Hallucinations During Sleep

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

Sleep Hallucinations - Research & Treatments

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. (1) 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. (2) 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

Sleep Hallucinations - Research & Treatments

Hallucinations can cause confusion, as they will often be indistinguishable from reality in your mind. In contrast, upon waking from a dream during REM sleep, 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. (3)

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. (4)

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. (5)

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.


134 Replies to “Hallucinations During Sleep”

  1. Tricia

    I typically sleep good during the night but then something strange happened to me when my husband left extra early for work because he was doing overtime that day. I heard him leave the room but then I felt someone crawl back into bed. I said to him “aren’t you going to be late for work?” And got no response so I went to go put my hand on him but touched his face and ended up touching his nose and it was a rather large nose with large nostrils and didn’t feel like my husbands nose. I freaked out and try to wake up and scream but no sound came out. It never happened again until recently, I heard him leave the house for work and I heard someone come into the room and get into bed with me. I thought he had extra time and came to lay down for bit but realized it wasn’t him and I told whatever it was to go away, I woke up so scared. This morning he left early again and had my back to my husbands side of the bed and felt a push on back – it was trying to get my attention like “hey! I’m here.” I knew it wasn’t my husband because he had left for work. I don’t know what it is that keeps coming into the bed after my husband leaves but it definitely scares me. Am I just dreaming? I’ve also prayed for it to leave which helps at that time but it keeps coming back.

  2. Kelly

    I have many mini dreams that feel half real every night and every morning that feel half real. It is not unusual for this to happen for over an hour. The funniest was when I bolted into a sitting position, pointed across the bed, and said “There’s an ostrich over there!” My husband does not let me live that one down! Those dreams stress me out. I also wake up suddenly multiple times every night and may have those dreams when going back to sleep. When younger I had some such dreams during the day but now it is rare. Recently I started Lunesta. The first few days I slept sound but now I have started waking up again and last night it took me over 2 hours to fall asleep. I only have caffeine first thing in the morning, go to bed the same time every night, have started exercising in the early evening, do not take naps, but nothing helps. My greatest wish is for healthy sleep.

  3. Edith

    I’m 29 and I’ve dealt with it as long as I can remember. I would see people standing in my doorways, I’ve seen smoke in my room, and more. The worst one (and funniest) I had was when I was in high school my friend spent the night and as I was waking up I hallucinated a floating bag next to my head. Idk why it scared me but I jumped nearly over her and shaking her arm asking her if she sees it. But as she asked me what? I snapped out of it and burst out laughing and said “the floating bag.” Man she didn’t let me live it down. Since then I’ve learned how to keep it from affecting me as badly. Idk if it will help you all, but I close my doors before bed. Closet, restroom, bedroom. I also blacked out my room. With this even if I sit up and I’m hallucinating since I can’t really see (just bits of the dream but not as vivid) I don’t react as badly and I’m able to lay back down. If I do end up having a bad one I look for what I know is real like my fire alarm or my ceiling fan. I know those things are real and if it’s not ringing or moving I know I’m having a dream. Needless to say its all about learning to recognize and finding a way to bring yourself back to reality during the moments your body is still waking up from the dream.

  4. Nikki

    I am 45yrs old and I have had such frightening things happen to me over the last few months. While lying in bed at night with my husband, I have been waking up at night and seeing a figure of a man walk into our room, he makes eye contact with me, I try and shut my eyes real fast hoping he will think I am asleep too and go away. When I open my eyes back up, he seems to be bending over our bed. It has gotten so bad that I have been having my 7yr old sleep in bed with us because I am too scared for him to sleep alone and away from us in another room. I make sure the door is shut each night, but our cat knows how to open the door by slipping his paw under the door and there is no lock. After going to bed with the door shut, I will awaken to the door being ajar. Is it from the cat? Or something else? There is some light that comes in from the hallway and I can see the figure standing there moving around outside the room as if he is preparing to come in….I try and bury my head under the pillows but I just can’t seem to move. It is the most terrifying feeling I have ever experienced in my life. I was trying to stay up as late as I could before going to bed so I would be totally exhausted and would sleep through the night, but that doesn’t work and now I’m even afraid this “thing” will approach me when I am up alone in another part of the house, which is even more scary. Nighttime is so mentally, emotionally and physically draining, that I have been falling asleep during the day which I’ve never done before. I am afraid to tell anyone about this because I feel so crazy and out of control. It even scares me to put this down in words on here because it makes the events even more real. I have never felt so afraid as when I am in the grips of these episodes.

