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Hypnopompic Hallucinations: Causes, Types, & Treatment

Hypnopompic hallucinations refer to bizarre sensory experiences that occur during the transitory period between a sleeping state and wakefulness.  Imagine sensing that you are slowly transitioning from a sleeping state to being fully awake, when at some point during that transition, you begin seeing vivid geometric shapes, hearing sounds, or even sensing touch.

These sensations could be described as hypnopompic in that you aren’t fully asleep, yet simultaneously aren’t fully awake.  Although hypnopompic phenomena are often reported among those with various types of sleep disorders (e.g. narcolepsy), they are also reported by 6.6% of the general population.  In some cases, these hypnopompic hallucinations may be frightening and accompanied by an episode of sleep paralysis.

In other cases, they may be relatively benign (e.g. geometric shapes) or even pleasant (e.g. feeling as if you are floating).  Experiences of hypnopompic hallucinations are often a result of individual brain anatomy, neurochemistry, and cumulative subconscious material.  These differ from dreams in that they are perceived as occurring while you’re semi-conscious.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11166087

What are hypnopompic hallucinations? Definition.

The term “hypnopompic” was originally coined by Frederic Myers, a renowned psychial researcher of the mid 1800s.  It is important to understand that the term hypnopompic is not always associated with hallucinations.  Additionally, unusual sensory experiences that occur during the oppositional transition of wakefulness to sleep are referred to as “hypnagogic hallucinations.”

Hypnopompic: This term is comprised of Greek word derivatives “hypnos” which translates to “sleep” and “pompē” which translates to “sending away.”  Combining the two derivatives results in one term that signifies sending away or fading (pompē) sleep (hypnos).  Think of hypnopompic as the transition between sleep and waking – usually occurring in the morning.

Hallucinations: This is a term that signifies perceptual experiences with no basis in reality.  Hallucinations can be described as sensory experiences or perceptions, of phenomena that are not actually present.

Hypnopompic hallucinations: Augmenting the terms hypnopompic and hallucinations, we are left with “hypnopompic hallucinations” – which can be defined as perceptual experiences with no grounds in reality that occur during the transition between a sleeping state and wakefulness.  An example would be seeing geometric shapes floating across the room, while transitioning from sleep to being awake.

What causes hypnopompic hallucinations?

The exact causes of hypnopompic hallucinations are generally subject to significant individual variation.  In other words, one person may experience them as a result of a sleep disorder, while another may experience them as a result of ingesting a psychoactive drug prior to falling asleep.  Additionally what an individual sees may be related to unique collective subconscious material and how it’s perceived may be related to the person’s psychological state.

Brain activation: There is evidence that regional brain activation or deactivation of particular regions may be responsible for generating hypnopompic hallucinations.  Specifically, some researchers believe that the frontal lobe of the brain becomes depressed – leading to impairments in reaction time and short-term memory.  It is also surmised that activation of certain regions as a result of REM-like activity, seizure-like activity, or irritation to the cortex could produce these hypnopompic hallucinations.

Research has shown that direct brain stimulation of certain regions can lead to hallucinations, even among those who had never had a previous hallucinatory experience.  If you stimulate various visual centers, you can create simple or complex hallucinations.  If you stimulate auditory centers, a person may hear voices or other sounds.

If you stimulate both, you could end up with both visuals and sounds.  It is possible that bursts of REM-like activity stimulate certain regions in a hypnopompic state, resulting in hypnopompic hallucinations.  The duration and degree to which they become stimulated may predict the perceived length and complexity of the hallucinations.

Brain structure: Those with structural abnormalities of the brain may be more prone to hallucinations, particularly those that are visual (e.g. seeing things).  A person’s structure may be abnormal since birth, or may be abnormal as the result of some serious brain injury.  In many cases, it has been found that lesions to certain lobes of the brain can cause both sleep disturbances and sleep-related (e.g. hypopompic) hallucinations.

Brain waves: It is thought that brain waves are altered during hypnopompic hallucinations. The brainwave pattern may include a combination of theta waves and/or alpha waves, along with intermittent bursts of beta.  It is thought to be a predominantly slow wave state, but the concentrations of these waves may depend on the stage of the hypnopompic transition from sleep to wakefulness.

Someone that experiences a hypnopompic hallucination closer to the point of waking may be more conscious of the experience, but may endure only a very subtle hallucination.  Someone that is closer on the spectrum of hypnopompia to sleep may experience more vivid dream-like hallucinations, but be less conscious of the experience.  Brainwave signatures for hypnopompic hallucinations may also be influenced by REM or covert REM.

Consciousness: During the hypnopompic state of awareness, it is thought that we are in an emotional, dream-like state of consciousness.  During this dream-like state, our brain is attempting to make logical sense of the experience, resulting in our own subjective interpretations.  A hypnopompic hallucination may be related to something that’s been on your mind recently (conscious) or may be something that you had long-forgotten (subconscious).

Illicit drugs: Those that use illicit drugs may experience odd dreams as well as hypnagogic and/or hypnopompic hallucinations.  Among drug abusers, it is known that circuitry can be altered in the brain over time, potentially leading to damage and the death of brain cells.  The alterations in brain functioning from illicit drug usage or abuse may lead to sleep abnormalities and manifestations of hypnopompic hallucinations.

Individuals that experience drug-induced psychosis are known to exhibit abnormal neurotransmission and brain activation as a result of the drug.  It is possible for an individual to fall asleep following usage of the drug, only to transition from sleep to wakefulness with a hypnopompic hallucination.  These hallucinations may be an effect resulting from a combination of REM activity and the drug’s mechanism of action.

Meditation: Those that are advanced in the practice of meditation may report odd sensory experiences upon sleep-wakefulness transitions.  This is due to the fact that meditation changes the brain over time, generally for the better (Read: Scientific Benefits of Meditation).  Most types of meditation allow individuals to remain conscious during the emergence of slower brain waves (e.g. alpha and theta).

Someone who has been meditating for a long period of time may remain semi or fully conscious during the transitory (hypnopompic) phase, and be cognizant of any hallucinations that often occur as a result of REM (rapid-eye movement) or REM-like activity.  It should be noted that different types of meditation affect the brain in unique ways.  Some meditative practices may lead to an enhancement of hypnopompic hallucinations.

Neurotransmission: It is important to consider the role of neurotransmission in the occurrence of hypnopompic hallucinations.  When artificially increased (as a result of drugs or supplements), various neurotransmitters are capable of affecting sleep and/or causing hallucinations.  For example, it is known that increasing levels of serotonin can affect sleep.

Additionally increasing levels of dopamine could result in hallucinations.  Receptor densities for neurotransmitters may also play a role in influencing hypnopompic hallucinations.  If certain neurotransmitters aren’t adequately processed by receptors (e.g. dopamine receptor polymorphisms), it may lead to manifestation of hallucinations, some of which could occur during a hypnopompic state.

Pharmaceutical drugs: There is substantial evidence to support the idea that pharmaceutical drugs, particularly those that influence neurotransmission, could cause hypnopompic hallucinations.  A report published in 2000 documented cases of individuals experiencing hypnopompic hallucinations following the administration of Donpezil, a drug used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

The drug acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, thus increasing concentrations of acetylcholine in effort to enhance cognitive function.  Unfortunately this mechanism of action alters REM (rapid-eye movement) and increases likelihood of hypnopompic hallucinations.  Older reports from the 1980s have reported hypnopompic hallucinations among those taking tricyclic antidepressants.

