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Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Hypnagogic hallucinations are vivid sensations that involve visual, auditory or tactile experiences that occur when a person is trying to fall asleep or about to wake up. Let us go into the details of hypnagogia in the following article and learn more about these vivid episodes.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Have you ever experienced hearing voices or seeing visions when you are about to fall asleep or while waking up from your sleep? Sometimes, one may even experience a sudden 'jerk' or 'falling' sensation when sleeping. This may be a sign of hypnagogic hallucinations or hypnagogia. This is a transitional state that occurs between wakefulness and onset of sleep. During this period when one is on the border of consciousness and sleepiness, one may experience hallucinations, out-of-body experiences and even sleep paralysis hallucinations. We shall have a look at hypnagogia in detail in the following paragraphs that will help you understand this condition better.

The hypnagogia definition states that, it is the vivid visual, auditory, tactile and other sensory experiences that occur when a person is in between the transition of wakefulness to sleep (hypnagogic) or from sleep to wakefulness (hypnopompic). This condition was first described by French psychiatrist, Jules Baillarger in 1846. He called this phenomenon as psycho-sensory hallucination. The term 'hypnagogic' was coined by Alfred Maury in 1848 that stands for hypno (sleep) and agogos (induced).

Hypnagogia may be the cause of many medical as well as psychiatric factors. Following are some of the causes -
  • Sleep deprivation may lead to visual hallucinations as the tired mind begins to play tricks due to lack of rest.
  • Physical or emotional exhaustion blurs the threshold of sleep and wakefulness.
  • Extreme stress can trigger hallucinations in some people.
  • When the brain is deprived of external stimulations, it begins to pick up threads from the memory and hallucinate these past perceptions.
  • A change in the electrical or neurochemical activity of the brain may lead to an aura related to smell and/or tactile (touch) hallucination.
  • Use of drugs like LSD, ecstasy, mescaline, marijuana, PCP, etc. may trigger hypnagogia.
  • Brain injury, damage or lesions may cause change in brain function, leading to hallucination.
  • Many people suffering from mental illnesses like schizophrenia, etc. may suffer from these hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations.
The symptoms of hypnagogia include vivid auditory, visual and tactile sensations when a person is between the state of sleepiness and wakefulness. These people may feel as if they are about to fall down or experience jerking. This often wakes them up as they try to avoid falling on the ground or hitting themselves. Many people may hear voices that sound evil or devilish. They even find themselves submerged or drowning in water. These hallucinations make them feel frightened, nervous or paranoid.

Visual hallucinations cause people to see colored spots, circles or scary objects like a giant insect walking down their walls or observe some animal or person around them. Some people experience cenesthopathic feelings. This includes feelings of picking, rubbing or touching light. They may find changes in their body or experience levitation. When experiencing hypnagogia, one may even see the objects around them floating or see their room getting filled with water, etc.

People who suffer from these hallucinations are embarrassed to talk about their condition. They may feel it to be a sign of some mental illness. They may feel scared that they might be losing their mental balance and such vivid, real-life like experiences terrify them. However, one should seek hypnagogia treatment as it will help reduce these terrifying sensations. The doctor or psychiatrist will evaluate your condition and begin a treatment accordingly. The treatment may involve prescribing anticonvulsants, antidepressants or antipsychotic medications. Sleeping pills may be given as it will help in relaxing during the night and stop the hallucinations. Also, the pills will help minimize the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep period, as it is during this period when the hallucinations occur.

If one suspects someone they love or know or are themselves suffering from hypnagogic hallucinations, seek medical help. This condition can be treated and the underlying medical or mental problem may be brought under control. This was some information about hypnagogia that will help you understand this psychiatric condition better.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and does not in any way attempt to replace the diagnosis of a doctor. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.