Hypnagogic Hallucination: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications

What are Hypnagogic Hallucinations?

Imaginary sensations that seem real are known as hypnagogic hallucinations. It is also referred to as waking sleep hallucinations that occur when a person is drifting to sleep.(1) Hallucinations mean seeing, hearing, or smelling something that is not actually present.

Primarily, hypnagogic hallucinations involve seeing things that are not present. It can cause confusion as it is difficult to distinguish between hallucinations and reality.

What Causes Hypnagogic Hallucinations?

Hypnagogic hallucinations are most common in teen and young adults, it decreases with age. A study was performed on people aged 15 years or older. It was found that 25 percent experienced sleep-related hallucinations.(2) It is also observed that females are more likely to have Hypnagogic hallucinations than males.

There are a few risks associated with hypnagogic hallucinations, which are:

Sometimes epileptic seizures are the cause of hypnagogic hallucinations and when this is the case, hallucinations occur in short visual fragments.

Symptoms of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

In hypnagogic hallucination, a person imagines very realistic events or objects right before falling into deep sleep. This makes a person wake up from sleep imagining the hallucination is real.

A person under stress also has auditory hallucinations which are simple and do not have any real meaning or purpose. The sounds include beeping, high-pitched noise, popping noise, unclear noise, or random noise.

In severe cases, complex hallucinations occur that involve voices and rapid thoughts. It sometimes makes a person believe the voices are real.

How is Hypnagogic Hallucination Different from Sleep Paralysis and Lucid Dreams?

Hypnagogic hallucinations are the perception of things that are not real. Lucid dreams are realistic dreams occurring when a person is asleep.

Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being unconscious. It is a state of sleep in which the person is physically immobile but mentally conscious. The physical immobility along with difficulty in breathing and muscle tightness causes fear as it makes a person feel they are frozen in place.

Complications of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

In some severe cases of hypnagogic hallucinations, people can injure themselves. Such as accidentally jumping out of the bed and hurting self. Sometimes they injure themselves if they are hallucinating that a bug is crawling on them by the act of removing the bug or trying to snap it away.

When to Consult a Doctor?

Mostly, hypnagogic hallucinations are harmless. If you feel these hallucinations are causing anxiety or affecting sleep frequently, it gets important to consult a specialist.

If the hallucination is accompanied by unusual sleepiness during the day, it might indicate narcolepsy. A specialist should be consulted right away.

Treatment for Hypnagogic Hallucination

If the underlying cause of hypnagogic hallucination is treated, the condition can also gradually decrease over time. Focusing on getting enough sleep may also help in decreasing the frequency of hallucinations. According to the national sleep foundation:

  • Teens of age 13-18 should get 8-10 hours of sleep.
  • Adults of 18-64 should get 7-9 hours of sleep.
  • Adults of 65 years or older should get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Following the below-mentioned steps may also help in decreasing the hypnagogic hallucination:

  • Avoid going to bed with stressful thoughts as you may wake up extremely tired.
  • Go to bed at a regular time and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Sleep in a cool environment and practice good sleep hygiene.
  • Avoid alcohol or any type of drug that may be causing hypnagogic hallucination.
  • Before starting or stopping any medication make sure to consult a doctor.
  • If the hypnagogic hallucinations are causing anxiety, a psychiatrist should be consulted.

Hypnagogic hallucinations mostly resolve on their own. If someone has it occasionally and they are not causing concern, no need to worry. If it is causing stress a medical professional should be consulted. If there is an underlying cause of this condition treatment should be taken. This will help in improving the quality of sleep and further the quality of life.

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