The medication Amitriptyline is thought to alter sleep patterns and most patients taking the medication are able to realize that the hallucination is non-psychotic.  That said, doctors should still warn patients taking these medications so that they don’t panic or believe it’s a symptom of psychosis.  It should be speculated that a variety of psychiatric drugs may be capable of causing hypnopompic hallucinations.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11106313
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7468295

Psychodynamics: Some speculate that during hypnopompia, unconscious or subconscious material may be unveiled to the conscious, which may contribute to the hallucinations.  Some believe that the hallucinations are manifestations of cumulative unconscious and/or subconscious material. Others speculate that the hallucinations are primed as a result of repetitive conscious material (e.g. the Tetris effect).

A third psychodynamic-related theory is that they’re a combination of both conscious and subconscious. It is also possible that the brain’s own wiring may produce hallucinations independent of all conscious and subconscious material.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2660156/

REM activity: It is possible that REM (rapid-eye movement) or REM-like bursts in certain regions of the brain lead to hypnopompic phenomena.  In the hypnopompic state, people are thought to be experiencing some rapid-eye movement (REM) activity, while simultaneously becoming semi-conscious.  During this REM state, people may report vivid imagery, that could be produced as a direct result of rapid-eye movement.

The imagery from the REM may temporarily linger, resulting in reports of hypnopompic visual hallucinations – the most common type.  It is important to also consider the fact that rapid-eye movement may lead to perceptions of sounds and other sensations (e.g. touch) in addition to solely visual phenomena.

Sensory deprivation: There is evidence that sensory deprivation can lead to hallucinations during both hypnagogic and hypnopompic states.  Should you engage in frequent sensory deprivation, your brain realizes that it’s not receiving either auditory, visual, or other input.  The brain is constantly scanning the environment for these major sensory inputs that are tied to human evolution and survival.

Since the brain isn’t able to find any environmental inputs, it fills in the gaps in sensory information by generating a hallucination.  This may be a sound, a sight, or a combination of both.  In the event that you engage in sensory deprivation prior to sleep, you may increase your odds of hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4354964/

Sleep deprivation: There is evidence that sleep deprivation and restriction could cause hypnopompic hallucinations.  Sleep deprivation changes brain activity, hormones, and neurotransmission – all factors that can influence hypnopompic phenomena.  Chronic sleep deprivation may increase likelihood for hallucinatory experiences upon waking from a sleeping state.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19961/

Conditions associated with hypnopompic hallucinations

There are many conditions associated with hypnopompic hallucinations.  In some cases the conditions may be a direct contributing cause to the hypnopompic hallucinations, while in other cases these conditions may indirectly contribute to the hallucinatory experiences.

Anxiety disorders: Those that experience frightening or nightmarish hypnopompic hallucinations are thought to have anxiety disorders.  Individuals with anxiety are thought to be at greater risk for experiencing “sleep paralysis,” which is characterized by an inability to move during a semi-conscious REM (rapid-eye movement) state.  Since sleep paralysis is commonly associated with hypnopompic hallucinations, and anxiety disorders are associated with sleep paralysis, it makes logical sense that anxiety could increase likelihood of hypnopompic hallucinations.

The exact mechanisms by which anxiety triggers these hallucinations may be unknown.  However, it could be due to the medication a person is taking to treat their disorder, it could be a result of neurochemical concentrations, poor sleep quality as a result of the anxiety, or overactivation of the fear centers (e.g. the amygdala).

Bipolar disorder: Those with bipolar disorder may be prone to hallucinations during hypnopompic states when manic or hypomanic.  These states are characterized by elevated moods, but also by decreased total sleep and increases in concentrations of various neurotransmitters such as dopamine.  Additionally brain activation and brain waves are thought to shift as an individual is in a state of mania or hypomania.

It should be thought that those with bipolar disorder may experience hallucinations during hypnopompic states as a result of altered brain activation.

Brain lesions: It is known that brain lesions can affect brain activity, decrease input, and inhibit cognitive function.  Lesions to areas of the brain involved in sensory processing (e.g. sight, sound, touch, etc.) may lead to hallucinations as a result of lesion-induced sensory deprivation.  When an area of the brain becomes damaged, it can restrict our ability to perceive certain senses.

This restriction over the long-term may result in our brain filling in the gaps with its own hallucinatory projections.  It is known that lesions are also capable of altering REM sleep, possibly increasing likelihood of experiencing hallucinations.

Depression: Those who are depressed may attempt a cocktail of medications to overcome their low mood.  These medications elicit powerful effects on concentrations of neurotransmitters, leading to both perceptual and mood alterations.  It is possible that the psychiatric drug or drugs a person is taking for their depression may cause hypnopompic hallucinations.

In addition, oversleeping and/or undersleeping are associated with depression.  Both of these habits influence brain activity during sleep.  Increased sensitivities to hypnopompic hallucinations may occur among those who are depressed, particularly cases of major depression with psychotic features.

Epilepsy: It is known that there’s a symbiotic relationship between epilepsy and sleep; each affects the other.  There have been reports of “hypnopompic seizures” as a result of abnormal brain activity resulting from epilepsy.  In some cases, individuals may report unusual sensory phenomena such as seeing strange shapes or hearing odd sounds as a result of the seizures.

In some cases, it is thought that epileptic seizures can influence whether a person experiences hallucinations during the onset of sleep (hypnagogic) or onset of wakefulness (hypnopompic).  Many speculate that hypnopompic seizures during sleep may be so subtle, that they may remain undetected and/or go unreported.  For this reason, it is important to carefully review electroencephalogram activity to detect these seizures.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21030341

Schizophrenia: In many cases, those with narcolepsy are mistaken as having schizophrenia as a result of hypnopompic hallucinations.  That said, it is possible that someone with schizophrenia may exhibit hypnopompic hallucinations as a result of faulty dopaminergic neurotransmission, brain activation, and/or even the result of taking a certain medication.

Those with schizophrenia are thought to have abnormally high levels of dopamine with chaotic firing in certain regions of the brain.  In theory, it is possible for the brain of an individual with schizophrenia to generate a hallucinatory experience prior to waking as a direct byproduct of the mental illness.

Sleep disorders: Those who have preexisting sleep disorders (e.g. narcolepsy) are more likely than average to report hypnopompic hallucinations.  In fact, many consider hypnopompic phenomena as being extremely common among individuals with narcolepsy.  In the past, those exhibiting hypnopompic hallucinations as a result of a sleep disorder were often misdiagnosed as having a mental illness.

These days doctors realize that the hypnopompic phenomena are abnormal sensory experiences that result directly from the sleep disorder.  In addition to narcolepsy, individuals with other forms of REM dysfunction are likely to experience hypnopompic hallucinations.  During reports of hypnopompic hallucinations among those with REM dysfunction, a polysomnogram is capable of pinpointing when they occurred.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9628155
  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15009814

Sleep paralysis: Those that experience episodes of sleep paralysis, (feeling fully or semi-conscious but being unable to move the body as a result of REM atonia), are at increased risk for experiencing hypnopompic hallucinations.  In many cases, these hypnopompic phenomena may be reported as supernatural or paranormal.  In this case a person’s hypnopompic hallucination may be generated as a result of beta wave bursts during a dream-like state (REM).

