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.


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.


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.


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.
  • Several 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 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.

979 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I am 19 years old, and waking up to hallucinations is extremely common for me, almost on a daily basis. Even though some times the hallucinations should be terrifying (such as waking up to find a little boy lying next to me whispering “look around you” over and over and then look around to see numerous tall black figures shuffling about my room) I never feel scared. I actually enjoy having these hallucinations, and I am never paralyzed. I am free to speak out, which I do a lot, and even hop up to approach the hallucination or go over and turn on the light.

    Usually I find when I wake up, I can “feel” the presence of someone in the room. The air will feel thicker and I can sense that space is being taken up, and I feel the sense of a friend is there. I actually feel so embarrassed about how messy my room is I start to pick things up apologizing the whole time for the state of my room until a couple minutes pass and I tell myself no one is there and I go back to sleep. For the last few weeks though, I’ve been waking up to a shadow somewhere in my room, and I get so excited to see it, like I’m about to have fun, but if I look away for even a second it disappears and I feel the sense of disappointment, like I just missed out. I seem to have vague memories of playing with whatever this shadow is. I also find myself to be exhausted during the day and try to take naps whenever I can.

    • Hi Courtney
      Thank your for your comment and for sharing your experiences here. It sounds like you have some incredibly vivid hallucinations, and they sounds more like sleep paralysis types, except that you say there is no paralysis. It’s very interesting that you seem to enjoy having these hallucinations, which in many ways is a positive thing. But it also sounds like it’s disrupting your sleep, especially if it’s waking you up to the point that you get out of bed to explore what’s happening. That might explain why you feel tired a lot during the day.
      If you’re in a state of exhaustion during the day, and having to sleep lots, that sounds like it’s interfering with normal life perhaps a bit too much. Have you talked to a doctor about this, or thought about doing so? I think it might be a good idea, as perhaps they can help you to get through the night and the day without so many interruptions.

  • Hi,
    quite recently, odd things have been happening while i switch from awake to about to pass out. This happens a couple times a week. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the fact i look at a screen a lot of the day but i feel most everyone does to some extent. I frequently stay up late, (12 to 2 am) which i feel like may be the problem. Anyways, as i fall asleep closing my eyes, i see random things and sometimes hear random noises (Note that this happens while my eyes are closed within about 3 seconds after they shut). It jolts me awake and terrifies me to the point i just dont want to go back to sleep. Sometimes after being jolted awake i’ll see specs or wiggling lines that resemble a spider or tentacles or something. One particular time i was rudely awoken sticks in my mind. I was just about to fall asleep, and as i closed my eyes i saw like a dancing baby or midget or something. The noise that accompanied it was like the noise you hear when you clench jaw. I am afraid to fall asleep, i know its just my brain but its really unsettling and i just dont know what to do
    thank you

    • Hi Trevor
      Thanks for your comment, and it’s understandable that these kind of experiences would cause you some concern. The main thing thought is to try not to allow them to worry you to the point of the worry being the thing which makes it hard to sleep. I know it’s easier said than done, but I do think it’s important to try to stay calm when you go to bed.

      If you do have what sounds very much like hypnagogic hallucinations, perhaps the best thing is to just accept that they are there, and are harmless, and try to re-focus your mind on something else. For example you could do some relaxation techniques while in bed, which can help distract you.

      I think that staring at a screen can result in some issues with seeing things when you go to bed, depending on how late you are doing so. If you give yourself an hour’s break between using the screen and going to bed, then it should help. I also have the same problem if I use my computer too near to my bedtime! And staying up late isn’t a problem unless you get up early too. A good idea is to try to keep to a regular, stable pattern of going to bed and getting up. This can help enormously with many sleep problems.

  • First of all I would like to start by clearing up this whole demonic presence theory that everyone is talking about, most of your arguments that are pro-demons sound like what else could it be? Or I swear I saw and felt the demon or If everybody has the same demonic story then it must be demons. Let me tell you that is the most absurd, repulsive, and ignorant excuse I’ve ever heard. I’ve been having sleep paralysis over 5 times a month either because I purposely do it for lucid dreaming or because it involuntarily happens, I have experienced the presence of demonic beings but that doesn’t mean they exist. When your hallucinating in SP you need to understand that you brain is naturally releasing DMT this is the strongest hallucinogen known to man, DMT is also a drug that I have well experienced with and can tell you its very similar to sleep paralysis. When SP Occurs you instantly go into a state of shock there is no way to right off the bat tame yourself from being awake and having no control of your body. The brains first reaction is heavy fear for the instinct of any animal is fight or flight in death defying moment your experiencing the strongest possible hallucinations as they are rapid changing like a dream is, because your dreaming. The presence of a demonic figure is out of the question as that is your brain attempting to conceal the situation which is impossible since you cannot move your in constant panic, the hearing also plays a major role and your hearing become strongly impaired during sleep it can either be very sensitive or def, either way your inner voice will be amplified to screaming points and that can induce more fear. Please stop thinking that demons control this, it is simply lucid open eye dreaming (very very scary ) in fact, if you were to film your dream in some form of a brain memory playback mode and you were able to watch your dreams I can guarantee that every single person would be scared off their asses by the time the 5 minute dream burst is over, there’s a reason your brain goes unconscious while dreaming its too prevent you from heart attacks (lucid dreaming alters your dream into a peaceful realm).

    • Hi Houssam

      Thank you for your comment. I understand that you don’t agree with people’s belief that there are real demons. I don’t believe they exist either, and that they are just very vivid and scary hallucinations. I’m not sure I would describe other people’s views as strongly as you do though!

      Anyway, you seem to have quite a clear idea about what you think sleep paralysis really is, though to be honest I’m not sure I agree with all of that either.

      It’s an interesting theory about lucid dreaming, and I know many other readers have talked about the relationship between sleep paralysis and lucid dreaming. But I don’t think sleep paralysis is open eye lucid dreaming due to the fact that people don’t generally have any control over what they are seeing. If anything it would be better described as open-eye nightmares I think.


    • These hypnagogic hallucinations are completely harmless, and there is absolutely nothing to fear. They are purely a product of the brain in the process of forming dreams. People do not ordinarily experience them because they (people) become unconscious before the hypnagogic hallucinations occur. However, because of lack of sleep, stress, genetic conditions, etc., some people do not become unconscious early enough to avoid experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations. It turns out that they are influenced by your emotional state of mind. In other words, the more you fear them the more fearful they will become. There are people who would give their right arm (and their left one also) to experience what many posters have described in this thread. Such people try to induce hypnagogic hallucinations as an entry into lucid dreaming with a lot of effort. The method is called WILD (Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming). There is far more harm in worrying about experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations than the hallucinations themselves. I strongly recommend posters view the following web site to ease their concerns about their experiences. http://www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com/hypnagogic-state.html
      You can also search for WILD on the internet to learn more about it. And no you are not insane.

      • Hi velco
        Thank you for your comment and the information about lucid dreaming. I’m sure there are lots of readers who will find that article very interesting. Whilst I’m not sure that it will provide what everyone wants (not everyone is interested in lucid dreaming and would prefer it to just stop), some readers might find it useful.

  • I’m really glad I found this. I had one of these last night when I woke up abruptly from a fairly uneventful dream. I had sleep paralysis, which isn’t really common for me, but not rare. There was a shadowy person looking at me from the end of my bed, which naturally made me want to scream, but I couldn’t. Once I was able to move my arm I woke my partner up and continued seeing figures for another 20 minutes or so. Even as I was fully conscious and speaking to my partner they wouldn’t disappear. This usually happens about every month or two, but the duration is never that long. It’s always shadowy, human-like figures though, never anything cool like I’ve seen mentioned. I am not a superstitious person and I consider myself ‘sane’, I am beginning to get worried as these occurrences are becoming slightly more frequent (at least once a month if not two or three times for the last four months). Anyone else experiencing something similar?

    • Hi Ethan
      Thanks for your comment. I can understand why you would be concerned, especially if it is increasing in frequency. Perhaps it’s a reaction to some change in your life, maybe something new, increased stress or anxiety, feeling more tired or sleep deprived? In terms of the sleep paralysis and the shadowy figures, I know mnany readers have experienced very similar things. But to find them you would have to trawl through the hundreds of lengthy comments in the article about sleep paralysis. But you’ll definitely find people with common experiences there.

  • This sounds like something that is happening to me!

    I just hear the words “Hello” very loudly in my ear. It almost sounds like my own voice? I have also heard tapping on the window and the front door unlocking, as well as footsteps. I am usually convinced it is real and turn the light on, then look all around to check nobody is in the room.

    However, the interesting thing is that it only ever happens when I sleep on my own. It doesn’t happen when I sleep with my boyfriend or friend. But the result of this is that I am scared to sleep alone! Does anyone have any recommendations for getting over this?


    • Hi Shoneys

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think you’re the only one who finds that they experience strange things more when they sleep alone. I guess you have two options:
      1) find ways to make your bedroom more comforting when you’re alone. Perhaps sleep with a night light on, music or the radio.
      2) deal with the fear which has arisen. That could either be through counseling if you can access it through your doctor, or through self-help. You can find lots of resources online which help with dealing with anxiety, fear etc. You could also try doing something like mindfulness techniques while you are in bed. This can help take your attention off of the hallucinations, keep you calm and hopefully help you sleep.

      All the best

  • Hi guys n gals! I’m 18 and I’ve also had both auditory and visual hallucinations when going to sleep and waking up. But recently I lay in bed and at about 2:10 in the morning I had tremors. I was also listening to piano music by John Fluker, and a few of the keys went down a step like horror movie music. I naturally freaked out, contemplated screaming but decided not to. (Mainly because like you guys I figured I couldn’t anyway.) But now I’m awake and my heart is still racing and I’m seeing things. I can get up, but I swear before I went to bed it was as if something white floated past my doorway. I know it sounds crazy, and to reassure you I have no history of mental illness and I’ve neither drank or done drugs my whole life. But now I fear these hallucinations because I have had trouble with this most of my life, sometimes in visions of knife wielding serial killer types, to low pitch voices from nowhere, to music in other parts of the house or out my window. Could this be the byproduct of caffeine or stress, or am I going nuts?
    Thanks in advance for any advice guys!
    P.s. To you “Astral Plane” theorists, I have had dreams about a week in advance of a death in my family. I have successfully predicted that someone is going to die 4 out of 5 deaths since my early childhood. The fifth was predicted to the exact person: about two days before my grandpa died and I knew because I had the feeling someone was going to die. His death was sudden and unexpected since he was in his 50’s and in near perfect shape. (Like being told by someone, “there is going to be a death.”) Again, I’m not an alcoholic, an addict, or a maniac but this has happened.

