Friday, March 5, 2010

Hallucinatory Hypnagogic Sleep Phenomenon

Hypnogogic (when falling asleep) and hypnopompic (upon awakening from sleep) hallucinations are another sleep phenomenon that I've experienced very frequently throughout my life. These are defined as a variety of sensory experiences that are had in the liminal states of consciousness that occur when transitioning into or out of sleep. They are classified as hallucinations due to the fact that is no objectively "real" source of these experiences, as they are believed to arise from the mind itself.

They are often linked by science to various sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, or at least to times when over-exhaustion or stress is altering our sleep patterns. In my web-searches on the topic I've seen it said more than once that if one is experiencing these types of things outside of any evidence of a sleep disorder that it is very likely that they are experiencing psychotic episodes and should be medicated accordingly. (Personally, I think that's one of the most ridiculous statements out there from an institution that would love to pathologize every state of consciousness outside of slack-jawed docility. )

I've found all sorts of interesting things that people have seen and heard while in these states - bugs or other creepy-crawlies coming out the walls seems popular, as does humanoid figures of one variety or another. Auditory hallucinations are also common accompaniments to these events, and some also experience tactile ones as well. My own tend towards faces, and an occasional distant and fading figure, many times accompanied by voices that feel very much inside my mind (as opposed to perceiving them as having come from outside).

Many people find these experiences extremely frightening, and seek help thinking that they are losing their minds, or just looking for any way to avoid having to experience anything that bizzare again. I've never personally found them frightening. From time to time they can be a wee unsettling, but that is due to the particular way in which these manifest with me. I've asked others their opinions on the matter, and I've never talked to anyone - even within occult circles - that gave these any spiritual weight. I'm still personally on the fence with some of my experiences. Others, though, I dismiss as nothing but a strange sleep-state experience.

I would be interested in hearing about hypnopompic & hypnogogic hallucinations that others may experience, and what they make of them. I'll tell you a little more about my own.

I get these probably about 1/5 of the year. They will come in flaps, happening nightly for 3 days to 2 weeks, and then disappear for a few months, only to reoccur. What makes them puzzling to me is that during the flap the hallucination will always be the same, although every flap has a different repeating event. It is this persistent repetition during the onset of these incidents that really sets me to wondering about them.

Sometimes I will awake to see an inhuman face right up next to mine, which will fade as I awaken to full consciousness. If I drew these faces for you, I'm sure you'd find them horrible - but I've rarely ever gotten a bad feeling from them; and the few times that I did it was more a mild state of anxiety related to knowing I knew why that face was there, but had lost that understanding as I awoke.

Other times I will awaken with a set of numbers running through my head which I know hold a deep importance, but that info will fade as I awaken. Sometimes it's not numbers but a phrase or word or name that I feel strongly is somehow very important or that needs to be communicated or remembered or applied in some way, but again, as I awaken it fades into nothingness.

Once or twice during such a flap after a few nights of a repeating message, I had made sure that I had a pen and paper bedside so that I could write down that info as I awaken. I managed to actually get it written down on one occasion, but when I read the message once fully awake it was utter nonesense.

There have also been times when these recurring experiences also happen at the same time each night. I will look over at the clock as I'm waking and see the same time as the night before. This time-stamping doesn't occur very often with these, but it has happened on more than one occasion.

I've often wondered if there was some significance to these repetitive occurrences. I certainly do have these experiences where it is a one-off; just one event, one night. The one-off appearances tend to be of the seeing a figure as I awake. Those tend to be more angelic looking and much smaller, as if off in some astral distance, rather than right up in my grill like the other ones that come during longer flaps.

As I said, I've never been frightened by these experiences as others have. Though most everyone I've told about them thinks it's creepy as hell! (My husband gets a shiver and cringes whenever I tell him I saw another face upon waking.) I guess from being very used to lucid dreaming, and other non-ordinary dream-states and states of consciousness in general has made me somewhat immune to the sense of frightening High Strangeness that many encounter when having one of these experiences.

I just recently heard of another one of these phenomenon that has been classified as a rare sleep disorder, which I've experienced at least a dozen times or so in my life. It's called Exploding Head Syndrome, and involves being awakened by a huge crash or bang, only to find that there was no external sound, that it had been "dreamed". In some cases, though much less often than the loud noise occurs, the sound of a voice yelling is what awakens the person. Again, people report being terrified by this. I've experienced both the loud crash, and the voice shouting.

I admit that once I actually did get up and check to see what the bang was, as it had sounded like someone pounding on my front door, and that was one of the first times that that particular phenomenon had happened to me. Another time, it sounded as though my grandfather yelled my name. I knew this was a dream-phenomenon, but I called him to make sure he was ok as I had never experienced the awakening as a voice that I recognized previously. The times I've heard the voice it's usually been a deep, male voice exclaiming "AH!" or "HA!" seemingly right in the room near me.

Both the hypnagogia and the Exploding Head Syndrome are said to occur more frequently during periods of sleep-deprivation or exhaustion. I can't say that I've ever made that kind of connection between tiredness and these experiences, so I don't know if that is true for me or not.

So, what do I think is going on? I think the Exploding Head Syndrome is just one of those things, like when you jerk yourself awake as you're drifting off. (I always seem to dream that I'm walking down stairs and miss one, with the fall jerking me awake as you get that sick "falling" feeling in the pit of your stomach.) I think many of the hypnagogia is likewise your dream-brain just not turning off fast enough as you emerge into wakefulness. But what of the repeat appearances of the same face, or the same numbers, or the same phrase over many nights? That seems very odd to me. But maybe I'm just reading too much into things.

In any case, these are just more of the strange things that I experience. I would love to hear other people's stories - ESPECIALLY if you've also had identical hallucinations occur over a period of several days or weeks. Theories as to what is going on are also welcome.

1 comment:

  1. For most of my life, at certain times of the year, it seems, I fall into this deep deep sleep and *wake up* to see a dark, very dark, shape in the corners of the room or it appears we are in this other room, but I can't tell. He is most assuredly a very strongly male presence and he "talks" without moving his lips.

    As a small child, he frightened me but I never cried or hollered or anything. Now, I shake and shiver as I try hard to wake up, because at times, I can tell this dark dark shape wants something from me and I have a sense of that I should know what it is. I don't.

    He, uhmmm, "bites." Serioulsy, and I'm talking years and years before any vampire novels or movies, in these dreams, this man oftentimes bites my neck, as a child I wasn't sure what he was doing. It's not horrible, not at-all, it can be truly very pleasant. Sometimes.

    The other sense I have of this presence is strength...he is very very strong. What he wants I can't say.

    Since I had a very rural and buccolic childhood in the Bluegrass section of Kentucky, these images had no real basis of my day-light life. I've always been an incredibly vivid dreamer, always always dream in full-on colour, never black and white.

    However, when living on the Texas-Mexico border, these dreams darkened, terribly. They came much more often, the presence seemed vastly different and much more, uhmmm, unfriendly. Those dreams were so bad I would often stay up to avoid falling into deep sleep.

    In one of those dreams, I actually turned and told that presence to leave and never come back. He didn't after that.

    Odd? Demanding a dream character leave, once and for all. However, he terrified me so much, I finally had to make him go away. We moved a few months more of these visits. Yet, the other one, he still comes several times a year.

    Take care.