There are many sensory experiences that are reported during sleep paralysis, some of which may correlate with your hypnopompic hallucination.  For example, if you experience a demonic attack during sleep paralysis, you may perceive demonic entities during the hypnopompic state.  In the event that you have an out-of-body perception during sleep paralysis, you may report vestibular-motor sensations (e.g. feeling as if you’re floating) as a hypnopompic hallucination.

Stress: Those with abnormally high levels of stress often report sleep problems.  Chronic stress can lead to insomnia, which can lead to reductions of sleep quantity and quality.  Over time, the entire circadian rhythm gets thrown off-kilter and problems with the sleep cycle are exacerbated.

If you’ve experienced a nervous breakdown or are in constant “fight-or-flight” mode from sympathetic nervous system stimulation, your entire neurochemistry will have been altered.  In other words, your neurotransmitters, receptors, regional activation, and brain waves will have all changed from the stress – all of which may increase likelihood of experiencing hypnopompic hallucinations.

Supplements: People that experiment with various supplements, particularly those that affect neurotransmitter concentrations may be increasingly susceptible to hypnopompic hallucinations.  Altering neurotransmitter and/or receptor activity is known to affect sleep.  If you’re taking a supplement like 5-HTP (to increase serotonin) or L-Tyrosine (to increase dopamine), you may find that your sleep changes.

During supplementation, you may notice changes to your sleep, and at some point you may even notice a hypnopompic hallucination.  If you start experiencing these hypnopompic hallucinations, it’s important to realize that the supplement or “stack” that you’re taking is altering your brain activity during sleep.

Trauma: Those that have endured traumatic experiences (PTSD) are more likely to experience sleep-related problems.  Someone with a history of trauma may be unable to tone down their sympathetic nervous system to fall asleep at a reasonable time.  They may be sleep deprived or victim to chronic sleep restriction as a result of their inability to relax.

Additionally the brain may be so fixated on the trauma, that the regions responsible for maintaining vigilance stay “on” while a person is asleep. This may lead to not only poor sleep quality, but abnormal EEG activity during sleep, which may lead to hypnopompic hallucinations.  These hallucinations may be related to the trauma, may be fear-inducing, or may serve to further interfere with sleep quality and duration.

Variable sleep schedule: Someone with a sleep schedule that is inconsistent may be increasingly prone to hypnopompic hallucinations.  Constantly altering when you go to sleep as well as when you wake up means that you may not be aligned with your natural circadian rhythm.  Being unaligned with the circadian rhythm may lead to altered brain activation and neurochemicals.

This alteration as a result of a highly varied sleep schedule could lead to increased likelihood of a sleep disorder and/or hypnopompic hallucinations.  A common example would be those who engage in “shift work” – requiring frequent adaptation to varying sleep-wake cycles.  Those with greater variation in sleep times tend to have a decreased quality of sleep and are more likely to report hypnopompic phenomena.

Types of Hypnopompic Hallucinations

There are various types of hypnopompic hallucinations that you may experience.  Perhaps the most common is that of seeing visual images such as objects, people, light fragments, etc.  Another common type of hypnopompic hallucination is auditory or hearing sounds that aren’t based in reality, but are being perceived by the brain.

Visual (Imagery)

Some researchers believe that visual hallucinations are the byproduct of the following factors: brain anatomy, neurotransmission, and psychodynamics.  In other words, the combination of your brain anatomy, neurotransmitter activity, and cumulative unconscious and conscious processes serve to influence these visual hallucinations occurring during the hypnopompic state.

Although the precise neural mechanisms are difficult to pinpoint, there may be commonalities within the brains of those experiencing visual hallucinations during hypnopompic states.  One proposed mechanism is that irritation or minor seizure-esque activity is exhibited within visual processing areas of the cortex.  If this irritation occurs on the primary visual cortex, simple visuals are seen (e.g. shapes).

If the irritation is experienced within both the primary visual cortex, and other visual areas, more complex hallucinations may be seen.  EEG readings can confirm certain aspects of this hypothesis as well as experimental studies involving brain stimulation of these regions.  Should these visual areas become disrupted during a sleep-wakefulness transition, hypnopompic hallucinations may result.


  • Complex figures
  • Geometric shapes
  • Figures
  • Lines
  • Morphing shapes
  • People
  • Shadows

Visual hallucinations are most commonly reported among those who are feeling drowsy.  This drowsiness may be characterized by certain brain waves and the fact that a person is still partially in a sleep state, despite being semi-conscious.

  • Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2660156/

Auditory (Sounds)

The second most common type of hypnopompic hallucination is that of perceiving sounds or voices.  These sounds may be subtle and occur for several minutes, or they may be loud and may only occur for seconds.  Auditory hallucinations may be perceived as alarming (such as that of something loud) or in some cases pleasant.

It has been thought that these auditory hallucinations may be related to REM (rapid-eye movement) with a simultaneous degree of waking consciousness.  That said, these sounds may be generated by abnormal brain activation of the auditory cortex.  The greater the activation, possibly the more complex the sounds.


  • Animals
  • Banging
  • Buzzing
  • Music
  • Talking
  • Television
  • Whistling
  • Wind

You may also hear sounds related to something that you were thinking about (psychological priming), REM-based dream activity, or a random sound stored in your subconscious.  In some cases, both visual and auditory hallucinations occur in a hypnopompic state.  When both occur, the sounds may be distinct from the visuals or directly related to the visual content.

Tactile (Touch)

While tactile sensations are less common than visual and auditory hallucinations during hypnopompic states, they still occur.  Tactile hallucinations are relatively common in cases of sleep paralysis.  Those that experience a sleep paralysis hallucination may feel as if they are being held down with pressure or report varying degrees of muscular pain.

The tactile sensations may be a result of REM-induced atonia, in which a person is incapable of moving their muscles during rapid-eye movement.  Should you experience REM during a hypnopompic state, you may become semi-conscious and notice that you feel pressure on your chest or pain within your muscles.  The cause of pain may be a result of resistance, panic, or trying to get out of the REM state.


  • Bodily pressure
  • Chest pressure
  • Massage
  • Pain
  • Pins or needles
  • Tickling

Vestibular-Motor (Movement)

Another type of hallucinatory experience that people report during hypnopompic states is that of vestibular motor or movement hallucinations.  Since the hypnopompic state is generally associated with less pleasant experiences than hypnagogic states, these perceived sensations of movement may be unpleasant and related to another hallucination.  Those that report getting abducted by aliens or demons may feel as if they are being picked up and moved.


  • Floating
  • Flying
  • Jolted
  • Rocking
  • Shaking

In other cases, the hypnopompic movement hallucinations may be more pleasant or neutral.  Some people report out-of-body experiences, sensations of floating, feeling as if they are flying, falling, or traveling at an extremely fast speed as hypnopompic hallucinations.

Other Types (Less Common)

In addition to hallucinating visuals, sounds, and touch during a state of hypnopompia, several other hallucinatory subtypes may be experienced.  These include olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste).  Usually when these hallucinatory subtypes are reported, they occur in conjunction with one of the aforementioned (more common) subtypes (e.g. visual, auditory, etc.).