    • Hi Elijah

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear you’re having difficulty with the extent of the hallucinations you’re experiencing. When you say you realize you can’t scream, do you mean you physically couldn’t do it? If so, and you are conscious mentally, but physically paralyzes, you might find it helpful to look at the article about sleep paralysis.

      Do these hallucinations only happen when you are in bed trying to go to sleep, or do they happen during the daytime too? If so, or if they are continuing to disrupt your sleep and cause you anxiety, then there’s no harm in talking to your doctor about it. They might have some advice for you.

  • I’ve been trying to figure out what has been going on with me for a very long time… It started when I was little I would sleep walk, have night terrors, and see shadowy figures in my room. I remember not even being scream. Fast forward to now, I thought I was still having “night terrors” a few times a year I’d wake up screaming and having temporary hallucinations all within the first couple of hours of sleep. Last year I awoke to a demon looking thing like 2 feet from my face. I was obviously hallucinating and I literally flew out of bed screaming. Next thing I know I am on the floor with my arm mangled. To say the least I fractured my radius and ulna that needed surgery to repair. That’s when I got really worried about my parasomnias, I didn’t sleep for 5 days after that… I’ve had a few since then but no demons just people or floating colorful objects but no matter what it is, it is still frightening. I feel there is a strong genetic link here my dad has similar issues. I also do have excessive day time sleepiness and I work nights switching back to days on my days off. I’m also a full time nursing student so there is a lot of stress. I also have a history of mild anxiety. I just wish there was pill to take that would make it completely go away. I guess I just wanted to share my story and see if others have injured due to this.

    • Hi Liz

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear about both your injury and the fact that you’ve been having such a difficult time with your sleep.
      It seems that there could be several sleep disorders all happening in your case: night terrors or nightmares, hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations, the excessive daytime sleepiness. The fact that you have such an unstable sleep pattern and anxiety I imagine will only make it more likely that you’ll experience sleep disturbances as well, as sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress etc are all known to be triggers for sleep problems, particularly parasomnias.

      As for the injury, well I think that in one or two other articles, such as the one about sleep paralysis, a couple of people have talked about injuring themselves. And talking of which, when you see demonic faces or other images like that, are you ever paralyzed temporarily in bed? If so, then sleep paralysis could be an explanation.

      In terms of a pill, well as you work in healthcare I’m sure you know that a doctor could prescribe various meds to deal with the hallucinations etc, or just to help you sleep. But that’s something you would need to talk to them about, and think about carefully before taking. With so much going on for you, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about all this anyway, if you haven’t already.

      Beyond that I would recommend trying to deal with your anxiety, perhaps trying something like mindfulness if you have a moment during your busy day. It’s been known to be very useful for anxiety.

      And if you can, try to keep as stable a sleep pattern as possible, though that might be hard with your job etc.

      All the best

  • Hi! This article is great, it was so interesting to read through this forum of people who experience this too. On Sunday night i experienced a hypnagogic hallucination. I could see a black woman about 30 maybe? sat on the end of my bed? I couldn’t move and i was terrified because i was talking to her and i couldn’t stop talking (even though I’m not aware of what i was saying) and i couldn’t move it was like i was hypnotized! as i slowly began to realize what was happening she got up smiled at me and disappeared. I snapped into being able to move again and i stopped talking. I was covered in sweat and i was shaking, i was so scared i thought id gone mad! After researching this I’ve realized i have this sort of thing often but not as extreme. I get auditory hallucinations like weekly but i can kinda control them because i say out loud ‘stop it your scaring me’ and they stop. One time i felt whispering right in my ear and i could feel the breath on my ear.I know when i was younger I’d seen an elderly black woman in an hallucination in the exact same way but my parents shunned it because obviously i was young. I think its very odd that its always a woman’s presence and so I’m really interested now. It is terrifying, but now i understand the science behind it I’m kinda thankful that I’m one of the people who gets to experience something like this. The brain is so complex!

    • Hi Polly

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m pleased you found the article helpful. You are definitely not alone in experiencing these types of hallucinations.
      What you describe sounds like it could be sleep paralysis. I recommend having a look at that article, if you haven’t already. And especially the comment, and I know for sure that in there you’ll find many other readers who have specifically seen a woman in their bedroom, and also heard whisperings in the ear.

  • Hi, came across this page when trying to google some symptoms I get before/during/after sleep just wondering what I’m actually experiencing and if I need to speak to my GP (I live in Britain so do not like to make appointments over little things the NHS is very over-stretched at the moment)

    Here are a few things that I noticed…
    1) Before bed I looked up at the ceiling and saw two large, neon/lime green coloured geometric flower shapes bouncing around sortof like a screensaver, I looked back twice and they were still there this has happened a few times with the patterns or colours variating.

    2) I will often see just one dot of blue/black/white in my vision no bigger than a full stop (sortof looks to me like the stars in the night but only one) this occurs in the day & night time as well as what I can only describe as an ‘orb’ floating past or zipping across my vision quickly.

    3) When falling asleep I will start dreaming normally then often the dream will twist into a nervous/anxiety fuelled terror, everything will start going wrong for example Ive dreamnt of being mugged by men one pulls out a gun and shoots then I jolt awake in a panic. These jolts also happen as I’m just drifting off & even my boyfriend has been woken by me doing this.

    4) Again when falling asleep I think I can hear people talking/saying my name/ tapping on my bedroom window when I’m in that half asleep half awake stage sometimes I will have a face to the voice but when I wake up it doesn’t instantly go an will stay for a few seconds.

    5)When I have my eyes closed & trying to fall asleep I will start seeing simple colours or lines on my eyelids (if that makes sense?) they will start morphing and turning into different things such as actual objects or just creepy faces or I start getting anxious when I see them and it makes the weird things weirder.

    Any advice on what these things may be would be a great help as they annoy me & sometimes prevent a good nights sleep as I have to wait for my eyes to ‘calm down’ I’m 18 & thought I would have grown out of the anxiety dreams/jolts by now!

    • Hi Emilie

      Thanks for your comment. I can understand not wanting to bother the GP, but they are there for a reason! If you feel concerned about your health, there’s nothing wrong with talking to them.

      It sounds like most of what you are describing is hypnagogic hallucinations, and also just bad dreams. Both of which are quite normal.

      The eye thing sounds like it could be eye floaters. Again, very normal and I have it too. You can find out about them here for example.

      I think sometimes the best thing to do when you start seeing the geometric stuff in the back of your eyelids is to find ways to re-focus your attention. Breathing and relaxation exercises for example can help take your attention away from the eyelid television to something calming.

      Have a read of my recent article about mindfulness techniques. You may find some suggestions there which you can also apply to your situation.

      All the best

  • Hi, i am a 35 year old female, I don’t usually post comments but this is totally what I have been experiencing. Usually when more stressed and fatigued. Worst time was the night of my first nerve block (related?) I suffer from migraines and neuralgia. I woke up screaming at 12:56 am. My 15 year old son told me he knew I needed help in his dream before I woke the family with my screams. I have also been through psychiatric medication trial and error since September 2014, nothing helps my anxiety or depression, just bad side effects including sleep problems which I already had. So I have been med free over a month with responsible tapering prior, but no matter what it feels like these prisms and grids that I see nightly and rising like dracula are just part of who I am. I pop up speaking half real words half made up and get scared of the picture frame that turned into a portal. I get scared to go to sleep. My spouse makes me feel bad about it, I think my insecurity of it makes it worse. Im scared to sleep alone but embarrassed to have him witness an episode. I hate my flaw, if I try to explain it or my many neurological symptoms I just sound crazy. I don’t yet have an official diagnosis but I suspect I have ms. I get care at Veterans Affairs hospital and have tried many meds. I have told my PCP, psychiatrist, neurologist, none can help me. Only get to see my neurologist once every 3 months. They have sleep study but only have a sleep apnea sleep center, that’s not my sleep issue. Looking back as a kid had the spiders hallucinations often, but my Mexican mom slapped it out of me at a young age. Yes I went there. As an adult mostly remember vivid episodes when over worked and under rested occasionally, but nothing as intense, life changing, and terrifying as when I was in the army awaiting my discharge in confinement. I would see the green indicator light on thermostat bouncing around the room like a UFO followed by a Tron like cage constructed of light on top of me. All this going on and too scared to say anything for fear of getting stuck in the army any longer than already taking to get out. Now I fear that I will never get care for the issues and am destined to be prescribed the complaisance pill of the month. Oh yeah, and I adamantly told my psychiatrist I will not take meds anymore, she prescribed me seroquel… so my question for you is: is there any kind of sleep study program for this issue? I will volunteer just to try and get some answers. Thank you for being here and for letting me vent. I feel like “I’m not crazy, I just see crazy shit!”

    • Hi Jessica

      Thank you for your comment. I’m very sorry to hear you’ve had such a long history of dealing with these hallucinations. And I can also understand the difficulties you’ve had with psychiatric services. Unfortunately psychiatry and mental health care still isn’t perfect, and not everyone finds a solution for their problems quickly and which suits them well. Hopefully if they do come up with an official diagnosis, it will provide you with a little clarity, and also more specific avenues to research and explore in an attempt to find the best treatment for you.
      Try not to get too stressed with the staff. They are doing a difficult job, and most in my experience also feel bad that they can’t find the right treatment for all their clients. But do maintain a dialogue with them. You have every right to determine your own treatment, and to voice your opinion about what you feel works or not.
      Unfortunately I don’t know of any centers doing specific studies regarding hypnagogic hallucinations. If I do, I will post a link here on the article though.
      If you have it so regularly, have you tried sleeping with a night-light on? And have you tried doing any relaxation exercises when you go to bed? It might help to take your mind off the hallucinations. Sometimes just be changing our mental focus, it can help a lot. I would recommend doing breathing exercises in bed for example. You can find some example of how to do them in this article about relaxation techniques for sleep.
      Stay strong and hopefully in time you’ll be able to sleep in peace.

