Hypnagogic Hallucinations: Things That Go Bump In The Night

geometric shapes image demonstrating hypnagogic hallucinations

Have you ever seen something like this in the dark at night?

Have you ever switched off the bedside light, only to suddenly see strange shapes, animals or figures in the darkness? Perhaps you’ve heard voices or sounds which can’t possibly be real?

If so, it could be that you’ve experienced what’s known as a sleep hallucination, also sometimes referred to as hypnagogic hallucinations.

Many people experience hypnagogic hallucinations at some point in their lives, sometimes on a regular basis. And I’m no exception.

As a child I’d often see strange, multicolored geometric shapes in the darkness when trying to sleep. I used to lie there alternating between marveling at them and wishing them away so I could sleep in peace.

It doesn’t happen so often nowadays, but once in a while I’m still prone to these mathematical manifestations. Perhaps I should be grateful for my geeky hypnagogic hallucinations. Especially compared to the disturbing experiences that some people have.

So what exactly is this strange phenomenon and why does it happen? In this article I’ll be taking a closer look to help you understand what you’ve experienced yourself.

Definition

hypnagogic hallucinations occur when falling asleep, hypnopompic when waking upHypnagogic hallucinations are usually short-lasting experiences in which you might see, hear or feel something which isn’t real whilst transitioning from being awake to asleep.

It can be an auditory, sensory, tactile or any other sensory experience. Whatever form it takes though, it’s not real and is caused by your amazingly creative brain.

Hypnopompic hallucinations are exactly the same thing, except that they occur while you’re waking from sleep. For the sake of simplicity I’ll refer to the phenomenon as hypagogic hallucination throughout this article.

Both hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations can be very vivid, so can be disturbing in some cases. Especially if you see creatures appearing in your room, voices saying unpleasant things or feeling something touch you.

The history

Hypnagogic hallucinations were first described in 1664 by the Dutch Physician Isbrand Van Diemerbroeck. He might not have called it by the name we know it as today, but he did describe a woman who appears to have experienced hypnagogic hallucinations.

How many people experience it?

up to one third of people experience hypnagogic hallucinations in their lifetimeThere hasn’t been much research done to find out how many people experience this. But the following surveys and research show how common it might be:

1. A telephone survey in the United Kingdom in 1996 of 4972 people found that 37% experienced hypnagogic hallucinations twice a week or more.

Furthermore, 12.5% experienced hypnopompic hallucinations. It was more common among people with insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness and mental illness.

2. A review of 35 different studies in 2011 found that 7.6% of people experience sleep paralysis in their lifetime. We’ll see later how sleep paralysis often occurs alongside hypnagogic hallucinations.

3. In 2000 a survey of 13,000 people found that 38.7% experienced hallucinations, though 27% were in the daytime. 2.7% of people had them once a week, with 2.4% more than once a week.

So you can see that if you do experience hypnagogic hallucinations, you’re definitely not alone!

Symptoms of hypnagogic hallucinations

It’s possible to experience hallucinations that correspond to any of your senses, though visual hallucinations are the most common. They can be experienced from between just a few seconds to a few minutes:

  • Visual – for example the geometric shapes in the picture above. But possibly also images of people, animals or other complex shapes.
  • Auditory – this can be simple sounds like hissing, humming or whistling. But it can also be more complex sounds like human voices. It may also be extremely loud, similar to the sleep disorder known as exploding head syndrome.
  • Olfactory – perceiving smells which aren’t actually there, either pleasant or unpleasant.
  • Tactile – this can be very disturbing, such as feeling insects or spiders crawling on the skin. It can also be a strange rubbing, stroking, tapping or tickling sensation.

Furthermore, there can be more complex hallucinations as part of sleep disorders such as sleep paralysis. You may feel unable to move your body, and perhaps see or sense a person or presence in the room.

Causes

The latest international classification of sleep disorders manual in 2014 presents the following 2 main causes, though does state more research is needed to confirm them:

  • An intrusion of dream imagery onto wakefulness.
  • A lack of stimulus leading to the visual cortex in the brain creating images.

The causes of sleep hallucinations may also be related to another illness or sleep disorder. For example, they’re often associated with these sleep disorders:

  • Narcolepsy.
  • Sleep paralysis.
  • Exploding head syndrome.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Sleep terrors.

They can also be associated with a mental illness such as Schizophrenia. Each of the above will have a particular way of explaining the causes that’s relevant to them.

In addition there are some things which might lead to an increase in frequency or intensity of hallucinations, including:

  • Stress.
  • Sleep deprivation or exhaustion.
  • Electrical activity in the brain.
  • Drugs – particularly illegal drugs such as hallucinogenics, ecstasy and marijuana. But also some medical drugs, including sleeping pills.
  • Brain damage or lesions.