  • Olfactory (Smell): Certain individuals may report smelling things that weren’t actually present in their hypnopompic state.  While smells may be related to foods, in other cases they may be neutral smells such as fresh air.  In extreme cases, some people may claim to smell blood, rotten flesh, or noxious odors such as gasses.  Realize that hallucinating smells during a hypnopompic state isn’t considered the norm, but may occur.
  • Gustatory (Taste): Some people claim to have tasted pleasurable, neutral, and unpleasant items as a hypnopompic hallucination.  If you experienced a gustatory hallucination during hypnopompia, it may be related to foods that you’ve been thinking about, a food that you’ve always liked, or possibly something extremely unpleasant related to a nightmare that you experienced.  For most individuals, hypnopompic gustatory hallucinations remain uncommon.

Hypnopompic Hallucinations Treatment

There are various treatment options available that may help reduce the likelihood and/or intensity of hypnopompic hallucinations.  Keep in mind that certain protocols may prove to be more beneficial for certain individuals, while other protocols may be better suited for others.

Brainwave modifications: If you wish to improve sleep quality and decrease abnormal brainwave activity, you may want to consider neurofeedback, brainwave entrainment, or some sort of neural stimulation.  There are many types of brainwave entrainment for example, that alter your brainwave state prior to falling asleep.  The idea is that by altering your brain waves, your brain will create different neurotransmitters and have an easier time transitioning between sleep phases, reducing the likelihood of hypnopompic hallucinations.

Cut alcohol and/or drugs: If you use alcohol, nicotine, stimulants, or other substances that affect perception and brain activity, try cutting them from your consumption for awhile and determine whether your sleep improves.  If you don’t want to cut them completely, you’ll never know if they were contributing to your hypnopompic hallucinations.  For those that don’t want to immediately quit their habit, try reducing consumption and determine whether that helps.

Pharmaceutical drugs: In some cases, a person may benefit from a medication such as an antipsychotic, antidepressant, or even a sleeping pill to improve their sleep quality.  Specifically, those with underlying mental illnesses and/or neurological conditions may actually improve their sleep by taking certain pharmaceutical agents.  On the other hand, it is important to realize that various pharmaceutical drugs are known to cause hypnopompic hallucinations.

If you suspect that the drug you’re taking is contributing to the hypnopompic hallucinations, you may want to talk to your doctor about possible dosing adjustments, treatment restructuring (e.g. time of day that it’s taken), discontinuation, and/or switching to a different drug.  Many people don’t realize that sleep oddities like hypnopompic hallucinations can be a direct result of pharmaceutical agents.

Improve sleep (quality + quantity): Another method for preventing or reducing the occurrence of hypnopompic hallucinations is by making a conscious effort to improve your sleep quality and quantity.  Since many sleep abnormalities (including hypnopompic hallucinations) are a result of poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation, correcting these two facets and maintaining healthy sleep hygiene may reduce their occurrence.  This means going to bed at a reasonable time, and waking up after you’ve gotten sufficient sleep.

Sleep disorder treatment: Since a majority of individuals with hypnopompic hallucinations have an underlying sleep disorder, it is important to treat that particular condition before expecting the hallucinations to subside.  This may mean working with a sleep expert, keeping a sleep journal, maintaining a strict sleep schedule, and considering medication (if necessary) to regulate your sleep.  If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder, seek a thorough evaluation from a medical expert to investigate your suspicion.

Sleep position adjustment: You may want to consider making adjustments in your sleep position to stop hypnopompic hallucinations from occurring.  It has been suggested that the “supine position” or sleeping on your back will increase the likelihood that you’ll end up with hypnopompic hallucinations.  Try shifting your sleep position to sleeping on your left side, right side, or even your stomach to determine whether it helps.  The tactic of adjusting sleep position is effective for stopping sleep paralysis – a condition associated with hypnopompic hallucinations.

Stress reduction: Those with high levels of stress are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to getting quality sleep.  Their brains are producing stimulatory neurotransmitters, their hormones are imbalanced (heavily skewed towards cortisol), and they are constantly in fight-or-flight mode.  By counteracting the stress via a relaxation-inducing activity (at least once per day for 5 to 15 minutes), you will improve sleep quality and reduce the likelihood of hypnopompic hallucinations.

Supplements: Certain supplements may help reduce the likelihood of hypnopompic phenomena, while others may increase it.  It may take some self-experimentation to find what works best for your individual biology and neurochemistry to enhance your sleep quality, and decrease sleep oddities such as hypnopompic hallucinations.  Examples of supplements you may want to consider include: melatonin, 5-HTP, L-Tryptophan, and valerian root.

Target underlying medical conditions: Any underlying medical conditions that you may have could be causing abnormal brain activation or improper transitions between phases of sleep, which then lead to hypnopompic hallucinations.  It is important to get medically evaluated to rule out various things that may be causing sleep abnormalities and hallucinatory experiences.  Should you have an underlying medical condition, particularly one that affects your brain, treating it may correct or reduce the occurrence of hypnopompic hallucinations.

Coping with hypnopompic hallucinations

There are several ways in which you can learn to cope with hypnopompic hallucinations.  These coping techniques may be especially helpful if you find yourself resisting the hallucinations or find them disturbing.

Acceptance: The easiest way to cope with hallucinations during a hypnopompic state is by accepting them.  In other words, when they occur, don’t panic and realize that they are being generated by an altered state of consciousness or abnormal brain activity.  Rather than freaking out thinking they are a bad sign, just accept them as a normal sensory experience as a result of sleep.

It may take time to accept them, but by accepting them, you aren’t letting them activate your fight-or-flight response (sympathetic nervous system) or further impair your sleep.  Even if they are fear-provoking hallucinations, accepting them should reduce their intensity.

Realization: The next thing you’ll want to do is consciously remind yourself that they aren’t real – they are false perceptions that have no grounds in reality.  Remind yourself of this, especially if you are on the verge of panicking.  If you are experiencing a visual hallucination, remind yourself that your brain is generating some abnormal activity in the visual cortex.

Sleep journal: I highly recommend keeping a sleep journal, especially if you have sleep problems and/or are frequently experiencing hypnopompic hallucinations.  A sleep journal will help you track your sleeping habits and factors that may have contributed to sleep problems (e.g. drugs, drinking, etc.).  By using a sleep journal to track your sleep, sleep-related experiences, and factors that may have influenced your sleep – you may be able to come up with ways in which you can prevent hypnopompic hallucinations from occurring in the future.

Therapy: In some cases, you may want to seek out the help of a therapist, possibly one that specializes in sleep to help you correct your sleeping habits.  A therapist may also suggest some ways in which you can cope with your hypnopompic hallucinations should you experience them in the future.  Additionally, certain therapists may help you try to make sense of these hallucinations if you believe that they have some sort of personal meaning.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Below are some frequently asked questions directly pertaining to hypnopompic hallucinations.  If you have any other questions, feel free to submit them in the comments section below.

How long do hypnopompic hallucinations last?

For a majority of individuals, the hypnopompic hallucinations are extremely short.  They may last anywhere from a fraction of a second to seconds, or from seconds to a couple minutes.  For most, the longest you’ll likely experience a hypnopompic hallucination is a few minutes.