      • Thank you Ethan for the suggestions. A light on makes it worse, I have found sleeping with an eye mask helps though. Breathing exercises do help, and trying to accept it helps the nature of what I see change from negative and dark to positive or friendly. It is mostly the lines and shapes that just confuse the heck out of me and leave me so tired in the morning. It is comforting to find your info and all the experiences of the others who are living with this, and your right the unknown is the scariest thing right now without having diagnosis of why I feel the way I do physically. Thank you for your insight and encouraging words to stand for what I believe in and to also keep an open mind toward the people I am asking for their help. I do feel better after reading your thoughtful reply, I appreciate your articles here and it has helped me to open a dialogue between my sons, my husband and I so I can feel more comfortable talking about it.

        • Hi again,

          It’s good to hear back from you. I’m really glad you found the article, and our subsequent exchange of comments helpful. That is the greatest feedback I could ever hope for! It’s great that you’ve decided to communicate more with your family. Anyone in mental health will tell you (I hope!) that social support, be it family or friends, is one of the most powerful tools for managing and overcoming health problems. So I hope that you get what you need from your family following talking to them.
          All the best

  • I’ve had hypnagogic auditory hallucinations for years. At first I was concerned about what was happening, but when I found out what it was and that it was harmless, it became merely a nuisance. The ONLY time I hear them is when I’m very tired and struggling to stay awake, such as at my desk job, or if I’m trying to do something at the PC before bedtime and am falling asleep. If I get enough sleep and am not tired during the day, and I go to bed at a good time, I never have the hallucinations.

    When I do get them I’ll hear someone saying something such as “He only has one customer” which I heard earlier today while falling asleep at the PC, or I’ll hear a loud bang or explosion or a phone ringing even though none of those really happened. Rarely do I recognize the voices, and most of the time what I hear doesn’t make any sense to me. The only bad thing about these is when I’m having one at work and I hear my name but don’t know if it was real or a hallucination. lol My experience is very mild compared to what others have experienced, and I hope they can find ways to cope.

    • Hi Melissa

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience of hypnagogic hallucinations. I think your assessment of the fact that they happen when you’re tired is probably spot on. As with many other sleep disorders, over-tiredness, stress, anxiety etc can often make the problem worse.
      I guess it’s a good warning system for you that you need to get more rest! When it happens regularly, you could tell yourself it’s time for some TLC and some rest time.
      All the best

  • Hi. I’ve been experiencing some things lately… It’s 12:45am as a matter of fact. I don’t know when it started. It still goes on to this day. (It happened everyday for the past two weeks, and it’s happened tonight.) I don’t know what it is. I see shapes moving around. I’m afraid to look around my room, thinking something is on the other side. I’ve even had some nights without sleep, just with my eyes shut closed. They tend to stop around 6am. This is a real issue for me, since I have to go through all of my 6 classes with no sleep. Luckily, I found this website. It’s even a huge relief writing this as I go. Even tonight, I’ve already seen the shapes moving and everything. It starts around 12am. I even try going to sleep before 12am with no success. My parents even told me that they’ve seen me walk into their room and started mumbling things. This happened a month ago. Now, I’ve never been a fan of the dark, but this is a whole new level. It’s like a never ending cycle! Some people at my school tell me to get more sleep, and I know I can’t. The type of things I see are mainly just silhouettes. Some things in my room just kinda blend together giving the impression of a person, mainly a little boy or girl. Also, occasionally, something in my house usually gives off a little bang, which is normal, so everytime that happens, I get a bit startled. I usually look around my room at night, and even turn on the lights out of fright. It’s amazing that I’ve even made it this far without going crazy or even screaming. Also, sometimes during the day, I think I see things on the corner of my eye, I turn and they just kinda vanish… I turn to the same position and it’s there again. What is going on? In conclusion, I’m terrified of the night knowing these things will happen.

    • Hi Brandon,

      Thank your for your comment and for sharing your experience. And I’m sorry it’s been affecting your sleep and naturally worrying you quite a lot by the sounds of it.
      It does sound to be like hypnagogic hallucinations, and I imagine what’s happening during the daytime is due to you being over-tired, with your brain and eyes playing tricks on you. Also, you’re probably more aware of funny things in your vision because of what’s happening to you at night time.
      My first advice would be to either get, or ask your parents to get, you a night-light you can sleep with. That might help you to feel more comfortable with your surroundings. It should also help your brain stop ‘filling in’ the blank spaces in the dark. Even something like a lava lamp can work wonders.
      The second thing is to find a way to relax at night and not think about the things you see. It seems like you’re stuck in a cycle of expecting to see things, and so when you do, you focus on it and can’t stop thinking about it.
      You could try doing some of the relaxation exercises described in this article while you are in bed. It may help you to focus on something else. I recommend the breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises I talk about there.
      Try not to stress about it too much! I know it’s easier said than done, but if you can accept the fact that it happens, but there’s nothing to worry about, it’s half the battle!
      All the best

  • Hi Ethan. I just got off the phone with my crying 24 year old daughter who has been experiencing severe hypnogogic hallucinations for many years. She travels for work and often has to share a room or a house with others and last night, while sharing a room with someone, she had two hypnogogic episodes. It’s very upsetting to her as she screams loudly and scares everyone in the house including herself. The hallucinations are always very frightening and cause her to jump from bed, flail her arms and scream.

    She’s had a sleep study, has seen two neurologists, two psychiatrists and a therapist – everything is normal except for the hypnogogic episodes. She’s really at the end of her rope. She does not have narcolepsy. Is there any major medical center studying this disorder? Any resources you can refer her to? Any advice at all you can give? Thanks so much.

    • Hi Terri

      Thank your for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s difficulty with this. My first advice would be to refer her to read the article herself and see if any of the advice there seems useful to her. When she had the sleep study, did they not give her advice about what she can do to help it?
      I would also suggest doing things like sleeping with a soft night-light on. That might help prevent her brain from filling the ‘void’ with hallucinations. Perhaps even some relaxing music also.
      Do you know what hallucinations she has exactly? Does she ever feel paralyzed while experiencing them for instance?
      I don’t know of any specific study being done about them right now I’m afraid. But you can always search online for sleep centers and see if there are any specializing in it, and if they can help.

  • I’ve begun having these since moving to a new house – we had a brief period when we moved here where we had to get people in to deal with a mouse infestation. They’re all gone now, but the paranoia certainly isn’t and now I get hallucinations of mice crawling across me usually just as I’m falling asleep. Never been paralysed…usually the opposite. I wake up so fast with it and literally shoot up/out of bed in seconds before I realise its only a hallucination. Not quite sure how to deal with my paranoia even when I know they’ve all gone :(

    • Hi Sarah

      Thanks for your comment. I know a lot of people really struggle to relax after they’ve had vermin in their house. I’ve had a similar experience years ago, and every time I felt an itch or heard a sound my first thought was that it was a mouse! So I can understand your plight.
      But it’s important to deal with this so that it doesn’t become a bigger issue. I guess the first step would be to try some positive reinforcement…telling yourself that there is no need to worry, and getting your brain to accept that. You could also try doing some relaxation exercises in bed to help take your attention of the possibility of mice being there.
      If all else fails and it starts to badly disrupt your sleep, you might need to speak to a professional about it. But I would first try to deal with it yourself if you can!
      All the best

  • I used to have hypnagogic hallucinations. These were very vivid and sometimes “glowing” hallucinations of non-descript objects, that occurred when I was going to sleep. They were scary, because they seemed to be so real, but I never thought much about this condition, until I went to bed.
    I have not experienced these in 14 years. And now, I think what caused them (at least for me). The bedrooms where I experienced them had a blank wall in front of the bed — I think the mind doesn’t like seeing “nothing” when you go to sleep, so it fills it with the mind’s “garbage” instead. These bedrooms also had the blank wall closer to the end of the bed — they were smaller rooms. The bedroom I sleep in now has a ceiling fan above the bed. The wall in front of the bed has a dresser with a huge mirror, a chest of drawers, a digital clock, a flat-screen TV, and other assorted “junk”. I have never experienced them at this house.
    Recommend that people experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations try filling their view with “clutter” and see if that helps, before consulting a sleep specialist.

    • Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your comment, and I think what you suggest is quite a good idea, especially if you sleep in a room which isn’t completely dark. However, it might not help the people who see things with their eyes closed – the television on the back of the eye-lids! But yes, if you’re in the semi-darkness and staring into ‘nothingness’ then there is a good chance the mind will try to fill the void. So having things to keep it occupied before you finally shut your eyes might help.
      All the best

  • I’m not sure why everyone seems to say that it can last for “up to a few minutes” I’m grateful if it’s that brief

    • Hi again Jack,

      I think people have a huge range of experiences, some brief and some long. I know I’ve had it last far longer than a few minutes, so don’t worry – you’re not alone!

  • My 2 cents: I experience sleep paralysis that is generally accompanied by extreme fear, lasts about 10 minutes and I often feel like I’m being watched then strangled and pushed up in the bed so my head feels like it’s pressed against the wall so hard my neck might break. It always happens on waking. Never experienced it during normal waking hours or reasons to wake up like a noise or needing urinate and never happened during day time. First experienced it 18 years ago as a child. Increases in frequency when stressed, fearful or anticipating it could happen. Sometimes I don’t experience it for a couple of years other times up to four times a night. I realized the domino effect of the fear it causes creating increased frequency. I stopped looking for answers and discussing it with ppl because they don’t understand and think devil or mental illness. I don’t know wtf it is but I choose to believe it’s neither of those things because there is no other evidence for either of the standard responses I’ve gotten from the ppl I’ve talked to. I just try to not think about it at all and just remember that I I’ve gotten through it so many times and I’ll always get through it. My heart does go out to those that carry that fear after the experience as if did silently for so long. My advice to everyone is to just tell yourself each time out loud after it’s over “I won again. I’m not scared. I will always win.” It seems to have greatly reduced since doing that and either way I say that to remove the fear, empower myself and reassure myself so that the next time I remember that I have nothing to be afraid of and I’ll get through it as I always have and so will anyone who can relate to my experiences

    • Hi Jack,

      Thank you very much for your comment, and your words of positivity and strength. I think that’s actually a great idea, to remind yourself that you overcame it once again. I might add that little bit of positive thinking to the tips section. Considering that for many people it’s a case of learning to deal with it over time rather than prevent it outright, reinforcing the fact that you do overcome it time and time again is a good idea.
      Thanks once again and I hope you manage to keep up the positive attitude towards it.