Treatment

relaxing can help reduce stress and prevent hallcuinationsA doctor would want to rule out any of the other illnesses or sleep disorders first, particularly narcolepsy and schizophrenia.

If you do have one of those, then your treatment would be tailored accordingly.

For example, Schizophrenia is usually treated with anti-psychotic medication. Narcolepsy will be treated with advice about lifestyle changes and possibly medication.

For most people, however, there’s no specific treatment for hypnagogic hallucinations and reassurance is the main need. It’s something which you just need to accept as a normal part of life.

Despite that, there are lifestyle choices you can make which may help. And the same applies to those who experience them as part of another sleep disorder. Here are some ideas which may help keep the hallucinations at bay:

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep every night, follow a stable sleep schedule and don’t allow yourself to become sleep deprived.
  • Avoid illegal drugs and check with a doctor if any medication you’re taking may be causing it.
  • Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
  • Try to reduce your stress levels.
  • Try using a soft night light in the bedroom. This might help fill the space that your brain uses as a blank canvas.
  • If you tend to hear things, perhaps listening to music or the radio at night will help.
  • If you find yourself focusing on visual hallucinations, try to re-focus your mind on something else. So for example, breathing exercises or muscle relaxation can keep your brain occupied.
  • If it’s overwhelming, turn on a light and get up for a while, do something relaxing and then try to sleep again after 10-15 minutes.
  • A couple of readers have said in the comments below that wearing a sleep mask helps them.

Generally though, you can see that hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations are a normal part of life for many people. Once you’ve ruled out any serious illness or disorder, then you’re left to deal with the experience in two ways.

First, try to adapt your lifestyle to make sure you do everything possible to sleep well. Second, relax and try not to worry about things that go bump in the night.

If you do find yourself becoming overwhelmed by your experiences, it might help to talk to your doctor for some reassurance. You may also find it helpful to try some relaxation techniques for sleep which can help take your mind off any hallucinations.

Your thoughts

Do you ever experience hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up? What form do they take?

Do you find they get worse at certain points in your life, or if you do certain things? Have you found anything which helps prevent them?

Feel free to describe your experience in the comments below and share any ideas you have about dealing with them.

Please note that after years of responding to comments personally, I’ve now decided to leave this discussion entirely to readers.

I will still read your comment before publishing it, but would like to leave the fantastic discussion that has grown here over the years in your hands now.

638 CommentsLeave a comment

  • As a small child I recal believing their were viscous animals and/or monsters at the end of my bed, under the covers so id sleep with bent knees , this lasted for years. Now if I sleep in dim light I see spiders, always spiders , swinging on their web towards me. Seems to be getting worse , not helped by the fact that recently I have actually had a spider , very quickly reeling its way down to me whilst sitting and a few weeks ago awoke to one next to my head. Also found a dead one under my f ing pillow.😰😰😰😰😰😰

    • Hi Lila
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand how that must have made things even worse! It’s one thing to see spiders, but another to know that sometimes they actually are real! I guess in your case, the best way might be to find a way to make peace with spiders and not be worried by them.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Thank you for this article. I am writing this in fact just after several episodes and deciding to read about what I may be experiencing online, so it is very nice to see sun an in depth write up on something I have tirelessly tried explaining to friends and family members who have never experienced this before. It’s interesting you mention the triggers, as I feel most of my episodes happen either when I am worried about something, like sleeping through my alarm when I have to be up for work in the morning, or if I am feeling a larger than normal amount of stress. I suffer from asthma, and just last night I ran out of my inhaler and missed out on any available walk in clinics, and as opposed to going to emergency and waiting for hours I decided to try and wait until the morning to head to the walk in. I have now woken up three separate moments to seeing figures or hearing loud noises, one being a loud crack in the hardwood leading me to think there was an intruder in the house, and then two where I thought there was a person in my room. As I was having difficulty regulating my breathing throughout the night, I am curious to know if the asthma is the cause of this specific episode! Also, very neat hearing every one else’s stories. I am 24 and can remember going in to my parents room as a child because I didn’t like the images I could make out in the grainy blackness, and once I was in there room I would just lay in bed half asleep trying to decide if I wanted to make out the images I could see or shut them out. Dreaming is always a very involved experience for me as I tend to remember in great detail anywhere from 3-6 dreams a night, some of which I document and turn in to short stories. As well, I suffer on seldom occasions from sleep paralysis, the reoccurring image being a dark haired girl in the room walking towards me and holding me down. Always terrifying as it happens, and is the one thing I really do not enjoy about what can happen at night. But, the biggest sleep disruption definitely has to be the part of waking up and feeling/seeing a presence or hearing sounds. Hoping to be able to get a handle on this so I can function at work a little better. Anyways, this was enlightening; I will bring this up with my doctor when I get my prescription refilled today!