That said, if you’re taking a certain drug or supplement, there’s a chance that hypnopompic hallucinations can be prolonged.  Those taking psychoactive or brain-altering substances may perceived hallucinations that persist for substantially longer than several minutes during a hypnopompic state.

Do hypnopompic hallucinations have a secret meaning or significance?

Generally hypnopompic hallucinations have no secretive meaning or substantial significance.  Think of them as bizarre sensory experiences as a result of altered or abnormal brain activity.  While many people may assign them meaning such as a hidden message from a deity, they are really nothing more than odd regurgitations from the brain.

You are free to interpret them however you want and/or assign them special meaning, but they shouldn’t be considered hidden esoteric messages from the universe. In some cases, they may be related to a particular problem that you’ve been consciously working on or trying to figure out and may provide you with insight or a new way of perceiving that problem, but this isn’t as common.

Are hypnopompic hallucinations good or bad?

Hallucinations that occur during a hypnopompic state may be perceived as good, bad, or neutral.  From an objective perspective, they should be considered neutral in that they are nothing more than bizarre sensory experiences stemming from alterations of brain activity.  That said, if they provoke feelings of fear, they may be subjectively perceived as “bad,” whereas if they’re pleasant, they may be perceived as “good.”

Have you ever experienced hypnopompic hallucinations?

If you’ve experienced hypnopompic hallucinations, or hallucinations during the transitory period from sleeping to wakefulness, feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.  Discuss the specific hallucination, including whether it was visual, auditory, tactile, or a combination of multiple senses.  Also be sure to mention whether you believe there was a specific root cause of your hypnopompic hallucination (e.g. sleep deprivation) or whether it was just a normal, bizarre occurrence.

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{ 42 comments… add one }
  • sarah July 16, 2015, 3:45 pm

    I had Hypnopompic hallucinations from the age of 3 and I am still struggling to come to terms with why I had them so early in my childhood. My hallucinations were visual which included regularly seeing Disney characters watching me when I woke up. These weren’t nice though, one being the evil stepmother from Cinderella staring down at me while I slept. The other being the candle and the clock from beauty and the beast.

    When I was about 5 or 6 I had one of my last ones which left me most terrified… I woke to see two men and a woman at the end of my bed. One man was tall and lanky the other average and stocky and the woman in the middle had dark curly hair. But their eyes glowed like that total eclipse of the heart video. It was bone chilling. I never could move during them and they lasted a few seconds but they still terrify me to think of them now (I’m now 23).

    I have also suffered from depression and anxiety ever since I can remember and have had a very adverse childhood. I still struggle to this day with mental illness and these Hypnopompic hallucinations are something I think about daily and wonder why and what caused me to have them so young. Hopefully some counselling will figure that out :). Thanks :)

    • Alyssa August 20, 2016, 6:36 am

      Hey, it sounds like we’ve had pretty similar experiences. My first hypnopompic hallucination occurred when I was three, and also involved a Disney character! I woke up in the morning to a pair of large, floating Mickey Mouse gloves in front of me. There was a violent sensation of being shoved out of bed by the hands, and then I was on the floor crying as my mom came to see what all the noise was about.

      It was all very vivid, and to this day I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up on the floor if what I saw wasn’t real. My childhood also wasn’t very nice at times and I too struggle with a number of mental illnesses, but I’m not sure that contributed much, other than perhaps anxiety. I haven’t had anything that intense since then. I have however throughout childhood, and even to this day, hallucinated spiders crawling over me or into my blankets, especially when emerging from a nightmare about them (I have pretty bad arachnophobia).

      Usually I just see them, but occasionally I can feel them too. It’s never pleasant, but by now I’m used to it enough that I can recognize it as not real almost immediately and just relax. Thankfully, (knock on wood) I’ve never experienced sleep paralysis or hallucinated figures, because that sounds downright terrifying.

  • Laura July 26, 2015, 7:34 pm

    I just had a hypnopompic hallucination. I went to bed in my easy chair because I had been suffering from a bad chest cold and I have COPD. I have major depressive disorder, panic disorder, anxiety disorder and had been under quite a bit of stress in the past few years prior to this happening. That night I went to sleep and at around 3:30 am I awoke to myself spinning in my easy chair and a whooshing noise, kind of like being in a strong wind.

    My eyes were open and the room that I fell asleep in looked exactly the same to me. I was somewhat afraid but somewhat wasn’t because. I was intrigued. I was very curios as to what was going on. I knew something was amiss. I just stared around the room quietly and took it all in. My easy chair was spinning around in in circles and then stopping.I was able to leave my body and watch the whole thing. That’s when I got a little upset or shook up. After it was all done I tried to call out for my husband and my mouth wouldn’t move or my body wouldn’t either.

    Now I am really afraid. What is happening to me? I calmed myself down and fell back asleep. The next day I called the doctor and told them that I thought I had a seizure and they told me it was hypnopompic – hypnagogic jerks. I am a chronic pain patient. I don’t do drugs nor drink and now they took all my pain medicine from me. I suffer from very painful chronic conditions.

  • Deb August 20, 2015, 7:08 am

    I awoke last night to go to the bathroom. Upon getting out of bed, there was a huge, transparent white blooming plant blocking my way to the bathroom. The flowers resembled giant, corkscrew shaped, energy saving light bulbs. I pushed it away and it began gently swaying back and forth. Suddenly, the flower jumped toward the wall and morphed into a different plant that resembled the wild flower “tansy.”

    I continued on to the bathroom. Nondescript transparent white shapes and figures were flowing from the bathroom walls. Upon returning to bed, the plants had disappeared and I quickly fell back to sleep. The following day, I jokingly asked my husband if he saw huge plants in our bedroom. He of course said “no,” but did say I was making strange movements when I got out of bed to use the bathroom.

    This ‘dream’ lasted about 90 seconds. I found it to be a bizarre and intriguing experience. No element of it was frightening or joyful. I have had strange dreams in the past, but this is the first time I have had a dream while awake and walking. I am relieved to know what it is and that it is a somewhat common occurrence.

    Why did this occur? I average 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, but this week it has been 3 or 4 hours of sleep. I have a very stressful life, but this week has been more stressed than usual. The only meds I take are an occasional ibuprofen, and rarely drink. Also, I changed a corkscrew shaped, energy saving light bulb a few hours before going to bed.

  • Erin October 16, 2015, 2:03 pm

    I am 29 years old and have been experiencing hypnopompic hallucinations every once in a while since high school. I’ve probably had around 30 of them happen. I have tracked, for me, that they occur more often when I am stressed or out of my comfort zone, like adjusting to something new. My hallucinations occur when I wake up suddenly in the middle of the night. For the most part I usually hallucinate a giant spider descending directly above me.

    A lot of times I’ll jump out of bed and turn on the light. Sometimes I’ll wake up thinking that I feel a spider crawling on my leg and I’ll jump up and shake out my blankets. A few times I have hallucinated a male figure at the other end of the room or beside my bed. It’s terrifying and I usually scream myself into full consciousness. It’s so embarrassing!

    One time I woke up, jumped into a surfing position on the bed and insisted my girlfriend at the time to do the same. “Why??”, she asked and I told her, “There are rats.” Frantically she asked, “Where?” and I responded, “EVERYWHERE.” But, then I realized it was way too dark in the room for me to be able to see any rats if they really were there and I had to sheepishly tell her I was “dreaming”. Such a weird thing to deal with!