    • Moon prince

      I am 28 years 10 months old .
      I started smoking cannabis regularly since 2011.Most of the time my stuff has been adulterated . I also have a problem of binge drinking but I don’t consume alcohol regularly. Whenever I am on booze run I do get weird dreams.
      Right now I am not drinking alcohol or weed. The major withdrawal symptoms and and side effects I am facing is SLEEP HALLUCINATIONS . I think this is because of long term use of these toxic substances .
      Its is irritating to get sleep hallucinations or weird dreams.
      I think one should do exercise , yoga and meditation to get rid of these problems. Always keep your mind positive and abstain completely from negative thoughts and feeling .

    • Santa

      That’s really awful what you’re experiencing. I’ve always looked forward to going to bed at night feeling safe and needing a good nights sleep. Until about a year ago my husband was awakened hearing someone walking at a fast pace in our dining room. The next night he was awakened hearing voices in the dining room. So far nothing again. But I had a hard time all year trying to relax and fall asleep.
      And now twice I have seen small children as I wake up from a nap or sleep. Always three of them. Sounds crazy but it’s true.

  5. Brett

    This happened twice last night… I am asleep but feel as though I have awoken before my body and feels as though something is leaving my body and I totally freak… as if there was a physical presence. It was 4.01am second time it happened… couldn’t get back to sleep was cold and balmy for rest of night. This has happened before few weeks ago.. ended up hyperventilating first time struggling to breathe.

  6. Manvee singh

    Last night when i was sleeping i woke up at 2:34 am and saw my sister beside me . Even i switched off the fan for her as she was ill. But at 3:14 am i noticed she was not there. In the morning when i enquired her she said that she was not at home that night . But i talked to her at night . How it could be possible? What can be the reasons for that?

  7. Mariana

    Hi there, I’m really struggling with my husband’s sleep disorder. It’s been getting worse and he doesn’t want to get help. He sits up in bed, sometimes even gets out of bed, saying that there’s someone in the room or in the house. Once he even thought I was the intruder. A few days ago he was touching the window, and last night he actually opened the window and left it open overnight. Last year we got broken into because we left the window open – thankfully as we’d put bars in the window, no one could break in this time. But his behaviour is really disturbing me. Im January he was having 2, 3 of these episodes a night! He said he has had these episodes all his life, but it’s definitely getting much worse these past 2 years. He thinks that because this is ‘normal’ to him there’s no point seeking help!

    • rahul brahmin

      well you know what oscar pistorius did to his wife ….. i suggest seek help or you may have to leave him

  8. Chloe

    I’m currently and 18 year old female in highschool.
    Around two hours before going to sleep, I suddenly felt no emotions and no motivation about anything. I came home and fell asleep on my right side.

    While I was asleep, I was aware of being asleep but being awake at the same time. I could hear everything around me but I wasn’t fully there. I got up and walk around my house until I reached my younger sisters room. There I stood next to this person that seemed to be my mother. As I’m turning around, I know that I am hallucinating and I tell myself that I’m hallucinating and it’s not real. As I walk past my so called mother, she talks to me saying that it’s not a hallucination. I then began to realize that it wasn’t real and repeatedly tell myself that it’s not real and I leave the room. As I leave the room, everything becomes light in the room, outside becomes bright and shiny with clear skies. I then walk pass the living room and everything turns a dark purple blue color, the hallway behind me elongates, the ceilings stretch, and outside becomes dark and foggy. (Exactly portraited like in insidious). I then start to know that I am hallucinating again and I tell myself that I am. I pass by my sister and her eyes and lips are blurred out while she’s just staring straight ahead. I turn around and everything goes back to normal. I then tell myself that this is real, that everything else was just in my head. I then pick up a puppy and bring him outside to find that everyone is coming to our yard to bring their dogs. As I become a bit more happy, I turn around to the inside of the house and grab a leash for the dog. When I turn to face outside, everyone had disappeared and it became dark and foggy once again. I begin to panick and walk back inside, yet again I’m telling myself that it’s all a hallucination. I’m so afraid that I’m hallucinating, that I’m urged to call a close friend of mine to bring me back to reality. As I open up the messages, and open his tab, he has already texted me about everything being okay. At this point I knew everything was wrong and I was still not in reality. I scroll through the messages which happened to be all photos. At first , the photos are of just his face, the then slowly turn into full body photos of him in a towel, and then showing his hands. His hands were white and slim, each photo passing, his fingers would get longer and so did his nails. I then begin to cry because the image of those hands brought me so much fear. I put my phone away and look down the hallway. Our staircase case goes in indirection while only seven steps. This time, our staircase going up doesn’t just go up in one direction, after about 10 steps, it leads to the left. At the top of the stairs, there is a tall, pale, and thin man that with elongated hands. Tears began to stream out of my face as I tried to bring myself back from hallucinating. As this is happening, the aura of the house has a negative change, everything feels empty, everything feels open, and everything feels lonely. As I’m crying to wake myself up, I hear something beeping. The beeping becomes louder and I wake up on my bed. I’m laying flat on my stomach with my legs together in a line, my hands are folded together on top of my stomach, and I’m facing upwards. I open my eyes and I begin to pant. Now at this point, I knew I wasn’t asleep anymore.

