Ok so onto the part 2 of ‘the brain and the paranormal’ series, I’ve selected this title for part 2 as we are still within the sleep related hallucination area, I will expand to group hallucinations and insanity, sensory deprivation and personality disorders as the series progresses.
This post is about hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations, bit of a mouthful yet they are quite simple, they are sleep related hallucinations and in easy terms a hypnagogic hallucination occurs as we drop off to sleep and a hypnopompic hallucination occurs as we wake!
These can also occur the opposite way around although it is not very common.
These are something that helped me in my research and to understand a lot of the personal paranormal experiences I have had over the years!
These 2 sets of hallucination types will need to be explained separately but are quite similar, as I mentioned before in Part 1 these tend to be entwined with Sleep Paralysis but hopefully once you finish reading this post you will see there is indeed a difference.
What is experienced?
Hypnagogic Hallucinations –
Hypnagogic hallucinations are created once you close your eyes to go to sleep or find yourself in a situation of sensory deprivation like a dark room or quiet area.
They can last from seconds to minutes and seem completely random and uncontrollable.
They create various hallucinations from visual, auditory and tactile.
The auditory hallucinations can be hearing conversations, a loud buzz or bang (exploding head syndrome), someone calling your name, non sensical murmurings or shouting.
Tactile hypnagogic hallucinations can be someone stroking your face, feet or hands, the feeling of wetness, heat in dry or cold room and forms of transient Paraesthesia (pins and needles, crawling skin feeling).
This is a limited list of symptoms but I would like to show you an example taken from Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir Speak, Memory,
“As far back as I remember…I have been subject to mild hallucinations…just before falling asleep, I often become aware of a kind of one sided conversation going on in an adjacent section of my mind, quite independently from the actual trend of my thoughts. Is it neutral, detached, anonymous voice, which I catch saying words of no importance to me whatever-an English or a Russian sentence, not even addressed to me, and so trivial that o hardly dare give examples….this silly phenomena seems to be the auditory counterpart of certain praedormitary visions, which I also know well…they come and go, without the drowsy observers participation, but are essentially different from dream pictures for he is still master of his senses. They are often grotesque. I am pestered by roguish profiles, by some coarse-featured and florid dwarf with a swelling nostril or ear. At times, however, my photisms take on a rather soothing flou quality, and then I see – projected, as it were, upon the inside of my eyelid-gray figures walking between beehives, or small black parrots gradually vanishing among mountain snows, or a mauve remoteness melting beyond moving masts”
This is a brilliant example of hypnagogia, they tend to have either a calming or terrifying effect on individuals and can easily be misinterpreted as a paranormal experience and tend to be misinterpreted as spiritual visions, premonitions or messages from higher entities!
On top of all this there is what is known as a hypnic jerk which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to……this when you suddenly wake up as your dropping to sleep due to the feeling of falling or losing balance but actually you’re laying down in your bed, this is generally misinterpreted as floating above your bed and then landing as you wake! Unfortunately we really don’t have the ability to levitate however cool that might be!
Hypnopompic hallucinations Hypnopompic hallucinations are what I would consider answers for a lot of my own paranormal experiences especially early on in life, these hallucinations can be undeniably terrifying or exceptionally calming, you wake and see, hear and/or feel something in the room with you, the difference from this and sleep paralysis is that you can move, you can still jump out of your bed or run away whilst experiencing it!
These are a great deal less common than Hypnagogic hallucinations but have a rather lasting effect on a sufferer!
These can be difficult to differentiate from reality, a lot of reports explain how it seemed so incredibly real!
These hallucinations can be greatly detailed and can be projected in to the room the individual is in, as you can imagine this tends to stay with an individual, you will tend to hear people say “I’ll never forget one time when…….”
Take this example from Oliver Sacks books ‘Hallucinations’ of Donald Fish a regular sufferer of Hypnopompic Hallucinations:
“I wake from a calm sleep and perhaps a fairly normal dream with a shock, and there before me is a creature that even Hollywood couldn’t create. The hallucinations fade in about ten seconds, and I can move when I have them. In fact I usually jump about a foot into the air and scream…. The hallucinations are becoming worse – now about 4 a night – I am now becoming terrified of going to bed. The following are examples of what I see:
A huge figure of an angel standing over me next to a figure of death in black.