    • Jess August 16, 2016, 7:17 pm

      My boyfriend’s are so so so similar to this, if not the same. I’d love to chat with you more. We’re trying right now to figure out what to do, or what’s causing them. It’s fascinating really. (He thought he saw gerbils other than rats though hahaha).

      • Valerie Maxwell August 29, 2016, 4:47 pm

        I remember seeing hundreds of bright twinkling lights in the ceiling above my bed, when I was about 9. I had another one about 5 years ago. I’ve also heard my son calling me (I live alone), a doorbell which I don’t have, a ring tone on my phone which is completely different from the phone ring tone, sudden hammering. Recently to been black wriggling geometric shapes.

        I’ve only had 3 in about two months, and was afraid of telling anyone in case they thought I was going dotty. Since researching hypnopompic hallucinations I’m quite reassured. Now if I see more I’ll know what’s happening. I was never anxious, but curious as to what could be happening or why.

  • Kate October 17, 2015, 3:10 am

    When I was younger my hallucinations usually revolved around spiders, but as I got older they become more frightening. I awoke once to see a demon like figure on the ceiling and in the corner of the room, I jumped out bed and sprinted out the door to the lounge where my bewildered flatmate asked me what was wrong. Recalling this event recently, that same flatmate tells me that I looked as though I was running for my life.

    Almost always the hallucinations are visual, however most recently I awoke to the feeling of someone running there fingers over the top of my hand which was laying over the covers of my bed. These hallucinations occur fairly regularly, and always cause me great panic. However, when they occur they are generally short lived and in the long run have not caused me great distress.

  • Jouni October 23, 2015, 12:41 am

    I am a 34 year male and I have had this year several severe hypnopompic hallucinations. Before this summer, they were quite rare, but not non-existent.

    Recently I had the most severe episode when I left backdoor narrowly open for my cat before I went sleeping. Backdoor is in my bedroom. And when cat opened the backdoor and came back home from outside, I woke up. But instead of identifying it as a cat, I saw very vivid and extremely frightening hallucination that some potentially hostile humanoid shaped body entered to my bedroom from the backdoor that I left open. I started screaming as loud as I can and when I put lights on, it was gone and I realized that it was my cat that woke me up and that humanoid shaped body was a vacuum cleaner.

    Second most scary hypnopompic hallucination was when I was sleeping in a hammock tent, in a wild forest. I felt that a hallucinatory dog attacked my hammock tent. Also few years ago I also saw very big hallucinatory spider, that was my first clear episode of this disorder.

    One time it was however the most telling case that genuine deer run towards my tent and distance was at closest only about 1.5 meters. And of course it took some time to process that it was a deer that is running towards my hammock tent! This was not based on pure hallucination, but there was plenty of real world substance, but the overall effect was the same! It is very frightening when a wild beasts is waking you up when sleeping in the forest!

    This is also my hypothesis for the evolutionary root cause of hypnopompic hallucinations. Brain has high level of alertness when sleeping in potentially dangerous stone age environment. And hypnopompic hallucinations are happening when this emergency wake-up mechanism is malfunctioning.

    There have been several other minor episodes too. Almost always they are involving high alertness of brain, when brain feels that environment where I am sleeping is non-safe. Sleeping in a tent in wild forest and that backdoor left open are the most clear examples.

    However, bad and variable sleep and mismatch with circadian rythm has always been present when having hallucinatory episodes. And therefore it is probably the root cause. I am also prone to migraine.

  • Emily October 28, 2015, 5:56 am

    I just had a hypnopompic hallucination. I saw a woman walking that looked like my grandmother but only thinner. I’m studying away from my family this year and i leave alone. It lasted a couple of seconds. I couldn’t move and I was heavily breathing. It’s not the first time I’m experiencing something like this. The past 2 years I’ve had several of hypnopompic hallucinations, mainly visual. Sometimes I saw spiders upon waking up just for a second or people standing in front of me.

    I couldn’t help myself but scream. Few moments later I knew it was not real but it was still scary as hell. Every time I’ve had one of those my mother would run to my room and my sister would wake up to see what’s going on. Now that I leave alone it’s really annoying when it happens cause it makes me feel really afraid.

  • Asterix November 25, 2015, 11:01 pm

    I’m happy to have discovered this page today! Finally did some research on my sleep issues and I’m pretty sure now that they are Hypnopompic hallucinations. The first time it happened was 15 years ago after having spent a brief moment in a war zone. Yet, it was enough time to see its horrors. Came very close to not making it back myself. A few days later, when I finally had a chance to sleep in a proper bed, the first hallucination occurred. It was a man holding a machete, standing there at first and then attacking me.

    I jumped out of bed and rushed it. Started throwing hard punches at him, the light in the room then came on as the person sleeping in the adjacent room heard the noise (that person had also been in the war zone). As soon as the lights were turned on, the hallucination disappeared and I was left standing next to a tall wooden dresser. My hands were full of blood as I had been punching it heavily! I’m pretty sure that this was caused by PTSD from the past event.

    I unfortunately never went looking for a psychologist after that episode, instead went to locate a bartender! I guess they were easier to find in that area. Since them, its been on and off with the these hallucinations. Might not happen for a few months and then I will get one. It always happens when I’m waking up in the middle of the night, between dreaming and full conciseness. I will first see a shadow that quickly transforms for example into an extremely detailed evil creature, spider(s) or tentacles rapidly growing in a corner of the room. It’s never good, always bad and scary!

    I wish I could at least get some pretty butterflies flying in the room once in a while! It lasts a few seconds, I get scared, jump out of bed and in the process wake up my wife. As the article mentions, I can do the “Acceptance” part, but the “Realization” might be tougher as it seems so real. It only last a few seconds, as the “jump out of bed” part usually ends it. Decided to go see a therapist for the first time last week, its time I try and solve these Hypnopompic hallucinations and PTSD that probably trigger them.

  • Debra Scott November 26, 2015, 10:17 am

    I’ve suffered from PTSD, and as a result have had all kinds of sleep disturbances. I have had sleep paralysis, hypnopompic hallucinations, cataplexy and seemingly intractable insomnia. A physician has finally suggested a sleep study, after almost forty years of this constellation of symptoms. I hope to get some improved quality of sleep and quality of life in the near future. One can always hope, right?

  • Miguel Tejeda December 7, 2015, 2:58 am

    My twin brother and I have been experiencing these hallucinations since we were very young. In both of our cases, the hallucinations were visual and audible. It often happened when we gathered with a lot of people during the day, like in parties and other events. We would share our experience and thought it to be normal until we told other people about it. We usually see people and often times we’d carry a short conversation with them (mostly friends and family members).

    In other cases we’d also see animals or insects crawling on us or on our beds. I once experienced one where my room was full of all types of birds. I remember there was a life-size parrot next to me. After we got used to them, we could often snap out of it by realizing that the conditions for those things to appear were impossible. For instance, I one had another experience where I saw two live hens jumping in front of me and as soon as I realized that they couldn’t have come in from anywhere in the house, they disappeared.

    This is still an issue with both of us, but we’ve learned to live with it and not panic. Thankfully I found this page and got to know this was a real thing because I was about to lose my mind due to the fact that no one believed it. It has truly been a relief.