    All of this being told isn’t as scary as it seems, but in this dream, I was conscious of everyone and everything around me. And fear was the biggest factor in this occurrence.

  9. Chaim

    Hi. I’m 45 years of age. The following is the first time it accrued to me as far as I can remember.

    This morning as I woke up I saw something moving around in front of me. I asked “who are you”, “What do you want”. No answer.
    So I was actually walking around my room trying to find a light or way out of the room. I washed my hands in my room (as customary in my religion to do before getting out in the morning). I shook my hands in the directions of the monster, said verses of psalms, and was screaming “Totty and Mommy” as I felt I was holding a beam. . I live in the basement and they live on first floor.
    Then I was talking to G-d promising I’ll repent but he should help me get out of this mess. I picked up my room heater (was off and mobile), plugged it in but I was pushing familiar buttons but it wasn’t by night light… I was looking for the light, which is actually on my night table. I kept searching while seeing this monster until I finally found my nightlight and turned it on; and of course, no monster. So i was actually moving around my room. Was up Up or Dreaming? Is this Normal or Not?

  10. Marlisa

    I find that even if you feel a presence or see a figure in the room or around you it’s best to relax and listen or just give in to the feeling by not fighting the sensation. I used to fight to be free from these paralyzed states ( which got me know where but into another state of paralysis or another dream but gave in one day and It makes me feel like I have a better understanding of what’s happening at the time. Like I’m just calm and a witness & listen so I can understand.

  11. Anonymous

    I know what y’all going through, I m so tired of it,it’s men all the time,my bath room,is were it comes from, praying doesn’t help,I can talk in my mind but can’t move or scream, I loose my breath Alot, I be scared that I will die ,and I always can feel a feeling before I see it ,it’s not a good one,I hear the voices ,but I can’t understand them but the voices are women and men,and when I try to concentrate on what they say ,they get whispering real low then,and I tell them to go away leave me alone and walk in another room ,but I never seen a female figure but once,but I didn’t feel scared, only male’s be the one’s,but when they go putting their hand’s were they don’t belong that’s when I fight harder ,it has me paranoid in the day when I’m home alone ,no meds is helping,I just live day by day,and hope my kids will never go threw it,

  12. Rocky

    Sometimes when I go to bed I will feel this thing coming. I don’t know what it is but it’s the scariest thing you can imagine. Like a demon possessed person and it dances towards my bed in a really messed up twisted way. It always seems to come out of my bathroom. I’m paralyzed and can’t move. I can move my eyes around and see everything in my bedroom including my spouse laying beside me but I can’t holler or move my arm to get help. I think I’m going to die from the horror of it and my heart is pounding so hard. It says evil things to means laughs at me. When I think I can’t handle it anymore it goes away and then I can all of a sudden move and I reach over and wake my husband. I’m crying and scared and he doesn’t know what to say or do but gets up and turns the light on. There’s always a feeling that will come over me right before it comes. I’ve learned to bury my head in the pillow so I can’t see it but I can feel it beside me in the bed. Then when I feel it’s gone I look hoping it’s gone.

  13. Kay

    Finally, something that matches up. When I was younger (and on rare occassion now) I used to see images of thousands of black spiders crawling on my wall right before I went to bed. I always, always thought they were real, no matter how many times I went to turn on the light in my room and realize that they aren’t actually there. Yet, every time I went to fall back asleep they would always appear again. I always went crying to my parents, who always reassured me there was nothing there. Had to sleep with a night light for years because of this. With very little light in the room, it made it easier for me to see the black spiders.
    No sleep paralysis, but it always bothered me and made me deathly afraid of spiders as I got older. I usually had to make sure to close my eyes before my lights got turned off completely so that I wouldn’t run the risk of seeing them and giving myself anxiety over their appearance. I hardly ever see them now, which is a huge relief, but part of that might be that I’m taking amitriptyline to help with other issues (and helps me sleep better).
    I have to say though, there is a new strange hallucination that has been bothering me lately, and that is the feeling that something jumps on my bed during times when I am not totally asleep. These freak me out quite a bit, as I’ll always get up and see that there’s nothing there. This never happened when I was younger, and is only a more recent development (in the last year or so).
    I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the large spider hallucination, so I’m glad (and very sympathetic) to see some people also experience the many small insect/spider hallucinations.

