping and i kept hearing like static whispering in my ear and i could not move then i woke up and went back to sleep the same thing happened but i saw flashes of a white dress and then when i went to sleep the 3 time the same thing but the was a girl in a white dress with black hair in my hallway i cloud only move my head so i tried to to look at her but i did not want to turn to see who was whispering

  • My son is having these dreams and then he jumps out of bed fighting whatever he is dreaming about. He dont want to sleep anymore. I am scared he is going to hurt himself or somebody that is maybe sleeping with him. He actually feels the contact and says there is something in his room.

  • I'm 61 years old - have awoken to believing the house is on fire, and there's smoke coming down the hallway to my bedroom. I actually jump out of the bed in a state of panic, but eventually realize it isn't real. This has me completely freaked out. I have trouble falling asleep every single night, even though I feel exhausted. I have had a lot of changes to my life lately, and I keep things to myself, pretty much. At first I thought perhaps I was entering some sort of dementia, but now I believe it's my mind playing tricks on me. I need it to stop.

  • I'm 55 and have been experiencing sleep hallucinations for three or four years. It seems like I'm awake when these occur, but I believe I'm actually in a state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, as these almost always occur at the end of a dream. Most of the hallucinations aren't scary, but rather, mildly intimidating. The majority of the hallucinations are of people in various spots of my bedroom; everywhere from being on all fours on my dresser, to being at the end of the bed, as reflected in the mirror, to being on the ceiling fan, which my fiancée - and myself to a degree - find amusing, and have labeled "the fan man." Lately I've fallen into the habit of "challenging" these hallucinations by approaching them as they are happening. Needless to say, they disappear as I approach. The other common hallucination I have has to do with objects in the bedroom that often appear to be closer than they are in real life, or larger. For instance, I'll "see" the window nearest me just a few inches in front of my face, when in fact, it's four or five feet away. Same thing with the ceiling fan and the curtain over the closet. I often reach out for these objects, at which point they "return" to their proper place and size. These hallucinations don't seem to impact my ability to fall asleep, but they certainly do have me vexed. My father died of Alzheimer's Disease. I fear that these delusions or hallucinations may be an early sign of AD. My father never mentioned this as he was drifting into full-blown Alzheimer's, but he was not someone who would bare his innermost thoughts, fears, or concerns to his children. Does anyone else experience these sorts of hallucinations at night?

  • Every night I have face somebody who's I have never seen ever.. I just hear the sound s from the outside.. but when I look over there doesn't see anything.. then what it could be???? is it call hallucination?

  • I am an 80 yo lady who, due to illness have to take many pills. I just started having being awakened by someone in my bedroom. Very detailed features, dresses, clothes, like real. They move around and when I speak they disappear.
    If I try to touch one of them the disappear. Sometimes I hold a conversation with them, believing someone else is in the room but my husband does not see any one. Please help.

  • I've been dealing with something like this for a long time sometimes I wake up and can't move and see the devil sometimes it's people whispering in my ear sometimes it's my legs or arms moving by themselves. It's scares the crap out of me and I just let it happen and try to open my eyes. I tell my parents and they think I'm just crazy and paranoid the only way I can get it to stop is if I sleep in the light which I pretty much can't or have music playing while I'm sleeping which in my opinion is really hard.

  • for many years, My dad often fight with someone or dogs during sleep and he was yelling and punching anything he could reach and he hurt my mom often. later my mom has to put something between them in case my dad punch her again but my mom doesn't want to leave my dad sleep alone because she worry my dad could fall off bed. now my dad' memory start fading and sometimes he see people moving around in house though no one there. sad. don't know how to help.

  • i have thoughts or dreams during my sleep like the poeple in our neighbouring houses are climbing up the terrace of their house and awoman is falling down from it, and the other women in the house are shouting by seeing this..and i could here the sound of the girls mouring loudly at the women who committed suicide..i am hearing the mourning sound in my sleep and going to check whether the sound is true.wat is my problem.please do give a solution.

  • I have been doi g this,the last couple nights and it really freaksme out. Hope i am not going crazy.