  • Erika Nielson December 12, 2015, 6:09 am

    This article really hit home for me. I identify with other posters on the issues of sleep hallucinations. I have experienced many different types of sleep hallucinations within my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. I have been woken up by seeing geometric shapes and I think to myself “is this real, I must be nuts.” And one time I was about 13, I woke up to purple neon rain falling down around my bed.

    Coming out of sleep when my mother woke me up, she was always an animal talking to me in my sleep. The darker side to these terrors is MORE frequently occurring to me, but this article gives me hope. Since I have been in adolescence and maybe triggered when I was around 4 years old, I have woken up running from bugs. First it was piles of bugs when I was smaller as well as a wasp flying around the house that terrorized me when I went to bed.

    I remember being 16 in camp and falling asleep one night horrified of the spider that crawled across my pillow, falling asleep with my eyes open and screaming in terror to the many spiders coming at my face not long after. These hallucinations have become very common in my life. A couple BIG ones for me were the time I woke up and looked on my pillow (still sleeping) and saw a giant Brazilian cockroach turned upside down crawling trying to get up, I immediately jumped up and ran out of my room down the hall and woke up my parents.

    After minutes I came to. This has happened to me on and off under extreme amounts of stress, trauma and anxiety. Just the other night I got scared from one where I visualized and heard a break in where a man was coming to get me, I have had these terrors before but this one was pretty intense. I ended up waking up in my living room realizing I was running from nothing even though I do remember the visualization clearly.

    It’s hard not to take these accounts personally as I am reading others feel the same way about. Whether it’s intense shaking and horrifying after math of an extreme nightmare or my actual running and screaming out of my subconscious into conscious sleep terrors, I hope that more light is shed on these personal issues that are so daunting to many.

  • Emma January 8, 2016, 11:49 am

    Hi all, it’s comforting to know that so many others out there have wonky brain activity at night too. I’m 28 and have been having hypnopompic hallucinations since being a teenager. They have moved from hypnogogic to hypnopompic. I have been constantly shattered, lacking in energy and having day time naps for years due to bad sleep health. I find I am late to work a lot and cannot wake up due to disturbed sleep most nights.

    I have had CBT for anxiety twice since being 21 and still have daily anxiety now, but it’s at a low level which is livable. However I believe that my anxiety has a lot to do with poor sleep. Christmas 2015 has been a long one, with me waking numerous nights to to see people stood in my bedroom calmly staring at me, shapes in the sea next to my bed (black blobs coming to attack me floating in the waves next to my bed), a metal pole coming towards me, just missing my head and these things happen night in and night out.

    Each time I have woken in shock, embarrassingly shouted and sworn, once leaped across my double bed and smacked my leg on the bed frame, but then realized the people or things aren’t real and I was asleep. My friend stayed over and she said I woke her up clean out of sleep twice in one night shouting. I have never felt like the people would harm me but with the blobs and the pole I jumped out of bed to get away from because I was quite scared.

    The shock of seeing someone/something in my bedroom makes me heart race, I can shake sometimes and sweat quite badly. Due to anxiety I still get stressed or fearful/ wound up daily about very small things, which isn’t great but I am always trying to improve myself and work on lowering anxiety. I do have very random sleep patterns, but that’s because I am constantly shattered from not sleeping properly.

    It’s a running joke that I fall asleep in work meetings in the afternoons and a joke in my family if we are going out at night that they need to phone and check that I’m awake and not napping. Incase anyone else has experienced this, I’ve had night eating syndrome for the last 8 years too. The doctors don’t seem to have an answer to cure it, but through my own experimenting, I found it’s from dieting to stay slimmer over the years. So eating healthy food and a lot of it with exercise helps.

    I think practicing a little relaxation each day and sticking to a strict sleep routine might help in a step towards getting some calm sleep. Good luck to others who are trying to find a solution to good sleep health, it’s nice to know we are not alone.

  • Haley January 18, 2016, 3:23 am

    I can remember having these dreams since I was 13. From 16 until I got pregnant with my second child they pretty much stopped. Now that I’m pregnant with my second, they have came back full force, and scarier then ever. I woke up 2 weeks ago to a tall figure with no face. A week ago I saw a small demon-like figure jump on my night stand and crawl up my wall. That one scared me so bad I shot up terrified. Last night I woke up to a creepy lady staring at me, and when she noticed I woke up, she backed into my closet and vanished. I’m scared to sleep, and just want them to stop!

  • Henri January 22, 2016, 11:24 pm

    I am a male in my mid-60s. My hypnopompic experience appears only after waking while in a sitting position. As soon as I open my eyes the entire room is filled with smoke. This lasts for a period of one or 2 seconds and then clears up. My immediate reaction is that the room is on fire and I jump up only to see it dissipate.

    Usually when I sleep in a sitting position my head drops down to my chest. Perhaps this position cuts off some nerve or blood flow and that creates the visual image. It was helpful to read that we should just accept these occurrences and not worry about them.

  • Julia January 30, 2016, 9:21 pm

    I have had sleep paralysis and hallucinations for about three years now. They usually happen in clumps of time when I am really stressed or sleep deprived.Usually, I wake up to a sound of someone knocking on my bedroom door. I then try to get up to see what it is but I can’t, I usually then see a dark figure come towards me to strangle me. Every time the the figure whispers something in my ear.

    For the first time last night I was only having hallucinations. I felt as if a rat was in the bed, the feeling was so real. I could see it moving around under the sheets. I grabbed what I thought was the rat and started to scream waking up my boyfriend. I could feel it wiggle in my hand, turns out it was my boyfriends hand.This happened three times throughout the night. Each time more terrifying.

    I am exhausted and my boyfriend is exhausted. Whenever it happens I am always so embarrassed, it sounds so crazy and sometimes unbelievable to someone who has not experienced it for themselves. The whole thing is getting really old. Anyone have any suggestions that has helped them? I am especially interested in herbal remedies.

  • Layla Rose February 20, 2016, 8:02 pm

    I have them sometimes, lots of stress recent trauma, chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, & also taking lots of pills (everything from holistic herbs to vitamins to pharmaceutical meds). I hate them. Sometimes they wake me up. A sudden loud noise will wake me up. Not as bad as exploding head syndrome, but pretty damn startling.

    I get startled awake by strange sounds, sometimes a doorbell or bell of some kind, it used to sometimes be a voice but I couldn’t make out what it was saying. When I get the visual ones, I see giant translucent centipedes crawling all over the walls and I’m frozen and can’t move and I think “if I’m still it won’t see me and jump on me.” Scary, yes, but I prefer the visual ones to the auditory ones.

  • Elizabeth February 23, 2016, 5:23 am

    I have been experiencing Hypnopompic hallucinations since I was 18. I think I’ve narrowed the trigger down to chronic stress and constantly changing sleep schedules. I was in the Air Force and constantly flying for 6 years straight, altering my sleep patterns drastically almost every night of the week. I have developed obsessive compulsive behavior because of my hallucinations and extreme anxiety about sleeping every night.

    I have pockets of time throughout the past 7 years of no hallucinations but I could count on my hands and feet how many nights there were. I also wake up with phantom pain in my knees. This is the only time when my hallucinations aren’t coupled with sleep paralysis and I scream in pain until it disappears completely.

