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What are Hypnagogic Hallucinations?

Some of us have strange experiences when we sleep. Maybe it’s a nightmare, or the feeling of someone is sitting atop your chest, making it hard for you to move or breathe. These are commonly known as sleep disturbances, the latter more well known as sleep paralysis. Similarly, hypnagogic hallucinations are another type of sleep disturbance.

Read on to find out more about it and its symptoms.

Some of us have strange experiences when we sleep. Maybe it’s a nightmare, or the feeling of someone is sitting atop your chest, making it hard for you to move or breathe. These are commonly known as sleep disturbances, the latter more well known as sleep paralysis. Similarly, hypnagogic hallucinations are another type of sleep disturbance.

Read on to find out more about it and its symptoms.

What are Hypnagogic Hallucinations?

As the name suggests, hypnagogic hallucinations are hallucinations that occur just as you’re falling asleep. You might feel, hear, see or smell something that’s not real or present. If you’re having a visual hallucination, you may see patterns, shapes, faces of animals, and other vivid images. Auditory hallucinations involve hearing sounds, voices or music. Sensory hallucinations include experiencing bodily sensations, such as weightlessness or the feeling of freefall.

As per the data sourced by the Sleep Foundation, 86% of hypnagogic hallucinations are visual, 8-34% are auditory and 25-44% are sensory. (1) A trademark feature of these hallucinations is that they are pretty straightforward and do not have a storyline, unlike dreams. You may see a kaleidoscopic image (visual hallucination) or hear a doorbell ringing (auditory) without any attached plot. These hallucinations are also short-lived and occur as you’re falling asleep, indicating that your sleep cycle has just begun.

As with sleep disorders, hypnagogic hallucinations can seem scary and confusing when you’re experiencing them. But these hallucinations are quite common, and there’s largely no cause of concern. Let’s learn a little more about this unusual sleep experience to demystify it.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations VS Nightmares & Hallucinations

Hypnagogic hallucinations are different from nightmares, and are starkly unlike hallucinations related to mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Firstly, unlike schizophrenic hallucinations, hypnagogic hallucinations are experienced only when you’re falling asleep. Secondly, a person experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations is aware of the fact that these sights, sounds, and experiences aren’t real. People with schizophrenia believe their hallucinations to be real.

A key difference between hypnagogic hallucinations and nightmares is the time when these hallucinations occur. While nightmares occur during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of your sleep cycle, hypnagogic hallucinations occur when you’re falling asleep.

Also, nightmares are vivid dreams that tend to have a storyline whereas hypnagogic hallucinations are usually just a series of moving images, sometimes accompanied by sounds or sensory experiences. Nightmares are particularly frightening but hypnagogic hallucinations may not evoke this kind of terror, although they may feel unsettling.

Hypnagogic hallucinations causes

Here’s where experts have hit a blind spot as they are not entirely sure what causes these hallucinations. Some research shows that neurological activity responsible for causing daytime hallucinations and dreams is responsible for hypnagogic hallucinations. However, more evidence is needed to substantiate this finding.

However, people with sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia and certain mental health disorders, are more likely to experience hypnagogic hallucinations. However, experiencing these hallucinations doesn’t mean that you have a sleep or mental health disorder.

Hypnagogic hallucinations treatment

Hypnagogic hallucinations themselves are harmless. If you’re not experiencing any other symptoms, you do not need to visit a doctor. However, if you experience hallucinations during the day, it could be a result of a mental health disorder or side effects of a certain type of medication. Seek professional help if this is the case. Once the underlying disorder or cause is treated, you’ll stop experiencing hallucinations.

If you experience hypnagogic hallucinations along with other symptoms of sleep disorders, like excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, or loss of muscle tone, you should seek medical attention. Once the underlying disorder is identified and treated, your hallucinations will cease to manifest.

If you’re someone who doesn’t have a sleep or mental health disorder, but has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you can always improve your sleep quality by consuming sleep supplements. Setu offers a range of non-toxic, nature-based sleep supplements that are non-addictive and non-habit forming. They simply regulate your sleep cycle and promote relaxation, which helps you enjoy better sleep.

Our Sleep: Restore Magic Mints contain melatonin, a natural hormone that helps you fall asleep, and jatamansi extract, an herbal ingredient that promotes relaxation, to help you unwind and snooze better.

You can also try our strawberry-flavoured Sleep: Relax Gummies, which contain melatonin, L-theanine, chamomile, and passion flower extract – all relaxing ingredients that help induce deep, satisfying sleep.

Some of our other sleep supplements include Sleep: Sustain, Sleep: Relax Mints, and Sleep: Restore Strips. These sleep supplements should be consumed at least 60 minutes before hitting your bed. However, our fast-acting orally-dissolving strips can be consumed 30 minutes before bedtime.

FAQs

1) Can my eating habits determine the quality of my sleep?

Eating meals at regular times and consuming a light meal no less than 2 hours before bedtime helps you sleep better. Include foods like almonds and walnuts in your diet, as they are rich in melatonin.

2) How does a doctor diagnose sleeping disorders?

You will be asked about your sleeping habits and may be advised to maintain a sleep diary. Doctors may also ask you to perform blood tests to check your thyroid levels, MRI scans to study your brain function, and several other such tests.

3) Are melatonin supplements safe?

If you’re opting for melatonin supplements, ensure that you choose a reputed brand that offers nature-based supplements. It’s also good practice to discuss your decision with a registered health practitioner before starting any supplements.

Which part of the brain plays a key role in sleep?

The hypothalamus, a peanut-sized structure located deep inside the brain, contains groups of nerve cells that act as control centers. The hypothalamus affects sleep and arousal in your body.

References:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/hypnagogic-hallucinations

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