    • Hi Alexandria
      Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you found the article useful. I know many readers have said they find it difficult explaining their sleep problems to others, especially where things like hallucinations are concerned. It’s possible the asthma was connected to the problems you had that night, especially if it left you feeling anxious. Hopefully speaking to your doctor will have helped, and they gave you some good advice and reassurance.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I have had severe anxiety for about a month. 3 days ago, I was in the car with my mother and I put in my headphones (the music was pretty loud as usual) and when I took them out I heard a ringing in my ears. The ringing hasn’t stopped and it’s been 3 days. I looked it up (unfortunately) and found that I could have tinnitus. However one of the comments said that if you listen really closely you could hear voices. This scared me so bad because my father was a schizophrenic-delusional and I am terrified of turning out like him. Since then the noise has increased and I worry more. I don’t know if I’m hearing voices or not because sometimes it sounds like murmurs, rings or hissing. My hearing has become heightened and I can hear EVERYTHING. I’m in such distress and I haven’t been to sleep in 3 days. I am so terrified that I could become schizo.

    • Hi Gabby
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand your concern considering the family history, but I think it’s important to try and keep perspective on this. There’s a clear reason you started hearing the ringing – the loud music. And if you listen carefully and intently enough to any sound, or tinnitus even, most people would eventually kid themselves into thinking they can hear something else beyond the sound. My advice would be to try to both speak to a doctor about your hearing to make sure you haven’t done any damage to your ears, but at the same time try not to focus on it too much. If you finds yourself listening out for voices, do somethign else to distract yourself, and preferably something that doesn’t involve more music or sound.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi, there are periods when I find trouble sleeping, I fall asleep and wake up moments later to see weird things on my wall or ceiling. like a cluster of black dots moving from the wall to the ceiling and disappearing, a white or red orb of gas moving across the ceiling, sections of the wall like in the corner with dark stains. It always disappears quickly, and at first I was scared but realized it’s from my mind. Is this characteristic of the hypnagogic hallucinations you’re talking about? A friend suggested there may be something stimulating these sights, like vibrations, strange electrical phenomena, the configuration of the room creating illusions, the fact I had radiotherapy on my brain etc.

    • Hi orlybabe
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, what you describe sounds just like sleep hallucinations, so I wouldn’t worry about it being anything more serious. If you find it disturbing, try the ideas in the article, but perhaps the best thing you can do is to not focus on them as much as possible.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Very recently I’ve found myself on the very edge of sleep, before rapidly snapping awake to be greeted by often times black and white visions of people. Sometimes it’s a rapidly shifting and fluid image, swapping from one person to another with different expressions and sometimes even sounds. However the vision I had tonight (which prompted me to find this article) was of a scene of two young boys dressed as though from the late sixties outside of a cottage-like house playing. The strange part about this vision was that I saw it as though it was being played through an old style movie projector (jittery images with poor definition) and it was played like an old home movie (bad camera work and too close, close-ups of the boys). Strager still I felt as though I recognised the house and the boys despite only being 20 myself and unfamiliar with footage of this type. I really want to uncover the mystery behind this mystery image, and hope I’ll get another chance tomorrow night, so fingers crossed!

  • Tonight I was laying in bed in the dark and I don’t really remember falling asleep. All I remember is that I was trying to fall asleep and having a hard time. I have a Samsung Galaxy phone and I must have gotten a notification because the Led light starting flashing. Well as the light started flashing I all of a sudden saw hundreds of random words all over my ceiling. The best way to describe it was like if someone painted random words all over the ceiling with an invisible ink that could only be seem with a blacklight and my phone flashing was the blacklight. I started to try and focus and see if they would go away and I was just tripping but as I focused I was starting to see them even more clear so I sat up and grabbed my phone to stop the light. I don’t really know what to think about this. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.