  • Hi,
    I’ve been having symptoms of what vaguely seems like hypnopompic hallucinating however comparing it to what others seem to experience and what a lot of articles say, mine are a lot less bizarre or ‘extreme’ I guess. The list of symptoms mentions imagining figures and shapes and most of this sounds like they are unknown forms or (as some people have said) swarms of bugs etc. Mine seem to be a lot more like real life. I end up in a situation where I am dreaming but sort of half awake and I am in my bed in my room. It is dark and everything is exactly as it should be but I will often see people I know in my room with me. Last night, for example, I sat up and some of my friends were in my room and asked me to pass a little pot that was by my feet at the end of the bed but every time I went to get it it disappeared so I just ended up grabbing at my duvet repeatedly trying to pick the thing up. Another I had a few nights ago followed a similar story where my friends were asking me to help out with something except I was very aware that I couldn’t see (I didn’t have my glasses on) and kept telling them this – although I’m never sure if I’m talking out loud or not. A lot of the dreams seem to revolve around something frustrating or me being very conscious that the people are in the room and then it will reach a point where I will suddenly realise where I am and just flop back on my pillow and go straight to sleep again. I don’t tend to have problems sleeping (in fact I am notorious for sleeping a lot) but I was just wondering is this is a form of hypnopompic hallucination or something different.

    • Hi Em,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m not entirely sure to be honest, but it sounds like it is more likely connected to your dreams rather than hallucinations as such. It could be that you’re just taking a long time to ‘snap out’ of your dream and fully wake up, so your dream world is overlapping with reality. That’s one explanation anyway! It could also be a form of REM behavior disorder. This is where your body doesn’t paralyze as it should do when dreaming to stop you hurting yourself or moving about in unwanted ways, and you then act out your dreams. Perhaps you’re waking up in the middle of this?
      As long as no harm is coming to you or anyone else though, it’s hopefully nothing to worry about too much. You can always chat to your doctor and get a sleep study done if you’re concerned.

  • I’m fairly certain that I’m having hypnopompic visions based on what I’ve read, but I’m still a little confused about hypnogogic visions. Do they happen when ones eyes are closed? I’ve had visions as I go to bed since I was little and I’m wondering if I have been experiencing hypnagogic visions as well? Since I was very little I have had 3 distinct sights while I’m going to sleep when my eyes are closed. The first is kind of like a TV white noise screen, but with a courser grain or texture. I’ve always likened it to black and white sheet of caramel corn moving around on the inside of my eyelids. With this vision I was normally a bit anxious. The second vision was like the texture of these frosted looking bouncy-balls from my childhood. This vision came with a kind of vibration; A smooth, fine, vibration that was very interesting and subtle. This vision was more relaxing, but not more relaxing than just being sleepy (I had insomnia). The final vision is flashing lights on my eyelids. This is associated with racing thoughts and lots of anxiety. Normally I would have to open my eyes to take a break from the stressful flashing. Do any of these sound like hypnagogia? Another question, I normally sleep in total darkness but after one episode of hypnopompic vision about 2 weeks ago I started sleeping with the lights on. In the past I’ve only seen my visions as blackness or shadows as I’m coming-to. Tonight I had a vision of what seemed like a floating underwater semi-translucent crumpled plastic grocery bag floating in the corner of my room. It was pink. I was wondering if the color of hallucinations are effected by the amount of light in the room? At first I thought, “oh no! they are getting more detailed!,” but then I realized that the only thing that has changed is that I have a night-light in my room. Thank you for being a resource, I was pretty freaked out till I started reading about this.

    • Hi Stace,

      Thank your for your comments, and I’m glad you’ve found the article helpful.
      I think that it’s quite normal to see things if for some reason when you shut your eyes, you have a lot of focus on the back of your eyelids. If I close my eyes right now and focus on them, I can see all kinds of crazy things.
      I think what might be a good solution for you is to try and take your focus elsewhere. One way of doing that is by focusing on a stable breathing pattern, eg breathe in for 4, hold for 4 and exhale for 4. Or you could try doing a progressive muscle relaxation.
      My hope would be that this kind of re-focusing would help you relax and stop thinking about the patterns you see.
      To find out more, have a read of this article about relaxation exercises you can do in bed.
      And to actually answer your question, I think it could be hypnagogic hallucinations, yes. But either way, my advice still remains the same!
      All the best

  • I want to know if what I am experiencing is the hypnagogic hallucinations. it usually happens soon after I go to sleep… I wake up to see a lot of ants on the ceiling, this one has happened a good 5 times.. also, I wake up wiping dirt off of the covers.. my fiance looks at me like I’m crazy and asks what am I doing… its only when I get fully awake that I no longer see whatever it was I was seeing. now the scary ones are when I am asleep and I wake up half way thinking and seeing there is arm reaching up to me trying to touch me , it is an ALL VERY black colored hand and arm, I wake up jumping and moving away from that side of the bed , only to realize there is absolutely nothing there. i’ve also seen black figures in my room , def cant ever make out a face or anything like that, IT REALLY FREAKS ME OUT. One other thing is i’ve woke up to flashing lights like crazy lights.

    • Hi Shelby,

      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like that could well be hypnagogic hallucinations, or perhaps hypnapompic if they happen when you wake up. If you feel paralyzed when it happens, then it might be sleep paralysis. But what you describe in itself does sound like it falls under the category of hypnagogic hallucinations.
      As long as you don’t experience this during normal waking hours, when you are fully alert, it probably isn’t anything to worry about apart from the fact that it freaks you out. And that’s the key thing – to try to find a way to react to it in a way which doesn’t cause you more panic or anxiety. Hopefully just knowing what it probably is will make it easier to stay calm the next time. If it’s that vivid, perhaps get up and go into another room and do something relaxing for a while with a dim light on. Then try and go back to sleep again once you’ve reassured yourself that there’s nothing really there.
      All the best

  • Hello. So this is a new thing to me, but I figured id try commenting. With a hope of understanding. Thanks to google I was brought to this site.
    I’m not sure how long this has been going on, but for sure over a month of waking up – and seeing huge black spiders in the ceiling or walls. Depending on where I’m looking, which helped me realize this could not be real. And of course, I think I’m going insane. And it’s horrifying. Just as I wake up from a normal night of sleep, I see these things. So far it’s been stars resembling the sky, giant spiders and yesterday it was a huge chandelier – which I must admit was a little funny. But really. What is going on? It’s so uncomfortable waking up to these weird things. It’s nothing else than seeing things, but it’s still really freaking me out. I’m a 19 year old girl who suffers from bad anxiety and depression so this really is not something I need in my life. Is there any way to make this stop completely? I’m sorry if this was sort of a “messy and confusing” comment. It’s 2am and I’m freaking out about this actually being something other people seem to experience too. I thought for sure I had just lost it.
    / forgive any spelling mistakes, please. English is not my main language.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment, and don’t worry at all about the way it’s written – which is fine by the way – or if it’s messy. It’s your comment, so you can write it how you like, and I understand it perfectly anyway:-)

      I can understand why it’s freaking you out. But the main thing is that as long as it’s only happening in the night like this, you probably don’t need to panic that you’re going insane! Hopefully reading the article will have helped you realize how common an experience this kind of thing is.

      You could always try sleeping with a night-light on for a few days and see if that helps reduce the occurrence. If you wake up to darkness, I think it’s more likely you’ll have these kind of hallucinations. Hopefully by giving your brain some stimulus as soon as you wake up, they will either stop or go away much faster as you realize where you are and that you’re in familiar surroundings.

      All the best

  • I’ve been experiencing a lot of hypnic jerks recently, and I think I may be experiencing Hypnogogic hallucinations too, but I am not entirely sure if I am, or if I am just experiencing vivid thoughts (I mean, I have never confused the colours I experience with actual objects I could pick up or whatever). If a person experiencing hypnogogic hallucinations were to get out of bed and turn on the light, would the hallucination continue? If its relevant, I have experienced dreams (only very occasionally) where I have thought “this is actually a dream”. I also read that people with mental illnesses more frequently experience hypnogogic hallucinations: I am an Obsessive compulsive, if that is relevant. I haven’t been getting very much sleep in recent months, and I may be being affected by exams I have coming up (I had a panic attack before last years exams).

    One very vivid experience I had once was of a bird hopping around in front of my head. I knew throughout the experience that I was imagining it, but when all of a sudden the bird, with its very long, slender beak suddenly pecks at my eye I suddenly jerked back (a hypnic jerk I think).

    • To clarify, when I turned on the light, everything seemed “normal” again.
      I also meant to ask, if there was any pragmatic difference between “vivid thoughts” and hypnogogic hallucinations?

      • Hi again Ethan,

        Ahh, ok then yes that’s perfectly normal. Seeing hallucinations with the lights off but while awake is exactly what they are!
        As for the second question, well I think there is a difference yes. You should be able to tell whether you are ‘seeing’ the hallucinations visually, in front of you so to speak. That’s different from having vivid thoughts, which for the sake of easy thinking would be ‘behind’ you in your mind. I hope that helps a bit!

