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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

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 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.

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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  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • I have been experiencing night time hallucinations for almost all of my adult life and possibly in my younger years. I am a 36 year old female. I have noticed that mine tend to be more frequent when I am stressed or really tired. Most of the time mine are pretty harmless. I have experienced mice crawling in the bed or even a large spider and I'll wake up and trap it in the blanket and hold it there so it doesn't escape. Usually after 30 seconds or 1 minute I'll realize what I'm doing and just say "man, I'm an idiot" and let it go and try to go back to sleep. Sometimes though, they can get really frightening. My husband wakes up and sees it happening if it's a big, disturbing one. One time I saw this scary figure with a sharp sword thing slowly coming toward me and my husband says I catapulted myself out of bed so fast and ran out of the room. The only thing I remember from that incident is the figure and then next thing I know I am out in the hall seeing if it is safe to go back in. So I guess I went dark for a few seconds. I also hear things now. I heard my husband telling me that I need to check on the heater, I replied "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I fell asleep. I'll go now!" So I hurried up the stairs and went to check the heater and as soon as I got there I was really confused and then realized what was going on and like a fool went back to bed. I try to have a sense of humor about it and thankfully my husband does too. The strangest one I had and my husband witnessed the entire thing since I fell asleep much earlier than he did. I was watching something that looked like a kaleidoscope, it was moving and colorful and I said out loud in what I thought was my dream "wow, what a beautiful machine". My husband said during this entire "dream" my eyes were open. He said my expression was just as I was feeling at the time, kind of a euphoric amazement. And that I did actually say the words "wow, what a beautiful machine!" He said it was really strange because I was not responsive to what he would say back to me. I am really interested to learn more about this condition. I do not drink or use any drugs, so I think mine is just brought on by natural causes.

  • Nice to know I am not alone. I am 60 this year and this has occurred most of my adult life. But I get an added bonus. I usually scream very loudly immediately upon seeing the vision. It has been a man climbing in the bedroom window, huge spiders dropping from the ceiling, a child standing dat the foot of my bed. But it's often a man standing by the bed or in the doorway and my first reaction is always a spine chilling scream, followed often by grabbing a pillow to swat at whatever it is while yelling get out. It fades fast and I am left with my heart pounding out of my chest. My ex husband got so used to it he stopped reacting. Even my dogs don't react any more. I am wondering if I'm now forgetting sometimes when they happen because I just asked my son if maybe they dont happen as much any more and he laughed and said "MOM THEY HAPPEN A Lot!"
    Honestly when I think about dating again and being intimate again this always crosses my mind. How do you explain this and convince someone you are not completely crazy.

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