  • Thanks for this article. My son who is 9 has recently been experiencing these as I did when I was a child. I do have type 1 narcolepsy, I’m now wondering and worrying if he will develop this too and had inherited it from me. He’s showing no signs of daytime sleepiness at all in fact I often think he’s allergic to sleep! I guess it’s a waiting and seeing game as mine didn’t manifest until my teens, I really hope it doesn’t :(
    In the meantime I will help him by using some of the relaxation techniques and hope they are short lived

    • Hi Louise
      Thanks for your comment. I wouldn’t stress too much if he’s showing none of the signs. Sleep hallucinations are very common, so although I imagine it would be tempting to wonder if he will have the same sleep disorder as you, there’s every chance he won’t. Keep an eye, of course, and if his sleep starts becoming disturbed, speak to your family doctor about it. And in the meantime, helping him find ways to deal with the hallucinations is a positive step.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • i have seen a few different images over the last couple of months…first of all a man at the end of my bed who drifted up thru the ceiling…thought it was a ghost!!…person again at the side of me then drifting back…next time was a loft hatch with a ladder nd snake around it! moving up it…then a angel/butterfly type thing flapping above me after a really bad dream…now it was a devil character wagging its finger at me!…hadnt even done anything wrong!…i used to see things when i was a child but never since until now…i am now 51…i am stressed as my mum has alzheimers so thats very difficult but to honest i have had worse times in my life and it didnt happen then???…seems odd.

  • I’m 52 and I’ve been having hypnogogic hallucinations since I was 12…I didn’t know what it was called until my early 40’s , started to get them Everynight , 2 or 3 sometimes more episodes a night , I would see a person, multiple people, vivid distinct recognisable beings, family , acquaintances, standing at the end of my bed or leaning right over me staring me right In the face, standing on my hubbys side of the bed, in the doorway, leaning over my hubby- I’d jump out of bed, calling out and turn on the lights, scaring the hell out of my man- thought I was going insane…this was when my three babies were 2, 5 and 7 years, we had our own intensely stress filled business, my poor hubby, I realise how much he absolutely loved me, because it meant both of us were sleep deprived and he never gave up on me, he suggested we try a psychiatrist and he promised me he would never let anyone take me away, lock me up in a nuthouse or do anything I wasn’t 100% okay with, saw this wonderful woman told her my story and she causally said ” you’re okay, are you a creative person ( I’m a graphic designer, signwriter, artist and used to work in advertising for a decade ) you’re just having hypnogogic hallucinations, you’re not crazy heaps of people have them”, wrote me a script for sleeping pills to try and re-construct my “sleep architecture” so I would not have the long “before falling asleep period” – just go bang straight to deep sleep. It worked for several months but then I don’t know if I got used to the sleeping tabs plus I didn’t want to be on them so I simply just stopped and tried living in the HH world.
    In my teens, early twenties, it was the same hallucination – a being, a tallish black curly haired slender man, standing at the end of my bed, next to my bed or bent over leaning right above my face looking at me while I was sleeping, sometimes I thought I could see him smile, sometimes just staring straight at me, most times his face was not clear, his nationality not exact sometimes I thought he was black but then I’d see him white or pale grey, Mr black curly hair only came once or twice a month in my teens … and I would call out to him, or jump up to reach out to him, spring out of bed to run to him if he was standing in my bedroom doorway, my school friends loved sleepovers With me, my hallucinations were nighttime entertainment, Mr BCH never used to scare me as such, sometimes startle and unsettle me, make me curious but not frighten me and I could remember each detail of every Hallucination straight after it happened and for Days thereafter .
    My girlfriends said I would talk out loud to him -Mr Black Curly Hair, they say the funniest was when I asked him “had he been out yabbying?”… sat bolt right up in bed, reached my arm out as if taking something from him then lay back down and went to sleep.
    And it didn’t just happen in my bedroom, the HH would happen wherever I would sleep.
    At the age of 18, I was away visiting friends with my first serious boyfriend we had gone to bed late, he said I started to doze then I said “hey” out loud and reached up with both arms as if running my fingers through someone’s hair… Mr BCH’s curly black hair it was, it freaked my boyfriend out because it was the first night we had been away all night together and I never told him about my sleep hallucinations episodes because I thought he’d think I was a nutter.
    From a very young age I sleep walked, one time all the way down to my oldest sisters house at the end of our street, another time down to the big shed that housed my fathers prime movers crawled inside the cab and went to sleep in the bunk,… I was 3 years old when the sleep walking started.
    I’ve also always had vivid cinematic amazing dreams that I remember completely when I wake up.
    I notice that if I eat or drink tea or coffee in the two hours before going to bed, I can have anything up to 5 hallucinations, so I go to bed hungry. If I’m upset or worried about something to do with one of my children, I will have threatening hallucations which scare me.
    If a client has gotten me riled up at work or upset, unsettled me I will have angry phyisical hallucinating that night.
    When my elderly mum was very sick for a long time and had to have major surgery plus long stay in hospital, my HH were of her – i’d jump out of bed to reach out to her or call her name out loud .

