photo of a woman in bed experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations

Do strange images of geometric shapes, people or animals appear out of nowhere as you lie in bed at night? Perhaps you’ve heard voices or noises which can’t possibly be real?

If so, it could be that you’ve experienced what’s known as sleep hallucinations.

Despite leading to the occasional leap out of bed in sheer terror, they are usually harmless. And many people experience them at some point in their lives – including me.

My nocturnal flying geometric manifestations

As a child, multicolored geometric shapes would regularly swoop across my bedroom, just as I thought I was drifting off to sleep. I remember simultaneously 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 my mathematical manifestations.

Perhaps I should be grateful for my geeky hallucinations – especially compared to the disturbing experiences some people have.

What are sleep hallucinations?

Sleep hallucinations are imaginary experiences that happen during the transition between being awake and asleep, and can feel confusingly real.

They are also referred to as hypnagogic hallucinations if they occur while you’re falling asleep, or hypnopompic hallucinations if they happen while waking up.

The hallucinations are usually visual, such as seeing shapes or figures in the dark. But they can also involve your other senses.

The hallucinations can be vivid and frightening in some cases. If you see a giant creature in your room or hear a scary voice, it’s understandable that some people will jump out of bed and turn the light on to check what’s going on!

image explaining that hypagogic hallucinations occur while falling asleep and hypnopompic hallucinations while waking up

How many people have sleep hallucinations?

A commonly quoted statistic in medical articles comes from research conducted in 1996. The team interviewed 4972 people in the United Kingdom by telephone. They found that 37% had experienced hypnagogic hallucinations. And 12.5% had experienced hypnopompic hallucinations.

In 2000, another team of researchers surveyed 13,057 people and found that 38.7% had experienced hallucinations at some point during the day or night. 24.8% of the sample had experienced hallucinations at sleep onset, and 6.6% upon waking.

A sign of Narcolepsy

For some people, sleep hallucinations can be a sign of narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder which involves sudden daytime episodes of:

  • Unexpectedly falling asleep
  • Sleep paralysis
  • Hypnagogic hallucinations

If you have these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical advice.


The main symptom is imagining events while falling asleep or waking up that are not real. Researchers believe that the most common type of hallucination is visual.

However, it’s possible to experience hallucinations that correspond to any of your senses:

  • Visual – such as geometric patterns, shapes or light flashing. Sometimes complex forms like animals or people.
  • Auditory – voices talking, phone or doorbell ringing, music, hissing, humming or whistling.
  • Olfactory – pleasant or unpleasant smells.
  • Tactile – insects crawling on the skin, rubbing, stroking, tapping or tickling sensations. Perhaps also feeling weightless, distortions in the body, flying.
image of a woman in bed with patterns and animal forms around her

Not the same as nightmares

Telling the difference between dreaming and hallucinating isn’t always obvious in the moment. But sleep hallucinations are not the same as nightmares.

When you wake up from a nightmare, you’ll know you were asleep (even if it takes a little while to come back to reality).

Sleep hallucinations, however, can feel like they are really happening. You know you’re awake, but you’re not convinced it’s merely your imagination playing tricks on you.

Coexisting with sleep paralysis

Sleep hallucinations sometimes happen during an episode of sleep paralysis.

During sleep paralysis, you might be unable to move your body in bed, which in itself is often frightening.

The hallucinations that accompany it can range from seeing a presence in the room to seeing and feeling a creature sitting on you.


The International Classification of Sleep Disorders manual suggests two causes related to brain function, though also states that more research is needed:

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

Health websites, such as, suggest that sleep hallucinations can be caused by other conditions, such as:

  • Sleep disorders like narcolepsy or sleep paralysis
  • A medical condition or medication use
  • A mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse

Risk factors

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, they are more common in children and young adults. Women might experience them slightly more often than men.

Some factors are thought to increase the likelihood or severity of the hallucinations, including:

  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Mood disorders like bipolar disorder or depression
  • Insomnia
  • Epileptic seizures


Do you need to see a doctor?

If you’re experiencing anxiety or losing sleep because of regular sleep hallucinations, it’s a good idea to speak to a doctor or sleep specialist.

They would ask you about your hallucinations and look at your medical history and other factors like medication and lifestyle. They might decide that an overnight sleep study is needed to find out more.

They would also look at the possibility of another condition causing the episodes. And if they find one, give you the appropriate treatment.

What can you do to help reduce them?

Here are some ideas which might help keep the hallucinations at bay:

  • Get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule and don’t allow yourself to become sleep deprived.
  • Avoid recreational drugs.
  • 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 sounds that are not real, 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. 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 an activity you find 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, 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.

Your thoughts

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

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

1,034 thoughts on “Sleep Hallucinations: Things That Go Bump In The Night”

  1. 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.

    1. 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

  2. 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.

    1. 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

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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 :(

    1. 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

  5. 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.

    1. 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

  6. 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

    1. 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!

  7. 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

    1. 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.

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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

  10. 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.

    1. 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

  11. Scared and freaked out.

    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.

    1. 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

  12. 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).

    1. 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?

      1. 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!

    2. 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

  13. 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!

    1. 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!

  14. 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.

    1. 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

  15. 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

    1. 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

  16. 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 :-\

    1. 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.

  17. 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!?

  18. 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?

    1. 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

  19. 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.

    1. 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

  20. 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?

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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

  21. 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.

    1. 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

  22. 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!

    1. 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:-

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

    1. 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

  25. 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!

    1. 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:-)

      1. 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.

        1. 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

  26. 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’s an extreme distraction for me ..i am dying ..please help me

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

  27. 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! :)

    1. 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.

  28. 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

    1. 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

  29. 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.

    1. 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.


  30. 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.

    1. 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!


  31. 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!)

  32. 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

    1. 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

  33. 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.

    1. 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

    2. 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 –


      1. 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

      2. 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

        1. 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.

  34. 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.

    1. 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.

  35. 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.

    1. 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!

  36. 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


    1. 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.

  37. 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.

    1. 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

    2. 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.

  38. 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? :(

    1. 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.


    2. 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!

  39. 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 :)

    1. 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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