    • Hi Ethan,

      Thank you for your comment. It does sound like you’ve had a lot going on, and it’s not surprise that if you find exams stressful, you might be having difficulty sleeping. I think it is possible that a hallucination could continue with the light on, though it should fade quite quickly. If it continues for a long time, or you have hallucination during the daytime, then of course that could be a sign of something else going on which you need to talk to a doctor about.
      With the bird hallucination you describe, it’s hard to tell what happened exactly, and whether it was a hypnic jerk, or simply you reacting in a way that would be normal if you were attacked by a bird, real or not! Usually they occur when you are falling asleep rather than semi-awake and having hypnagogic hallucinations.
      It sounds to me like you would probably benefit from finding ways to deal with the stress and anxiety that obviously comes with exams, and anything else in life. You might find this helps your sleep problems, and the hallucinations. If there is anything you enjoy doing, such a meditation, yoga or other relaxation techniques, then I would recommend either doing them before bed, or exploring that world to see if there is anything which might appeal to you to try.
      All the best

  • Hi,

    Interesting to hear about other people’s experiences. My own hypnogogic dreams happen when I am sitting in front of the computer late at night and doze off for a few seconds. I quickly enter into a dream, get brief glimpses of it, then snap out of it to wake up, with only shreds of memory of what I’ve dreamed. Nothing scary or nightmarish about these episodes, which are usually highly visual–snatches of conversations, people’s faces, brief scenarios–just the sense when I’m fatigued that my sleep/dreamlife is very close to me.

    I had a DNA test and discovered I have the ‘gene’ for narcolepsy, and sometimes really do have to fight to stay awake if I’m in the least tired, especially if sitting still for too long, like at a concert or movie. If I do allow myself to sleep, here come the snatches of dreams again. I understand that quickly entering into REM sleep can be sign of narcolepsy, so that may be how my DNA is manifesting itself.

    The human mind is endlessly varied and fascinating, asleep or awake.

    Thanks for this site!

    • Hi Dreamgirl

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your interesting experiences. And I’m glad you like the site!
      It’s interesting that you had the gene discovered, but have you been officially diagnosed as having narcolepsy by a sleep specialist too? And out of interest, do you ever suffer from sleep paralysis, which is known to occur more often in narcoleptics?
      And I agree completely with you about the human mind – it never ceases to amaze me!

  • I’ve been doing some research now, and I believe that the experiences I’ve been having may be hypnagogia, but I’m not entirely sure. I’d appreciate if someone can help me confirm that it is. My experiences are erratic, but almost always occur during the time I begin to fall into unconsciousness, as hypnagogia. My experiences include auditory and tactile components, and no visual or olfactory ones. A couple of the things I’ve heard were mundane, someone playing with coins and incomprehensible conversations from a crowd. These are the only ordinary sounds that I remember hearing. During one of my experiences, I almost heard the entirety of a song. Every sound and instrument was so vivid, it sounded as if I put on headphones to listen to the song. The song itself is complex and upbeat and I’ve only listened to it a few times. This is my only favorable memory of my experiences. Unpleasant sounds fill the dark emptiness often. Incoherent whispering, the loud striking of metal and machinery, screaming, and screeching are common noises during my experiences. Sometimes, I may not hear anything at all. But I always feel something. The tactile aspect of my experiences turn them from experiences into what I call attacks. All over my back and neck, I feel what I can only describe as heavy vibrations. They range from light tremors that tickle my skin to violent ripples deep into my back and muscle. They don’t hurt, but they cause discomfort the magnitude of daggers digging and rending into your flesh. I can’t stand them, yet they’re only vibrations. I only sense and feel these two things. They seem to cease when I sleep near someone. However, they must be in a close proximity, no farther than a couple feet away. You may have noticed earlier that I said that my experiences almost always occur when I transition from wakefulness into sleep. This sometimes occurs during dreams. The dreams in which they happen in are associated with shadow people or dark manifestations. I don’t suppose this is normal, is it? Perhaps the worst part of it all, is that I’m not able to move. Paralysis possesses my body, but I’m never completely awake and can’t move. Screaming or yelling for help is impossible. The only way I’m able to escape is to hyperventilate. It somehow tells my body to wake up immediately. It’s becoming a struggle to wake up now, and I’m afraid of this becoming worse. I’d be grateful to anyone who can provide any help. Thank you.

    • Hi Nadeko,

      Thank you for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing such unpleasant things when falling asleep. I was wondering what it could be until I got to the end of your comment and you said that you are paralyzed when this happens.

      That immediately makes me think of sleep paralysis, and indeed the other things you mention also seem very much like what many people experienced during sleep paralysis.

      I reccommend having a read of this article about sleep paralysis. I discuss it in depth there, but also very useful are the enormous number of reader comments. You will see that you’re definitely not alone in experiencing these kind of unpleasant sensations. And also hopefully you will find some practical tips which might help you deal with it the next time it happens.

      All the best

  • Hi, u r a godsend having this site, hypnagogic is my issue, I struggled with sleep from the word go, I can sleep in the day for a couple of hours but at night its awful. It’s been worse lately as I have been ill. I hear the normal heating sounds, house warming and cooling but they really affect me. When it’s dark I see more, people shapes,figures, flowers, light fluctuations & never anything nice! Feeling so ill lately seeing a black called figure scared me & was distressing. I have the doctor’s today and am hoping they can help with me being ill do I don’t overheat add that may help. My partner works so this stresses him as his sleep gets disrupted too! It was never this bad and I am getting so tired, upset & run down its frustrating. I will continue to read through the site as you have been amazingly helpful. Huge thankyou xx

    • Hi Claire,

      Thank you for your comment, and sorry to hear that both you and your partner have been having disrupted sleep due to what could well be hypnagogic hallucinations. Do you ever have paralysis with it, especially when you see the dark figure? That could be sleep paralysis if you do.
      If you and your partner can sleep with a dim night light on, then you might find that helpful. Sometimes it’s the over-active brain filing the darkness that can cause the worst of the hallucinations. So perhaps something to provide a stimulus might help.
      Hopefully all will go well at the doctors and you’ll get better soon, both with the illness and sleep quality.
      All the best

  • Adding to last entry: I also twitch really bad in my sleep. I am aware of it as I’m sleeping but can’t stop it. It feels what I think would be like a seizure but I know it’s not. I thought it was all I’m my head, but I just spoke to my boyfriend about it and he said I do twitch and its creepy. I guess I pull back my arms and he says it looks like I’m squeeking my shoulder blades together. I guess I talk to him when I am spazzing out too… really bothers me to find this out and to know it creeps him out-not much bothers him, so it must be pretty bad :-\

    • Hi Sabrina,

      Thank your for your comment, and sorry to hear that you’re obviously concerned about what’s happening to your at night. It’s good that your boyfriend seems understanding about it. Having someone to talk to about it and help you deal with it is important.
      There are several possible reasons for twitching as you call it. If possible, you could see a doctor and ask for their help, or perhaps ask about getting a sleep study done. They might be able to find out if you have another sleep disorder causing the movement in your sleep. But it may also just be harmless and natural movements you’re making.
      It could be that you are also just hallucinating more due to tiredness, stress or your shift patterns interfering with your sleep cycle. My advice would be to try and keep as regular a sleep schedule as possible, even with the shifts. You could also perhaps try some relaxation techniques before going to bed, or even while in bed. But again, you may also find talking to a doctor is a good option for finding out if something else is causing the twitching and hallucinations.
      I hope you find a way to deal with it soon and can stop worrying about it.

  • I have had mostly visual and auditory experiences and it’s absolutely terrifying. I hear what sounds like spirits mumbling/breathing/talking. I have a weird thing I call “partial sleep” which I now know is hypnogogia. It’s like my spirit isis awake and I can “see” and sit up but I’m not actually awake. I’ve seen beings that look at me from around corners or just standing there. I get the grossest feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see these things. Lately, it’s been mumbling and talking I’m hearing, especially when I’m doing overnights at work. I’d like to stop this from happening :-( anyone know how to get rid of this!?

  • Just read up on this article after reading the other one about exploding head syndrome. I just had an attack of EHS and wanted to know why I heard such loud noises right as I fell asleep. Firstly I want to thank you as these articles are a wealth of information.

    Sometimes, maybe once or twice a year I will have this same hallucination right as I fall asleep, though in some cases upon reflection after waking it feels more like it occurs during actual sleep. It only occurs if I have my window open when it’s raining. This hallucination engages several senses. I am laying in my bed, looking at my window as normal as anything could be. I hear a deep loud voice speaking very clearly and though I can remember instantly thinking “that’s the voice of God” I can never remember the actual words. I should add that I am not a religious person, don’t have much of an interest either for it or against it. Then there is a sharp sudden pressure in my chest as though I’ve been punched by an invisible fist, followed by intense adrenaline and fear and immediate waking combined with sleep paralysis.

    This, combined with EHS, has been happening for many years though it is slightly increasing in frequency. EHS has began happening much more since entering college where I to sleep at 3-4 AM. I am not sure if it is related, but I have been told that as I am falling asleep, I exhibit sleep apnea. My breathing apparently totally stops for nearly a minute until I fall asleep, then I am fine. My girlfriend tells me I do this every time I go to sleep. I do not take any medication and sometimes wonder if all these things may be related to one another?

    • Hi Sean,

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m glad you found the articles helpful. Thanks for saying so!

      Have you been to a doctor about the breathing problem? Apnea is a serious sleep disorder, and one which you should see a medical professional about. Whether or not it is actually apnea, my opinion is that any breathing irregularities are worth checking out just to be on the safe side.

      In terms of the other things you’ve experienced such as exploding head syndrome and sleep paralysis, I imagine it’s possible it’s been getting worse due to the sleep pattern you have now. If it’s leaving you more tired than you were previously, then that could make things worse.

      But the main point which I can’t emphasize enough is to speak to someone about the breathing, if you haven’t done so already.

      All the best

  • I had my I first episode the other night. I woke up from a dead sleep shaking and balled up in the fetal position. It scared my wife to death and she called 911 while by brother kept an eye on me then I came to with a bunch of strangers in our bedroom. I was transported to a local hospital where blood was taken as was a urine test along with a cat scan of my head. After all has said and done I was diagnosed with Terrifying Hypnagognic Hallucinations.