    • Hi J
      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences in such detail. It seems you’re quite a sensitive person, and that what happens during the day and evening affects your sleep. As you say, it’s good to control things that affect your sleep such as food. But also, maybe doing some relaxation exercises before bed could help to prevent the stresses of daily life from interfering with your sleep.
      Regards
      Ethan

      • Thanks Ethan, I will try relaxation exercises… I get regular deep tissue massage and I noticed that when I am holidays We spoil ourselves and have Thai massage every second night and I can go the whole 3 weeks and first week home without a Hypnagogic H, so you may be on to something with trying to relax completely before going to bed … one day when money falls out of the sky I want to be like in the movies where your own masseuse comes around and massages your stress away right before you go to bed .

  • Anyone help me I have a history of sleep paralysis wake up chest pain shadowy figure can’t move can’t speak but last night was totally different I went to bed woke up at 4 looked to the left of me there was a naked woman long black hair body all covered in dirt pitch black eyes staring at me and I was like oh I’m still dreaming no problem wake up andrew just a nightmare but no I was awake I screamed and screamed thinking i was done for threw my pillow at her and she was gone so I thought maybe I just now woke up and it was all a dream I was beyond terrified I called my girl friend and made her stay on the phone with me because I was petrified of moving I here knocks on my door I slowly went to the door scared shitless asking who was there it was the police my neighbor called the cops saying someone was screaming for help and to stay away from and oh god. What do I do now I’m scared of sleeping in my own place.

    • Hi Andrew
      Thanks for your comment. Perhaps sleeping with a nightlight could be helpful, to give you brain something to focus on when you wake up. You might also like to check out my article about sleep paralysis, as there are lots of tips in that one that could help you in case it happens again. Try not to allow yourself to be scared to sleep though – it’s good to stay positive and try to see every night as a fresh start.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • So I’m not as “special” as I thought.. I often jolt awake (as I’m falling asleep) to a large spider hanging over my face. Im out of bed squatting the air, whilst my husband searches the bed lol he thinks I’m nuts meanwhile I’m still freaked out.
    I also sleep talk/walk & twitch. Usually all when I’m extremely tired.

    • Omg this is wierd bc I have had the same thing happen to me numerous times … at least 4 different occasions. Last night it was that large spider and it seems real . I jumped out of bed heart racing looking for it. This cannot be a coincidence we see the same thing. I never even think about spiders.. you would think you would hallucinate things that are on your mind. This is weird.

  • As a young child I found falling to sleep really difficult, especially in the summer months when bed time was still light and the curtains were thin! As a young adult my sleep patterns were far more regular and I never had a problem dropping off to sleep. I am now in my 50s and find that sleep often eludes me once more. I do sleep eventually and am not worried about it, but it is a pain!
    This got me thinking about my experiences as a young child (of about 4,5 or 6). I would hear voices in my head as I tried to sleep, sometimes chattering really , really quickly and then becoming unbearably slow and drawn out. It was horrible. No words, just the sound of a voice. I sometimes also felt that my tongue was too big for my mouth. It was not a choking sensation, just very uncomfortable.
    Reading your article, brought to mind the visual hallucinations that I had forgotten about! I saw geometric shapes in the darkness in many colours, and sometimes heads of creatures with sharp teeth, or monsters with evil grimaces.
    The landing light was always left on outside my bedroom door which created an electric glow in the gaps. This too became a scary experience for me as the door seemed to morph and melt. I was terrified of this and would close my eyes when it happened. I was so scared that it would still be there when I opened them.
    I haven’t thought about these strange childhood experiences for a number of years until tonight trying to get to sleep. Thought I would Google to see what came up! Your article has answered my question about what these experiences were all about, so thank you.
    I have also experienced sleep paralysis just once! This happened when my first child was just a few days old and I was very sleep deprived. On this particular morning whilst lying in bed, a dark, menacing shape of a man (or so I thought) came into the room and filled most of the space around me. It was a large, dark, black presence. It pressed me down onto the bed so I couldn’t move and I felt that I was suffocating. I tried to call out but I couldn’t speak. I was totally convinced that it was REAL! I was amazed not to die! It seems funny now but at the time it was truly terrifying.
    I was very interested to read about hallucinatory smells connected to sleep, as this is also something which I have experienced. The first time it happened, I was 7 months pregnant with my second child and on holiday in a rented cottage. I woke up with a start and smelled intense burning. Adrenaline kicked in and I leapt out of bed in search of the fire. Over the years, this has happened occasionally but over a period of a few months when I was in my forties, I would leap out of bed every few weeks or so with the smell of burning in my nostrils. I once ran towards the window to try to get out! My brain, however, would often work out what was happening before my body did, so I would be jumping and running about knowing that there was no fire but not able to stop straight away.
    Thanks once again for a very interesting article.

