What are hypnagogic hallucinations? (with photos)

Prescription drugs can cause hypnagogic hallucinations.

Hypnagogic hallucinations are hallucinations that occur on the boundary between sleeping and waking up. They can occur when people are falling asleep or just starting to wake up, and tend to be extremely vivid, looking like an Oz Technicolor after the black-and-white Kansas of everyday life. Many people experience hypnagogic hallucinations at some point in their lives, but recurrent intense hallucinations can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that may require treatment.

Hypnagogic hallucinations are more common in young children.

Visual, auditory, tactile, and kinetic sensations can be experienced during hypnagogic hallucinations, and everyone experiences slightly different ways. Some people, for example, may feel like they are falling and get up abruptly to avoid hitting the ground. Others may hear voices when they are trying to fall asleep or have a vivid sense that someone or something is in the room. Sensory experiences, such as the sensation of being submerged in a swimming pool, are also not uncommon.

Hypnagogic hallucinations are usually very vivid.

In some cases, hypnagogic hallucinations can be frightening to the people who experience them. They can include vivid and frightening images, including out-of-scale images, which can make the hallucinations seem even more disturbing; people can see giant spiders on the walls, for example, or feel like they’ve shrunk to a minuscule size in bed. Vivid experiences can also be brought to mind throughout the day, causing unexplained images or sensations to filter into someone’s consciousness at an unexpected time.

In some cases, hypnagogic hallucinations can be terrifying to those who experience them.

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The cause of hypnagogic hallucinations is not fully understood. These hallucinations tend to be more common in people with sleep disorders, especially narcolepsy, but they can also appear as a side effect related to prescription drugs, and drug users often experience them as well. Hypnagogic hallucinations tend to be more common in young people, especially children, which could be because their minds are still developing and forming pathways, which can occasionally lead to some cross wires.

Hypnagogic hallucinations tend to be more common in people with sleep disorders.

If someone has numerous hypnagogic hallucinations, repetitive or otherwise, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to check for any health issues that could be related to the experiences. If no cause is evident, a psychologist or similar mental health professional may be able to explore subconscious causes and help the patient deal with the hallucinations. Seeing a psychologist can also provide helpful tips for people who are shaken or disturbed by hypnagogic hallucinations, even if the hallucinations continue to occur.

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