    • Hi Farrell,

      Thanks for your comment, and goodness…it must have been very intense to have resulted in a trip to hospital! Do you remember what you saw exactly? It’s incredible that something as common as hypnagogic hallucinations resulted in you having a cat scan.
      I hope it never happens to you again, and if it does, you and your wife find a way to help you deal with it more easily.
      All the best

  • Hi Ethan,
    I was wondering whether these hypnopompic hallucinations can happen while moving? Basically, I’ve had sleep paralysis many times and experience these types of hallucinations while waking up (body unable to move and either hear things or see things that aren’t really there). A while back I experienced something similar but it felt really different because I was able to move while hallucinating. After waking up from a vivid dream I saw something standing on my bed and moving around – I thought it was my boyfriend. When I rolled on my back I was staring at the person on my bed while my boyfriend was next to me asleep. I had a panic attack and eventually it went away. I was wondering whether this can be considered a hypnopompic hallucination even though I was able to move around?

    • Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for your comment, and for sharing your experiences. I think it’s possible to still have these kind of hallucinations while able to move around. Especially if it’s dark and your brain is busily trying to ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak. If they continue into the daytime, or for a very long time in the dark then I might start wondering what else it could be. But if it fades then I imagine it’s still one and the same thing.

    • I had this happen to me as I was rolling over in bed. I was probably in some early stage of sleep (I had been trying to get to sleep for ages) and for whatever reason I opened my eyes as I was rolling over. When I did, I saw a disembodied shadowy head (without features) and upper-chest (like a bust) which was holding something like a sheathed Samurai sword. It was floating toward me at a very steady and even rate going from a foot and a half from my face to maybe 9 inches. In mid-roll I saw it and said ‘woah’ really loudly. I continued on my rolling trajectory straight for the lamp. When I turned the lamp on it was gone. I’ve experienced these visions before (only twice in ten years before this one) but they have only ever been patterns (much like a shadow ‘scribble ball’) and only happened while I was completely still (possibly paralyzed, but really it’s more like I don’t feel the need to move because I’m concentrating to make sure I see the image from beginning to end (they normally shrink away and I like to watch them go)). This one was really notable for me not only because this was first time the vision wasn’t just scribbles, but because of how dynamic my body was at the time. I had always thought I was having a waking dream or something, or that my waking brain was just powering back on, but this time it was very much that I was awake-ish, because I was thinking and rolling pre-vision. This one freaked me out and even though I’m an atheist and don’t believe in anything, I started to feel weird about an African mask that I just brought back from Ghana and hung up over my bed. I know how silly I’m being and I know it was totally the result of my friend saying he wouldn’t buy a mask because he doesn’t want to bring bad juju into his house. After having two more of these visions (luckily not anymore scary ones) this week (including tonight) I finally looked up this phenomena and I’m glad to see that others have experienced this. Hopefully I stop looking at my African mask funny.

      • Hi Stace,

        Thank your for your comment. As you have addressed Lauren I’ll leave it to see if she comes back to talk to you about what you have in common there.
        But I will say that you are definitely not alone! I’m glad you’ve managed to find that out now, and I hope that knowledge helps you feel more at ease about what you’ve seen.
        All the best

  • Hi Ethan,

    Nice to know that others have seen ‘scribble ball’. I think my view of these ‘visions’ is down to the fact that I have been told I have a ‘scientific’ mind, i.e. I always try to find the logical reason for something rather than attributing it to another cause. I appreciate that these things can be disorienting and frightening, especially if someone is vulnerable emotionally, say from a recent bereavement. I have a diagnosis of clinical depression and have been told that medications can cause such experiences. Being practical I have until now avoided counseling (all Pollyanna ‘glad’ and ‘think positive’ brigade, I have two words for them and one of those is ‘off’!); I have recently changed my medication and the experiences I initially described have in fact lessened. The mind is indeed a remarkable and strange thing. I do hope that people find some respite from their frightening experiences.

    • Hi again Starfish63,

      Thanks again for your comment. I have to say though that I personally think counseling can be fantastic. And you might be surprised to hear that it very rarely involves just being told to think positively. There are many different types of counseling, and one of the principle goals is often to help you find your own way, rather than ambushing you with unwanted positivity! So in that way, it can be much more practical than you might think:-)
      All the best

  • Hi

    I’ve had these ‘visions’ occasionally since a bout of ill health approximately 4 or 5 years ago. It started with me thinking I saw a spider on my bed (I was dosed up on antibiotics, etc. at the time!) and then I realized there was nothing there. Since then I have become used to ‘seeing things’ sometimes when I wake up. I see geometric patterns; there was one on the wardrobe door, vertical and horizontal lines with interconnecting dots (very decorative). I also see what I have come to know as ‘scribble ball’ – bear with me it is the only way I can describe it – it is as though someone has doodled or scribbled a circle or like a ball of wool that is loosely wound; they are always one dimensional like pictures and drawn patterns. ‘Scribble ball’ is my favourite. I didn’t realize I was artistic until I started seeing patterns and dear old ‘scribble ball’! I put mine down to the period of ill – health I had; nothing serious they just all ganged up on me at once and in no particular order: bronchitis, a sinus infection (never having one of those again!), tonsillitis, laryngitis and flu. I was off my feet for about 4 weeks in all but I still see patterns and my old friend ‘scribble ball’ occasionally. I didn’t realize what was happening, just came across your site. Horrible to hear that these can be frightening experiences for people. I wish you all pretty patterns and scribble balls!

    • Hi Starfish63,

      Thanks for your comment, and the well wishes to all the other readers! It’s always nice to hear from people in any of the articles here who have a positive outlook on the often disturbing experiences that people have.
      I think I can understand the scribble ball analogy as it sounds quite like something I used to see when I was younger. And also of course geometric patterns was something I’d see from time to time.
      I think having a light-hearted view about the weird things that can happen at night is one of the very best ways of dealing with them. So I hope if you do continue to have hallucinations at night, your friend the scribble ball stays the same:-

  • Thanks for your reply. I didn’t have any issues last night back in my own bed. But I slept with several lights on and stayed on my side instead of my back. I really hope to never experience that again.

  • Hi, I have hypnagogic hallucinations randomly but they have increased a lot over the last two years. I used to get them 2-3 times a month but now it’s more like 2-3 times a week. My main hallucination is of a black figure standing over my babies cot at the end of my bed, it doesn’t move till I get close to it then it just disappears. I’ve had bugs streaming down the walls, black holes opening up in the walls and sucking everything in and strong winds coming in through my closed window. I had a particularly scary one a while back where a bright white figure whispered ‘where’s jake?’ I had to run into my eldest sons room to check he was still there! There have been many others to! I’m 28 and don’t have any of the causes so am interested to find out why I get them. It’s good to hear I’m not alone!

    • Hi Zara

      Thank you for your comment, and sorry to hear you have such powerful hallucinations. It can’t be very pleasant. Have you tried sleeping with a soft night-light on? Maybe that would help a little by giving your brain less ‘blackness’ to try and fill. It might also break the pattern of the things you see regularly like the black figure, and help you relax and not worry about it.
      All the best

  • I have always talked and acted out in my sleep. I can remember many a night where I would wake up and be in the middle of my room fiddling with the air or sitting up in bed talking (can never remember what I was saying). In fact one night, a few years ago, I sat up in bed and reached in the ceiling fan “to do something” and ended up with 2 very sore hands the next day! I don’t really think it was a first time but the earliest memory I have of hallucinating was when I was about 16. I “woke up” with a giant spider crawling up to me. I shot out of bed and turned my light on and actually looked for it. It took a minute to figure out that it was a dream and to finally wake up. I mostly hallucinate about animals (snakes, spiders, eagles) but I vividly remember a night a couple of years ago where I “woke up” and saw a black shadow at the bedroom door. I woke my partner up screaming that someone was in the room. I finally came to and apologized after he reassured me there was nothing there. Just a few nights ago I woke up sitting up in bed and saw an eagle fly right at me and go into the closet. I remember saying to my partner that there was an eagle in the room and he told me to go back to sleep. But my heart was pounding and I was trembling after I realized what was actually going on. Sometimes they can be very humorous but other times they can be extremely frightening. My younger brother talks and acts out in his sleep as well but I’m not sure if he hallucinates. I never knew what it was until I started doing research after the last night’s attack. I know for a fact I don’t have any mental or other problems. I assume it is merely a natural part of my sleep. Glad to know I am not alone!

    • Hi Crystal

      Thanks for your comment. The acting out in your sleep aspect could possibly be ‘REM sleep behavior disorder’. This is where your brain doesn’t properly paralyze you to stop you from acting out your dreams. I haven’t written about it here yet, though plan to. But if you haven’t looked it up online, or spoken to a doctor about it, I recommend doing so.
      Other than that, the hallucinations which sound quite intense, could be resulting from you waking up while still dreaming, and the dream state mapping onto your real world. Combine that with the non-paralysis, and it’s not surprising you wake up in the middle of the room seeing weird things!
      Let me know if you find out any more about it, as it would be really interesting to hear back from you:-)

      • Hi Crystal,

        The exact thing happens to me that seems to happen to a lot of people and yourself, particularly your being able to move during the experience. Although when I was a child the hallucinations we there prior to falling asleep and mostly only visual or only touch sensory, like the whole bed was rotating backwards with me in it, or my feet and hand swollen like water balloons. Once or twice I woke up to find demons in the room. Now as an adult I wake in the middle of the night and occasionally it’s a similar figure of a Elizabethan woman leaving a tray of tea or an ashtray and cigar on my bed. I ask her not too because it might spill or cause a fire, but then she just quietly leaves the room. The other night I woke up and the wall closest to my bed was missing and in its place was the interior a massive barn and all the animals were sort of arranged and watching me. Sometimes there is a cat on the dresser (we don’t have a cat). I have grown to like the experiences and find deeply pleasing. I wait for them like my partner waits for a new season of her favorite TV series.

        Thank you for the article, Ethan.

        • Hi Lee,

          Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I will leave this for Crystal to reply to since you have address her specifically.
          All the best

  • Hi ..Well ..My hallucination started a month ago ..I feel as if a small tennis ball is passing by me and hitting the objects ..Like if i am laying on bed i feel the ball ia bumping under my bed ..when i am walking it moves with me ..I am unable to do anything ..it’s an extreme distraction for me ..i am dying ..please help me

    • Hi Rahul,

      Thanks for your comment, and sorry to hear you’re experiencing something which is disturbing you so much. When you say it happens when you’re walking, so you mean during the day time when you are out of the bedroom? If so, then it might be a good idea to talk to a doctor about that kind of hallucination, and see if they can give you some advice or help. Otherwise in the night-time, you could try sleeping with music or the radio to help distract you from the tennis ball effect. And perhaps even a soft night-light might be comforting.