    • Hi Gill
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article interesting! Did you also see the one about sleep paralysis?
      It was interesting to read about the hallucinations of burning – I can imagine that must have been quite worrying at the time. It’s a good job you didn’t go diving through the window!
      Regards
      Ethan

  • This week I’ve experienced some strange sensations. I have before in the past as well, but never so close together, so frequently. Perhaps I’ve been eating too much chocolate as I just received a lot for my birthday, and I think it interrupts my sleep possibly being the cause of these hallucinations?
    This week I have felt the presence of a non existent cat jump onto my bed, I’ve been awoken to loud noises, like a machine noise though I can’t name the machine, it sounded like it was right beside my head or in my head. I have felt myself spinning, I opened my eyes and saw grass, like I was flying / spinning around a backyard that I didn’t recognize. I wasn’t on any ride, it was just me going up and down round and around, which was fun for a moment but I couldn’t control it / stop it and then I got scared and wanted to wake up but I couldn’t scream. I woke up a moment later.
    This morning I woke up to the feeling I can only describe as a light ball being bounced on the bottom of my bed, or maybe it was a hand tapping the bed … there was nothing there.

  • I always thought my house is haunted but then it followed me to my hostel in colleague then university. I’ll never stay inside my room alone, but when i put my guard down, it appeared itself as a boy without facial features wearing orange bracket shirt talking in strange language or a women with long black hair without body lying on my bed. Sometimes in washroom when i glanced through the mirror she’s behind. Once i brushing my teeth, it walk pass my back in split second in dark shadow; i throw away my toothbrush, done! i’m going to bed. If i’m alone, no matter day or night i’ll make sure front door unlocked so i can escape. Once i walked down the alley to the washroom at the hostel, she standing there besides the water machine with no lower limbs and the fluorescent light burnt out but the alley was red. Then i got my courage out of no where, i stopped running i wanted to take a good look of her face. No facial features, black long hair with white shirt. I dare not going to washroom alone. With company, we walked down the same alley together, she no longer there, the fluorescent lamps shining bright.. man whispering beside my ear just the moment when i think i’m falling asleep; once spook me enough when i feel something trying to take control of my body including my breath, left me to bring all my belongings and sleep with my friend for days before moving back to my own room.. Nevermore….

  • I moved into this flat 3 months ago. Apparently the previous tenant was growing weed upstairs in the bedroom. I soon began to see black wriggly shapes when opening my eyes in bed. This past weekend I think I was hallucinating as I could see spiders on the walls when I opened my eyes…they disappeared within 5 to 20 seconds. Do you think I have inhaled it from the spores?

    • Hi Patricia
      Thanks for your comment. I think it’s extremely unlikely! It sounds just like hypnagogic hallucinations to me – I wouldn’t put too much thought into any spores flying around.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I am 22 right now.I just had it for the 4th time in past 5 months. It’s always like a pressure on a chest or on a stomach from some person(everytime i can see some different person) which does not allow me to breath for a while. It’s always happen when I sleep in the night.I don’t know how to stop them.

  • Good to kno I’m not the only one. Havnt known whether to tell the doctor. I wake up sometimes few times a week somtimes won’t haopen for a bit. But I either see spiders or a kind pattern like string floating from ceiling. It is strange and can be worrying and the spiper things ain’t good I hate spiders. They’ve landed on my pillow before now! Well not really obviously but u guys know what I mean

  • thanks so much for this article. We thought we were the only ones. We are about 13 years old. And when we were about six years old and four years old. That’s when it all started. We would see shapes in our room ispinning and moving and taking form of humans or animals. One of us would see skeletons. my name is gracie and my friends name is rylie today we had a conversation about dreams and slowly started slipping into the subject of what seems to be hypnogogic hillusinations. we both experienced sleep paralysis. and i often slept walk. we both became so used to it that it wasn’t scary anymore. my scariest experience is when there was a man in my room humming and telling me to follow him i would see very weird shapes and figures as well as animals and rylie expeirienced the same thing i’m very glad for this article because now that i have thought about it after so long of not even realizing it was very scary and now we both feel better that we aren’t the only ones. rylie would see messages such as gibberish words or roman numerals and every time she tries to read them they would disappear. i would often find myself talking to them or myself about trying to convince myself that it wasn’t real even tho i was young i seamed to believe they were my friends it hasn’t happened to me in about 4 years but now learning and thinking about it i feel like it’s going to happen again. rylie experienced it about 2 months ago. when she felt dizzy and num and saw numbers switching on the clock. we would often see the shape of hands or demonic figures on the wall in our rooms. one night while i reading late in bed i was trying but it seemed like my mind went blank and suddenly there was no words on the pages of my book. then i thought it was completely normal so i just refocused and the words came back. again thank you so much. and glad we had the chance to share our experiences with you in a safe environment where others have experienced it and do not think we are crazy. sincerely, gracie and rylie

