10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

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“Ohayon, Maurice M., and Colin M. Shapiro. “Sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders associated with posttraumatic stress disorder in the general population.” Comprehensive psychiatry 41, no. 6 (2000): 469-478.”

Are you experiencing vivid colors, or especially those odd images before falling asleep? Perhaps, some sounds or voices in the darkness of your bedroom too! If so, you are not alone and you have a creative brain. However, those images or shapes with vivid colors can hamper your sleep as well. They are called hypnagogic hallucinations.

Hallucinations are often confused with illusions and dreams. The two forms of sleep-related hallucinations are called hypnogogic and hypnopompic hallucinations.

Many people experience this hypnagogic hallucination on regular basis. It is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep – the hypnagogic state of consciousness. Lucid thoughts, lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis are some of the mental phenomena which occur during this ‘consciousness stage’. You will be fully conscious but physically immobile. The hallucinations are referred to sensory perceptions, usually visual, also, auditory, sensory, or any other sensory perception.

Hypnopompic hallucinations occur upon waking and may also be accompanied by sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis is much more common in hypnopompic than in hypnagogia. Here are the ten most common causes of hypnagogic hallucinations.

10 Most
Common Causes Of Hypnagogia

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1. Narcolepsy

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

The sleep cycle of the person with this mental disorder, Narcolepsy, gets affected and it might be one of the reasons for hallucinations. The person affected may not have any control over where, when, or how he falls asleep. These causes are not well understood. They may feel powerless and vulnerable. Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis are two main symptoms of narcolepsy.

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2. Stress

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

If you are experiencing or going through very stressful situations at workplace or personally, hypnagogic hallucinations are common. Consult a mental health professional or a doctor for stress relief and therapy to help you cope up with anxiety. This will help stop all your hallucinations.

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3. Consciousness And Subconsciousness

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic
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The hallucinations might be the result of the blending of both conscious and subconscious material in your brain. In the hypnagogic consciousness state, people experience or think illogical thoughts, and are more receptive to subconscious stimuli. Ego-centric thoughts stop and sometimes, we experience a more relaxed, empathetic state of consciousness while hallucinating.

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4. Drug Abuse

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Abnormal neurotransmission or psycho biochemical disturbances is a reason for hallucinations. These disturbances, often, are caused due to drug abuse, particularly, drugs with hallucinogenic and/or stimulatory properties.

It is also possible when the person during withdrawal from drugs, may experience hypnagogic hallucinations – the brain and physiology may end up dealing with both acute and protracted adjustments in functionality.

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5. Lack Of Sleep

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations
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When you are sleep deprived, the body becomes tired, brain activity change and the neurotransmitter concentrations change. You may fall asleep at all odd times randomly throughout the day when you are chronically sleep deprived. This leads to hypnagogic hallucinations.[ref]Goel, Namni, Hengyi Rao, Jeffrey S. Durmer, and David F. Dinges. “Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation.” In Seminars in neurology, vol. 29, no. 04, pp. 320-339. © Thieme Medical Publishers, 2009.[/ref]

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6. Sleep Position

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

There is a correlation between sleeping in a supine position and being vulnerable to hallucinations and sleep paralysis.[ref]Cheyne, James Allan. “Situational factors affecting sleep paralysis and associated hallucinations: position and timing effects.” Journal of sleep research 11, no. 2 (2002): 169-177.[/ref] Sleep experts have made studies and proved that nearly 80% of all reported hallucinatory experiences are during sleep occurring on a supine position.[ref]Kompanje, E. J. O. “‘The devil lay upon her and held her down’Hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis described

by the Dutch physician Isbrand van Diemerbroeck (1609–1674) in 1664.” Journal of sleep research 17, no. 4 (2008): 464-467.[/ref]

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7. Sensory Deprivation

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Are you trying to deprive your sensory organs prior to sleep? You are most prone to experience hallucinations. When you deprive the sensory – especially visual and sound organs – your brain may temporarily alter its functioning or produce an altered state of consciousness.

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8. Drug Supplements

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

Blame those drug supplements you take prior to sleep. Any supplements which might alter the brain neurotransmitters may cause hallucinations. Pills to enhance your serotonin, melatonin also responsible for your hallucinations. Ditch your sleeping pills and find the natural ways to get good sleep.

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9. Trauma

Those who have gone through severe traumatic experiences are naturally prone to less sleep which leads to hallucinations. Trauma is related to stress, neurochemical changes, poor quality of sleep, which may all be the reasons for hallucinations.[ref]Ohayon, Maurice M., and Colin M. Shapiro. “Sleep disturbances and psychiatric disorders associated with posttraumatic stress disorder in the general population.” Comprehensive psychiatry 41, no. 6 (2000): 469-478.[ref]

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10. Medical Conditions

10 Common Causes Of Hypnagogic Hallucinations

People affected by medical conditions like epilepsy, learning disabilities, mental disabilities, brain damage, the neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s, sleep disorders etc… are susceptible to hypnagogic hallucinations.


There is no specific treatment for hallucinations, as long as it doesn’t affect your normal life. Hallucinations can be due to anxiety, stress, insomnia, and many other related causes. If hallucinations are very frequent, it may be the sign of mental stress.

  • Refrain from alcohol, drug, and medications which might cause hallucinations. Change the medications,
    if it hinders your sleep too much.
  • Consult a therapist or specialist to discuss your problems to overcome stress.
  • Practice relaxation techniques like meditation just before bedtime.
  • Keep your mind clear of unwanted/negative thoughts.
  • Avoid lying down on the bed and wander your mind on unnecessary thoughts which might cause stress.

A clear mind before bedtime will give you a good night’s sleep.