    • Hi Rahul,

      Your comment touched me deeply. I am just this minute discovering that this stuff actually happens to other people. I can feel your pain and I’m so sorry that its so terrifying for you. I just wanted to say …try to remember that you’re not alone in this. I go to counseling for really horrible bipolar. I don’t how to help you with the hallucinations, but if you are feeling such debilitating fear I can say this- talk to someone who can help with coping skills. It really helps me. But try to remember that what’s happening is not really there and sometimes it helps me to choose a focal point so I can’t see a lot of them….I keep my focus as sharp as I can and let everything else go blurry and they go away for a while.

  • My hypnagogic hallucinations are the sensation that someone is in the room or apartment with me, a high pitched sound like a television is turned on, this is related to the feeling of another person in the apartment, and auditory hallucinations of conversations between other people. These are SO strange. I’ll hear someone talking the MOST RANDOM topics that have nothing to do with anything I’ve been reading or watching lately, but still are not random words, what I hear makes sense grammatically, it’s just SO out of left field that it is really disorienting.

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one this happens to! :)

    • Hi Jesus,
      Thanks for the comment, and sorry to hear you’ve been experiencing what must be quite disturbing. Do you ever mind you can’t move when you get the sensation that someone else is there with you in the room? If so, it could be sleep paralysis that you’re experiencing. If you have a look at that article, you’ll find lots of readers describing a very similar story to yours. You might find it helpful and also comforting.

  • Can anyone describe their hallucinations for me? My 4 1/2 year old son has been seeing fairies, snakes and fireworks and words in the sky “he says all the time” and they come out of the flowers I have hung on my wall. He started hitting spiders off of him and me before too. It freaked me out so bad and I started reading about brain tumors but since it happens after he is fully awake I don’t know what to think. A doctor called them night terrors but he remembers his and they say kids don’t remember night terrors so I just don’t know. Is this normal at this age and so often? He is very intelligent and otherwise pretty normal. Thanks

    • Hi V

      I’m sorry to hear your son has been having these experiences, and clearly worrying you about them. Did you speak to your doctor about him having them while he is fully awake? And do you mean during the daytime also, or just after he has woken up? It’s hard to say what it is really, and your doctor is the best person to help, or perhaps refer you to a sleep specialist for some advice. It’s not normal to remember night terrors, so it could be nightmares which are then transposing onto reality just after he wakes up. It could also just be hypnagogic/hypnapompic hallucinations.

      On one of my other articles here (about sleep paralysis) I often say to people in the comments that it’s not uncommon for different sleep phenomenon to mingle and blur into one unusual experience. It could be that the same is happening to your son, i.e. a combination of dreams, nightmares or night terrors, hallucinations. You could also have a look at the article I wrote which gives advice on how parents can help their kids deal with nightmares etc.

      Hopefully you’ll find a way to help him, but do remember that it is very common for kids of this age to have these kind of experiences.

      All the best

  • This from Sandra again. I am 46 and when I was a child I experienced night terrors and also sleep paralysis as a teen. Also have experienced minor auditory hallucinations upon falling asleep at random times throughout adulthood. Also severe insomnia at times. So what I’m saying is I have been predisposed to sleep disorders my whole life. This is just the most serious I’m sure because it is such a terrible time in my life with loosing my mother.

    I hope this helps someone. I know it helps Me to know I’m not the only one with these strange occurrences. Before I found these articles I thought I had had a psychotic break of some kind.

    • Hi again Sandra

      I’m glad you found the articles helpful, and you’re most definitely not alone – either in experiencing such a range of sleep disorders, or having a difficult time after losing someone close to you. Feel free to come back any time you like if you want to talk about this or any other sleep problems – there are some long comment chains on the articles about sleep paralysis and nightmares where you’re welcome to join in.


  • I am so relieved to find this article. My hallucinations started a year ago when my mother became gravely ill and had to be put into a nursing home. She then went to a Hospice for the terminally ill. She was there for two months before passing. This was the most stressful, and physically and mentally challenging time of my life, as we were extremely close. I was extremely sleep deprived from sitting with her. The hallucinations got so bad that I couldn’t even doze in a chair in broad daylight without seeing bugs, writing on the walls around me etc.At night I would experience a vibrating feeling all over my body, and not be able to breathe. My heart would pound. I would wake and calm myself, then sleep in a sitting position. After mom passed the hallucinations got very scary. People looking in the windows mocking me, hands over my face. I even woke once and thought my husband was bleeding from the mouth. In the months since mom passed, and I have had some grief counseling the hallucinations have become far less threatening. In fact I just laugh them off now. It’s mostly candy and cows floating across the room, and I don’t have them every night anymore. I find, however, the more stressed I am the more frequent they become. Hope this helps someone. I have learned to just live with it.

    • Hi Sandra

      I’m very sorry to hear about your mum passing. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been, and can understand that it took a toll on you physically and mentally. Sleep deprivation combined with extreme stress and other emotions is a cocktail which will affect even the strongest of people.

      I hope that the counseling continues to help you, and that you find ways to manage the stress in your life. I’m sure over time it will continue to improve. Stay strong!


  • Oh, and these hallucinations are always as I wake from sleep, I recall as a child (under 10) as I lay in bed going to sleep I would see the wall of the bedroom moving towards me, and if I closed my eyes I would continue visualising folding the bedcover back and forth, back and forth – used to drive me mental, because I couldnt stop it! I now also suffer from part-time insomnia :) (like right now, it is 12.45am and i am not asleep!)

  • Hi Ethan,
    Very interesting reading through this information – I have been suffering from these hallucinations for about the last 12 years – they started off with spiders, then graduated to people standing at the foot of the bed staring at me (saw quite a few of them) I have seen dogs, gotten out of bed and seen boats in the driveway, swarms of insects and once a small jockey crouching on my bedside cabinet… after about three years of moderately distressing hallucinations I had an episode that freaked me out to the core… I hallucinated a man leaning over me in my bed holding me down – needless to say I woke the entire neighborhood, the cat sleeping on the bed coped a flailing arm and I was petrified for days, I felt as if I had actually been physically attacked… so I went to my GP – I went through an onslaught of testing, brain scans, bloods, EEG, mental evaluations and was not really given any actual diagnosis – I was offered peroxatine to alter my sleep phases, but chose to stop taking it as it causes weight gain – I have for many years since found that leaving a dim light on in the room stops these episodes from happening (no idea why this works, but it does). I am 34 now and very only occasionally have a hallucination.

    So, after reading your article I think I finally have a name for these freaky episodes! Thanks

    • Hi Roxanne,

      Thank you for the comment and sharing your experiences. It’s good that you did go and get yourself checked out by medical professionals. It sounds like you were experiencing quite a serious form of them. It’s amazing how a simple little detail like sleeping with a light on can make such a big difference. Hopefully your story will inspire others to consider trying it as well.

      All the best

  • Hi Ethan,
    My friend has been experiencing hallucinations for approximately 6 months now, but hasn’t brought it up until now. I’ve been all over the Internet trying to figure out what’s happening to her and find a solution. Hypnagogic Hallucinations seems to be the closest thing to it, but none of the causes seem to match up. She does in fact have auditory and visual hallucinations right before sleep and sometimes when she wakes up, but she has no sleeping disorders or any type mental illness. She’s been sleeping perfectly fine and hasn’t been stressed lately, but she still experiences vivid hallucinations of people watching her and hiding under furniture in her room before she sleeps. Also when it’s dark in her room she feels as if people are there with her watching her, but when it’s bright in her room she sees people dressed all in black around her. I just want to know you’re opinion on all of this and possible an answer of how to help her. Should she see a doctor? Is this a thing that she’ll just have to live with? She’s horrified of it and they’re driving her mad. Thank you for you time and all the information in this website.

    • Hi Bianca,

      Sorry to hear your friend has been having these kind of worrying experiences. Well, I think if she has access to healthcare, it might help set her mind at ease to speak to a doctor. They may be able to help, and to diagnose whether or not it is something normal, or perhaps something else. They would probably want to know how long she sees or hears the hallucinations before falling asleep for example. Does she literally lie in bed and start to see things, or even before getting into bed? Or does it only start once she has started to fall asleep and she is drifting off into sleep? This would mean different things.
      But at the end of the day, if it is really upsetting her, then I think there is no harm in getting some professional advice.
      I hope that helps

    • Hi –

      I am undergoing ECT treatments for bipolar 2 depression. Since I started these treatments I have been experiencing these I guess – daymares – it is difficult to describe but I’ll try. They happen throughout the day – while I’m talking with someone or alone but always when I’m wide awake. They are the worst in the evening say 5:00 – til I fall asleep. These present as a very elusive familiar experience. Always fleeting I cannot put my finger on what is happening or who is involved but it is not a good feeling. Just as I think I have it figured out it disipates. I absolute HATE it! I have told my psychiatrist & anesthesiologist about it & my psych has assured me it will stop when my treatments are done. Ugh! These feel so scary I want them to stop. One of the meds I take is an Atypical antipsychotic one might think that would help.

      Does this sound like what others have experienced & have any of you experienced it while undergoing ECT treatments. I have never experienced anything like this before.