    • Hi Gracie and Rylie
      Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experiences and thoughts. It was very interesting to hear how you’ve managed to accept it, and are no longer afraid when you see things. I think that learning to stay calm about it is perhaps the most important way to cope with the strange events. So it’s great that you’re doing that.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hi Ethan – Thank you for your article! I have been trying to figure out what is happening to me. I have been having auditory hallucinations when falling asleep and sometimes when waking up. As if those weren’t troubling enough, when I take a nap or sleep for a short time and wake up, I experience extreme confusion, anxiety and depression. This is coupled with a very strange feeling in my ears (I have Meneire’s Disease) and I feel as if I am going crazy!! All of the feelings begin to dissapate after I sit up and some times passes – anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to recover. ANY idea as to the cause of this?? It is ruining my life!

    • Hi Terry
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’re having these problems – I can understand why it would be worrying for you. It’s possible that the combination of sleep hallucinations – if that’s what it is – and the Meneire’s is causing you additional confusion. I think the best thing is to mention it to your doctor and see if they can help at all. Perhaps try avoiding napping if it’s that bad, assuming you can avoid naps. It might help you sleep more fully at night, also then avoiding waking up from short sleeps.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • So for many years I have that state when waking or falling asleep. My eyes actually flutter like they are trying to open. Mine usually starts with a bright white dot that grows than I see faces. I see people I recognize that have passed. I have even had them yell my name and sometimes even yell mom. BUT with all that said (because I do enjoy my visits) this morning I actually had a vivid image of a woman and there was subtitles in a different language. VERY STRANGE. Hence why I found this very informative article. Thanks for sharing.

  • I have had both tactile and visual hallucinations since I was a child ranging from feeling breath on my face and hearing someone breathing next to me when I am alone. I have experienced my hallucination take my hands and walk through a wall. Once able to move I walked through to the bathroom, wide awake and alert, watched and heard my shower curtain being shaken. On return to bed I began to drift off and felt my 2 dogs who had passed, jump onto my bed and take up their usual sleeping positions cuddled tight into me. Then it all stopped and now I am having similar experiences except these are a bit scarey. I wake from sleep ( I don’t sleep deeply but tend to doze off) to see a very light spider about the size of my fist running across the ceiling and stopping above my head. No discernible torso just legs..however yesterday this became a bit darker and now I see a large black spider with a long body and where before I wasn’t scared, I am now becoming worried despite telling myself this isn’t real. I spoke with my GP who didn’t appear too shocked by my disclosure however now wants to rule out anything organic as my medicines would not cause these symptoms. I now sleep with my head under the covers and will not open my eyes if I wake and need to adjust my position in bed.

    • Hi Heather
      Thanks for your comment. Hopefully your doctor will tell you that it’s nothing serious or to worry about. Try the suggestions in the article too, as they might help you cope with it better.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I have been having these off and on since my wife Romana died in April 2016. I mostly see geometric figures, but sometimes it appears to be ancient Egyptian writing. Finally, last night I said, outloud, “Romana I don’t understand these figures and I certainly don’t read ancient Egyptian. Do something different”. They stopped. Now, I feel kind of bad. If that was her way of trying to reach me, I in effect cut her off. Jim

    • Hi Jim
      Thanks for your comment. I’m very sorry for your loss. If you feel that’s what it was, I’m sure you’ll have another opportunity. I wouldn’t discard the possibility though that it’s perhaps due to the strong emotions I imagine you still experience, and perhaps tiredness and stress. I wouldn’t feel bad about stopping these experiences Jim. It’s unlikely to be the last time you experience them unless you decide to tackle them as most people would do, for example with the ideas in the article.
      Regards
      Ethan

    • Jim, perhaps you didn’t cut her off, as you asked her to do something different that you can understand. Keep your mind clear, they can reach us in many, many ways and I’m sure that Romana will find the perfect way to say hello that you’ll be able to understand. Peace to you.

    • She would have known that you don’t read Egyptian writing. Perhaps she was beseeching you to learn hieroglyphs and explore sacred geometry for some unknown reason? Perhaps it will lead you down a new path of knowledge and awakening. I highly recommend to anyone and everyone the movie: Thrive. It is available on youtube.

  • Finally, an answer to what is happening to me! I have been worried about my mental health! It started about 2 years ago. At first I thought it was spirits, but soon turned into animals. I see moving animals which usually frighten me until I stare at them longer and realize it is just a shadow. I leave night lights on which cause the shadows of items in my bedroom, thus, these are the animals I see. Saw people in the beginning (spirits) but now just animals and spiders. A couple of nights ago saw a raccoon or cat on the ceiling light shade which was about to drop a mouse/rat on me. I jerked and moved quickly before I realized what was happening. Thanks so much for this article. Now I know that it is not just me and other people are experiencing the same thing.