A rotting corpse lying next to me.
A huge crocodile at my throat.
A dead baby on the floor covered in blood.
Hideous faces laughing at me.
Giant Spiders – Very Frequent.
Huge hand over my face. Also one on the floor five feet across.
Drifting spider webs.
Birds and Insects flying into my face.
Two faces looking at me from under a rock.
Image of myself – only looking older – standing by the bed in a suit.
Two rats eating a potato.
A mass of different coloured flags descending onto me.
Ugly looking primitive man lying on the floor covered in tufts of orange hair.
Shards of glass falling on me.
Two wire lobster pots.
Dots of red, increasing to thousands like spattered blood.
Masses of logs falling on me.”
It is easy to understand how these can be misperceived as a paranormal experience, a thousand thoughts of what just happened would go through their head, is the house haunted? Is something attached to me? Has this ‘entity’ been watching me sleep? I think you’ll agree that doesn’t sound much fun. Let’s not forget these can happen in areas that are well lit and also during the day.
The issue within the paranormal community is this exceptionally easy ability to point straight at a paranormal explanation when really there is hundreds of options to go to first, hopefully this series will give investigators some direction prior to a paranormal explanation.
So what is really happening?
The hallucinations can be caused by a lot of factors in somebodies life, these can include heightened stress levels, anxiety, grief, drug use/withdrawal or an erratic sleep pattern, as per sleep paralysis these are much more common for sufferers of narcolepsy, insomnia or mental illness.
It can even occur for people who meditate regularly!
There are multiple reasons behind these hallucinations but it is thought that as the brain ‘slows down’ ready for sleep (the brain goes from beta waves to alpha waves) we become more suggestible between our subconscious and conscious, this enables us to have these hallucinations in any or all of their forms.
With Hypnopompic hallucinations the opposite is happening this is what allows us to experience the hallucinations in ‘everyday’ life.
Sensory deprivation which will be included in this series at a later date can cause these hallucinations to occur and most who study them would use the Ganzfield experiment to allow this state to be extended for the experimenters to study for longer periods.
What should an investigator do?
If as an investigator you come across someone who claims to have these symptoms (please note, people may have one or many symptoms from various posts in this series)
it’s important to find out if it something recent or has just started happening, if possible ask for some more detailed information about sleep patterns, stressful situations, recent loss or drug use.
These details can be quite critical in getting the correct help, these hallucinations tend to be treated with counselling more than a medicinal approach, as always if you feel these hallucinations are having a negative effect on the individual ask them to make an appointment with their doctor and explain that these are quite normal symptoms and the doctor is able to help!
If the individual is suffering with a mental illness and from what you are aware they are avoiding prescribed medication this needs to be reported to your local mental health service as soon as possible.
Knowledge is a good first step in these situations, once the individual is aware of what the hallucinations are there is a good chance they will begin to control them better on their own, it can bring the fear and stress levels down which in turn helps the individual sleep better.
What should an investigator NOT do?
As with sleep paralysis it would help nobody involved to walk in and claim that what these individuals are seeing ghosts, dead loved ones, demons, other Worlds etc etc this will no doubt make the situation very much worse than it already is, setting up night vision cameras to show anything other than an individual overnight that nothing is with them as they sleep will begin to solidify the concept that these experiences are paranormal and a danger is very much present!
Every flashing light from EMF Detectors, every voice recorder, every reference made by paranormal teams regarding the history of a place is going to make everything much much worse for the individual!
Thanks for reading and I look forward to your feedback!
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1. Hypnagogia – the unique state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep – Andreas Mavromatis
2. Hallucinations – Oliver sacks
3. An introductory study of hypnagogic phenomena – Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
4. Replaying the game: Hypnagogic images in normals and amnesics’ – Stickgold, R., Malia, A., Maguire, D., Roddenberry, D., & O’Connor, M
- Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks
- Hypnagogia – the unique state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep – Andreas Mavromatis