      Thanks –


      • Hi Em

        Thanks for the comment, and sorry to hear you’ve been having a difficult time with these experiences. I know you asked if others have experienced something similar, but you have actually written your comment in response to another readers, rather than as a separate comment, so I’m not sure how many people will read it to reply.
        You are obviously going through some quite serious treatment, and so it doesn’t surprise me that you are experiencing some unusual things. Hopefully your doctors are right and they will dissipate once your treatment is over. I’m sure you’re in good hands, so the main thing is to keep talking to them about what is happening, and let them know if it becomes too much to deal with. Otherwise, try to keep calm about it if you can, and deal with it as best you can. Remember to stay healthy, eat well and look after yourself while going through this treatment.
        Perhaps you’ll also get a reply from someone who is following this thread, though I have no way of telling!
        All the best Ethan

      • Potentially it’s how you are reacting to the ECT during the procedure or the anesthetic. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a Dr just an EEN so I’m only attempted to shed some light on your situation but talk to your treating team about it because my experience is limited and you shouldn’t take what I say as the reason. I’ve assisted with prep, recovery and general monitoring of pts pre/post ECT treatment about 10 times and I’ve noticed ppl having ECT have different reactions during there procedure and it can vary even with the same person. By this I mean how much their muscles constrict during the procedure. I’ve noticed patterns – if the there is only slight seizing of the toes it’s a “good reaction” according to the Dr I assisted. If the upper body or limbs is effected it “not a very good reaction”. The better the reaction the quicker the recovery and shorter periods of uncomfortable confusing sensations post procedure but either way all of the ppl have all described similar things that you are trying to describe. They just can’t quite find the words to voice there current state. In my limited experience if it happens during the first 0-8 hrs post op it’ might elated to the anesthetic. Your not fully under during the procedure . The older the pt the worse the anesthetic effects them. But just try to be as calm as you can be pre op because it’s always confusing for ppl during a course of up to 12 sessions+ maintenance sessions if required but the results in improved mood/ decreased intrusive thoughts once the course is fully completed by the pts and ex pts I’ve talked to so hang in there buddy. Things will get better for you. It’s very difficult what your going through but discuss your experience with your treating dr. Ask follow up questions if your not happy with the response but once it’s all done you’ll be happy with your own responses to life and don’t worry about the elusive thoughts just do your best to try and be positive and know that it will help. Just rest as much you can pre/ post op. Make sure you eat and drink water post op when you can stomach it and don’t chase those annoying elusive thoughts. Go into the court yard get a bit of fresh air and natural light. Good luck champion

        • Hi there,
          Thanks very much for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience to help Em. It’s very kind of you, and hopefully they’re following the comment thread.

  • It is the most bizarre thing, experiencing this. This happens fairly regularly to me. Last night while watching TV I started dozing. The next thing I was “seeing” words that weren’t there, geometric shapes etc. Sometimes loud noises will trigger this (while I am dozing while watching TV) or a hypnic jerk. It is very strange.

    • Hi Kathy,

      Thanks for your comment, and yes I agree they can be very strange! If it starts happening while you are awake, then you might want to talk to someone about it. But it seems like quite a common experience which I’ve experienced myself too.

  • I actually love when this happens to me.
    no joking. It’s just a big fun trip with out the drugs which I have never done in my life.
    I just go with it and enjoy the show don’t be afraid, I have been in fires with demons and laughed through it. Your perfectly fine. just pretend your watching a movie or on a ride lay back and enjoy the show.. soon you will be back up and can get on with your boring dull day.

    • Hi Joe

      Thanks for the comment, and uniquely upbeat way of looking at this! In some other article comments, people have talked about just ‘going with the flow’ and waiting out whatever strange thing is happening. Though many other people find they just can’t be so relaxed.
      But if you can find a way to enjoy what your brain is concocting, then that’s great!

  • Hi Ethan.

    Great Site. Thanks for all the helpful information. I have query it is not too serious, but I did not realise that these hallucinations may be abnormal.

    The picture you have shown is almost exactly what I see when I close my eyes, with movements patterns etc that you describe. My question is what happens if the patterns do not stop? They stop when I go to sleep. But if I close my eyes when not sleeping when I am relaxing, on public transport for instance, they do not go away. I feel very relaxed and the patterns/dots do not bother me. I have seen them all my life and thought that everybody did. Do I just have over active eyes? Is there something I can do to stop these images? I have been doing some light meditation and the patterns/dots last the whole time.

    Thankyou for helping me and others understand what may be going on behind our experiences.

    Kind Regards


    • Hi Allan

      Thanks for your comment. That does sound slightly unusual that you see that level of imagery when you are awake as well. I’m not an expert in vision, but I would suggest perhaps talking to an optician or your doctor about it. If you do, I’d be really interested if you’d take the time to come back and let me know what you find out about it.
      Sorry I can’t provide any constructive advice other than suggesting talking to someone who might have more knowledge about it.

  • Ethan,
    A few times a year I experience Sleep Paralysis with hypnopompic hallucinations.
    I didn’t know there was a name for it until I stumbled upon it on a social media site not too long ago. I was obviously relieved and also intrigued that some people described exactly was I had seen – while others had similar but different experiences.
    Unfortunately my sleep paralysis happens after waking, I cannot move or talk – only see. What I can see is a tall dark shadowy figure at the end of my bed and I hear buzzing. I know that there is a lot of science to explain this, but when it happens I can’t help the feeling that somebody is there with me. And it feels strongly masculine.
    On separate occasions, without the paralysis, I hear a woman urgently saying my name as awake. The voice started when I was a little girl. Back then, the voice sounded like a child. It has grown up with me now, and lately it sounds like the voice of a woman. It never says anything but my name. Is this common? Should I be worried about schizophrenia? I’m in my early twenties – which is when people are normally diagnosed with it. And my sleep paralysis started when I was 18.

    • Hi Cc

      Thank you for sharing your sleep paralysis story, and I’m glad to hear you’ve found some peace in knowing that other people also experience it. It’s amazing how much just knowing that you’re not alone can help sometimes.

      What you describe initially does sound like sleep paralysis, but as for your concern with the voice then there’s only really one sensible bit of advice I could give you which is to visit a doctor if you’re concerned. Sorry that’s not as helpful as I imagine you might hope for, but in the space of a comments system like this it just wouldn’t be right for me to start guessing what that could be.

      At the end of the day, many people have some ‘unusual’ experiences or behaviors and they go through life without it causing them any great problems. But if something is causing you distress and affecting your life then there’s no harm in talking to a professional about it.

      Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful, and I hope you get to the bottom of it if you decide to explore it more.

      Best wishes

    • Hi Cc,
      Don’t know if you’ll even see this. I just stumbled onto the site…I’ve been experiencing sleep paralysis and hypnagogic and hypnapompic episodes for as long as I can remember. Some of my first vivid memories are of these episodes. The dark presence you speak of is common. In addition to him, I’ve had a small female dark presence run across the back of my couch during a hypnapompic episode (scared the %&*£ out of me!), a gorilla in my bedroom with a machine gun, my mother in law in my kitchen singing “God Bless America” (she had passed away a few months earlier), out of body episodes, and of course someone calling my name. Usually my mother’s voice. The list goes on and on… At the end of the day I chalk it up to the mind being a complex organ that sometimes can’t settle itself down. Although my episodes are at times stressful and frightening, i try to learn something from them and try to become more lucid when they occur. They suck sometimes, but I’d miss it if I never had another… There’s not a thing wrong with you.

  • Hi, its me again. I need to ask another question. If this happens to me, where i can feel it and see the bugs that are very realistic who should i see? A doctor or someone else? And, does everyone get hypnagogic hallucinations? And i don’t know if i have any of the disorders. But, once, not long ago, i woke up but i couldn’t move or talk for 1 minute. I was scared because i was stuck like that. I tried to scream but i couldn’t. then i finally could move. I was scared. But that only happened to me once. But i mostly see spiders coming at me, or crawling around. Once i thought i saw one on my pillow when i woke up, but it wasn’t really there. I refused to go to sleep, which made me really tired. It makes my heart race and it freaks me out! What should i do?! And should I worry about the morning where i couldn’t move or scream when I was in the bed? should i see someone about it. And once in the middle of the night i kept waking up because i couldn’t breathe! It only happened to me one time before, not any other night. But I kept waking up because i couldn’t breathe. It was right before i got into a deep sleep, i woke up gasping for air, and it made me become wide awake! Should I see someone about that stuff? :(

    • Hi Skye

      Sorry to hear that you’re obviously getting quite distressed by these experiences. In my opinion if you have any medical worries then going to a doctor is always a good thing. Even if there’s nothing you actually need to worry about, it can be helpful to talk it through with a professional and get some reassurance.

      It’s especially important to see someone if you ever have problems breathing in your sleep, so I would suggest seeing a doctor and mentioning that, even if you’re only aware of it happening once.

      The being frozen when waking up could be sleep paralysis, but it’s impossible to say just based on your comment, and also not my place to give diagnoses.

      Not everyone gets hypnagogic hallucinations, but many do – have another look at the section in the article discussing how many people experience them. But again, a doctor would be able to discuss it with you in more detail:-)

      I hope you manage to get some peace about these issues quickly.


    • hello Skye,

      It sounds precisely like you are experiencing Sleep Apnea. As you fall asleep and start to breath more deeply and relax your throat muscles, something changes and your airway becomes obstructed. Your brain receives less oxygen and sleep paralysis or hallucinations can result. You should go to your doctor and get a referral to a SLEEP STUDY lab. Insurance will cover it. You will likely be prescribed a CPAP machine. Ask for 1 will NASAL PILLOWS headgear. I think they are easier to get used to. CPAP forces air through your throat and you will not have apnea events and will stay oxygenated. It has helped me very much. Don’t hesitate to investigate it!

  • Hey, I have a question. I get these at different times. Sometimes its spiders, ants, shadows in my room moving around, once I saw and heard a loud noise of a swarm of bees in my room, and once it felt like i was sliding across my bed and floating. But I don’t know if i have any of those sleeping disorders. And I wasn’t stressing, or anything like that on the list. It just happens and it freaks me out. It happens when I wake up, but not alot. And when I wake up my vision goes out for about 30 seconds. Should I see a doctor or no? Please email me back :) thank you :)

    • I get these every month or two. They’re pretty tame compared to the screaming, can’t snap out of it night terrors my sister used to have. But, I get the same kinds of hallucinations as you. I’ve been attacked by a swarm of buzzing bees, I’ve been watched by a black figure in the corner, and just this morning, I woke up with the sensation of being bitten on my face and seeing spider webs everywhere. I guess I count myself lucky that I’ve never been paralyzed during these, but having to get out of bed and run away from stuff that you’d see in a horror film every few weeks kinda sucks.

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