    • Hi Jackie
      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you found the article helpful, and that you don’t feel like you’re the only one experiencing it. Now the trick is to stay calm when it happens, and hopefully find a way to lessen the frequency.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I occasionally see ancient ruins and astronauts in our NASA space station exercising vividly. Lasts a really short time. The images sometimes go just as fast as the intro to the Big Bang Theory. But I find it very interesting. I am trying to keep the images longer to see if I could recognize any faces. But so far no luck.9

  • My hallucinations started this year sometime, I think it happens almost every night, it can be all different types of shapes that move or things i can’t describe just moving right next to me or just human shapes at the end of my bed, I can hear anything or feel anything its just all visual I sleep by myself I don’t talk to anyone about it because i don’t want people thinking I’m crazy or something majorly wrong with me.

    • Hi Jonathan
      Thanks for your comment. I can completely understand not wanting to talk to anyone about it. If it’s something you can live with and doesn’t affect your sleep or daily life too much, then there’s no real need to talk about it if you don’t want to. But if it is affecting you negatively, it’s worth talking it over with someone. And of course, try the ideas in the article to see if they help at all.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Hello. This is a great article thank you. Helped me make sense of things. I nodded off the other night while still sitting up in bed and then when I woke up what must have been a minute or two later, there was a swarm of flies flying over my head and then they went into the corner of the room by the ceiling and just disappeared. It was the freakiest thing ever. I experienced sleep paralysis a few years ago as well. Very scary. Anyway :) Thanks for helping me understand. I feel better now

    • Hi Lisa
      Thanks for your comment. I’m pleased the article was useful – sometimes it can make a big difference to how we react to, and feel about, these kind of experiences, even if it might not stop it.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • I just wanted to reach out on this post because I experience these almost 4 times or more a week. It usually happens when my fiancé gets up at 4am to get ready for work, I hear him getting ready so I wake up and when he leaves I try to fall back asleep. I will lay in bed for about 20 minutes or so and then I feel like I am being pulled into sleep. From there I will hear voices and it scares me so I try to shake it off by staying awake. Sometimes I also awaken abruptly and my dream plays out right infront of me in my room. I will see figures on the walls some are faces for people and some I am not even sure, they look demonic. I am unable to move so I have no choice but to watch what is going on. It’s been happening so often now that I have been able to control it a bit better by breathing and focusing on something else and convincing myself it’s not really there..but this is ruining my quality of life. I am 22 years old and have been experiencing these for over 10 years.

    • Hi Adreanna
      Thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear you’ve been having such unpleasant experiences for so long. Have you ever tried getting up for a little while when your husband wakes you up? If you perhaps have a drink, spend 10 minutes out of bed, or even have a warm, relaxing drink in bed for a short while, then try to sleep again, you might find it doesn’t happen.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • Only just started with the visual hallucinations they are amazing the chandelier the other night floated in between me and hubby and just disappeared, was really spectacular,,have suffer from unpleasant smells waking me up and beautiful scents and I had a time when I could hear church bells peeling, that followed a severe ear infection, that has also left me on occasions unsteady on the feet.

    • Hi Jean
      Thanks for your comment. It’s good if you can enjoy the hallucinations – that should stop you from worrying about them or your sleep being disrupted as is often the case. And yes, ear infections can play havoc with your sense of balance. I remember having one that meant I kept misjudging door frames and hitting them with my shoulder.
      Regards
      Ethan

  • it started yesterday night when the lights turn off i had zoned out n just keep seeing a person face then it turn to four faces spending in circles then the face change. then when i turn my face i see different things but no sound and my body felt numb and usually i could see my hand in the dark but i couldn’t

  • I was amazed to see that I am not alone in these hallucinations. While I’ve never been a great sleeper, I don’t recall ever having visions like the ones that I experienced this morning. On my bedroom wall I saw an oval picture of what looked to be Jesus….quite intricate, with a blue background. I turned my head away, and when I turned it back around, I saw what looked to be the face of the devil…a very angry, red man…..I got up and shard this with my husband, and he stated that I must have had a nightmare….In my mind, I was fully awake.

    • Hi Debbie
      Thanks for your comment. You’re definitely not the only one to have had hallucinations like that! It’s not always easy, however, to tell if you’re awake and hallucinating or dreaming that you’re awake and seeing it. Having said that, I think if you’re sure you were awake, you probably were! It might just be a one off, as happens to many people. If it does happen again though, you should be able to work out what’s happening with repeat experiences.
      Regards
      Ethan

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