  14. Susan PS

    About 4 years ago, my first strange event occurred as I was coming out of sleep early AM and felt something jump up onto the bed by my feet, then jump back down again. It was a bit terrifying, as I was alone in the house and there are no pets. Since then I’ve had numerous experiences including my covers being pulled , someone speaking to me, and loud clicking or buzzing such as an large insect by my ear. The most frequent is a movement on the bed as if someone has laid down behind me as I sleep on my side. These happen ONLY when I am in bed alone, and never when my husband is sleeping beside me. It helps to read the experiences of others and know I’m not alone in these strange events. But I’m not convinced that these are ‘hallucinations’ because they feel far too real and coincidental.

    • Cas

      Hello.. I read your post. Have you determined what this is. For the last couple of weeks after my boyfriend leaves for work it feels as if someone is climbing into bed. Starting at the foot of the bed. This happens in between 630 and 7. I always look to see if it’s my kids but noone is ever there. My mom says it’s my deceased lil brother telling me something but idk. Sometimes it’s a little scary.

  15. christina

    I have noticed alot lately like lastnight i feel like im partially awake but my body is paralized and shaking because i look by the door way of my room and see a dark figure like a person is there. Im so terrified and start hyperventilating and cannot move. Last night i was sleeping and this happened but i thought i was awake and i had said to my bf that there was some one in the room by the door and he said just try not to breath in fear of this shadowy figure coming towards us and it seemed so surreal to me like there was actually an intruder in the house coming to kill us or something. it seemed like this went on all night but it didnt. Then my bf then hugged me and said relax its okay there is nobody in here with us your okay. But i was so scared and shaking and i started to cry. It was like it was real and it was very terrifying. This happens quit often to me and i dont know why or how to stop it from happening. Any advice would be great.

    • Delva Carmelot

      Same here I have this feelings alot when experiencing sleep paralysis, I feel like someone always coming after me or staring at me this is a scary experience and it happen to me alot of I be tired for work and don’t even go back to bed anymore

  16. Sutton

    Sometimes, usually when I have a fever, I will wake up mid-dream and I will start feeling things that are not there. Would this be considered tactile, even though it´s only in my mind? I will also start screaming and crying really loud to the point where my sister and parents come into my room. When they try to wake me up I hear them and see them but i feel like they are too far away and I can move. Can someone please identify this? (I am also 11 years old)

    • Anonymous

      try to ask a doctor about narcolepsy….it is not just tired in the day. many doctors don’t seem to understand it, but this is one of the “symptoms”. May or may not be the problem…still worth asking

  17. sri

    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.

    • Sutton

      Have you overcome a problem, like an addiction of some sort? Or have you had a recent death in your family that has hurt you internally? A dream about suicide is one of the most positive dreams a person that is trying to overcome something can have. It means that the overcoming will be succesful.

  18. Athena

    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.

  19. Harrison Byrd

    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.

  20. Edna Finan

    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.

    • Sutton

      Do they look similar to a past relative? Usually it can be a spirit checking up on you to make sure you´re okay 🙂 This happens to me a lot with my deceased grandmother. If it´s not, you should probably tell a doctor.

  21. Himel

    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?

  22. Kevin

    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?

  23. Suzanne McMullen

    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.

  24. Amanda

    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.

  25. Some one

    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

  26. Eleanor

    Something weird happened to me, i was sleeping just normally and dreaming and then I suddenly felt like I was spinning because I was dreaming of spinning on something In a park and then everything went black and I couldn’t move but I was still spinning and then every time I tried moving a face would come up in the corner of my eye sight and I would see it prettt clearly and a light would flash round it with a noise that sounded like a sparkly kinda sound and I tried getting up more and it did it more then I layed still for a sec saw loads of tiny white dots in darkness then tried moving and I automatically was able to move and open my eyes it was strange and scared the crap out of me do you know what it could be

  27. Kat

    When I was little I would wake up in the middle of the night and all I would see were walls of color, or I would get up (I slept with my grandma) and look through the mirror and ‘see’ her laying on the couch in the room through the wall and i’d try to run through the dresser and get to her and i’d Be screaming and crying saying ‘Gigi! I see you but I can’t get to you!!’ And I would have dreams that happen about a year later.

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