    Before realizing that the pain was part of Hypnopompic hallucinations, I went to the doctor multiple times trying to figure out what was wrong with my knees. I didn’t go to a doctor about my actual hallucinations until I got out of the Air Force because I didn’t want to be kicked out for being ‘crazy’. I’ve tried taking melatonin and other supplements but nothing has worked. I spent a few months sleeping with the lights on and that did nothing to help.

    None of my hallucinations are nice or calm like they used to be. When I was younger they were colorful and sometimes foxes. Now it ranges from bugs crawling all over me to demons hovering over me. I try to cuddle as close as I can to my husband and lavender essential oils have helped some nights but it seems like this is probably just something I will have to live with until it finally goes away.

    • Patrick August 13, 2016, 11:54 pm

      Hi Elizabeth, your post caught my attention because what you described sounds very similar to what my Partner is experiencing. He has been struggling with the experience of feeling a presence touching him at night, shaking him or moving on his bed. This almost always occurs when he lays down to prepare to sleep, and while he is still awake.

      It has been awful to see him struggle with these negative experiences and feeling unable to help. I’m sorry for what you are experiencing. If you have any suggestions on what to try, or if anyone else has experienced something similar, I welcome your thoughts or comments. Thank you. Take care. P.

  • Daniel February 25, 2016, 8:32 pm

    I first post my story to the Hypnagogic page but I think I am more a victim of hypnopompic hallucination instead… I have those kind of “presence” occasionally. It happens generally in the early morning. I see and “feel” the presence of a person beside me. It looks soooooooooo real! I’m fully aware that I am in my room and recognize every aspect of it. Generally not pleasant…

    The other day, it was my girlfriend who catches me as I was falling from my bed (on my right). Then I woke up. In my bed, at the exact same position as I was before. And my girlfriend was quietly sleeping on my left. For me, it has to do with stress and I am generally able to connect with situations in the real life. For exemple, I’m looking at some changes to come in my career which will make me unstable but I feel my girlfriend will be there for me.

    Other example, last year, during the night, two persons are standing at the door of my room. They were soooooo real; I can hear them breath! I try to scream to them to leave (no sound came out), they have nothing to do here, this is a private space. And they finally go away. At that moment, I was working in a toxic environment, lot of pressure and no recognition of any kind.

    I already lived something similar elsewhere and it “brings me to my knee”. That “dream” was kind of a protection. That made me realize that I must be very carefull about the situation and that I must protect myself. Nobody can enter my private space and alter my perception of myself. Those toxic persons must go out. Thank you for that article. Great help for me!

  • Rachel March 13, 2016, 12:21 am

    So happy I stumbled across this page. I’m 25, been having these hallucinations for probably less than 2 years, not entirely sure of the start as I didn’t entirely realize what was going on for a while and just assumed I was having weird dreams… I’ve always been a bad sleeper, trouble falling asleep, waking up multiple times throughout the night etc but nothing severe enough to look into sleep aids.

    The only correlation I can come up with is that the hallucinations increase with stress, and will go through phases. I’ll go weeks of having them 3-5 nights a week, and then a couple months with none. Mine are visual, at first it was strange green shapes (like squiggly lines, as if you looked up at the sun too long and looked away) but it was very much the sensation of cob webs EVERYWHERE that I clearly had to flee from.

    I base how “bad” they are on how far I travel from my bed before “waking up” sometimes I just sit up in my bed as if I’m going to get up, but there’s been times I’ve been standing in the middle of my living room, which is downstairs, usually though I end up in my hallway. It’s so strange because there’s a part of me that knows that it’s happening, I have to turn on a light before I can really come out of it, but the phase right before I come out of it is almost the scariest, because mentally I know it’s not, but it seems so real as I’m seeing it.

    It’s always a terrified fleeing feeling- heart racing, heavy breathing, panicked running. Thank god I’m single and live alone so that I’ve not had to explain these random midnight sprints haha they just recently came back more frequently but this time they’re red, and it’s more that there above me falling down, a couple times I’ve found myself “hiding” under the blankets like I scared little kid, a couple nights ago I made it to the top of my stairs with my blanket wrapped around me, I’ve never taken the blanket before and they’ve never been red, it has to mean something?

    Ha anyway it’s great to hear others having some similar experiences, I take low dose Adderall for ADD, and some hormones for imbalances. Other than that there’s really no medications I consistently take, and I’ve been unable to see any other correlations (use of alcohol, certain foods or when I eat or take any meds, etc.). They’ve become less stressful, now when I come out of them I’m more like “damn, again?”

    And then proceed back to bed, at first they freaked me out so much I could barely get back to sleep and couldn’t turn the lights off. Oh, and before the visual hallucinations, I used to think I was hearing a marching band, and at the time it completely made sense in my head. Until the next day when I would realize that there would be no marching band at 3 AM…

  • Julie April 21, 2016, 5:19 pm

    I remember believing that I would sometimes float above my bed as a child. I also suffered with what my mother called “night terrors” during which I would be terrified and cry incessantly, then yawn and return to sleep. Now, at 58, I have begun to have hypnopompic hallucinations.

    Namely, Sharks swimming along the ceiling, spiders crawling on the bed clothes, mice scurrying around and last night Tribble like creatures descending from the ceiling. I sit up to look more closely, and when I turn on the light,they disappear. I then calmly return to sleep. Only once or twice have I been startled or afraid. Mostly,I am just amused.

  • Mary April 25, 2016, 1:59 am

    I am not sure if I have hypnopompic hallucinations or not. Every time I stay out late at a party or gathering or really anywhere where more than two or three people are around me, I have these weird hallucinations through the night. I “wake up” and sit up in my bed embarrassed about sleeping because there are all the people from the previous gathering around me.

    It is like I am at the party all over again but for some reason I am in my bed laying down(that’s why I get embarrassed, I don’t like it when people see me sleep). But the thing is is that I don’t really see people but more like I “know” they are there and a sort of imagine them around me talking and hanging out just like they would in real life. Last night I went to prom and I got home late.

    I woke up and say up in my bed thinking again that there were people all around me so I consciously scolded myself for sleeping in the middle of the gathering (who would just lay down and sleep in the middle of a party?) and realized that I wasn’t wearing a bra so I covered my chest with a pillow. I stayed like this for what seemed like an hour before realizing that I was in fact in my room and it was all in my imagination. However, even after I had realized this the hallucinations did not go away, I kind of just forced myself to be fine with sleeping in the middle of everyone because they weren’t real.

    Usually this happens for short periods several times through the night after long nights surrounded by people, but this time it seemed to go on forever and only happened once. I never feel scared or anxious (except for the embarrassment of being asleep during the “party”) but it feels just like a normal party that I would go to even when I know I am in my room sitting in bed. It’s not dreamlike except for the fact that I never really see anyone’s faces or distinct bodies I just know they are there.

    It’s more of an aggravating thing because it’s almost a guarantee that it will happen if I go to a celebration and it means I’ll lose sleep that night significantly. I’m seventeen and have never taken any drugs(except for birth control, but this has been happening since long before I started it) or drunk alcohol and as far as I know do not have any sleeping disorders. I do feel depressed and anxious a lot but that’s probably just hormones.

    I do tend to get stressed out very easily though, but the hallucinations never make me feel bad except for depriving me of real sleep. I do not know what is wrong with me and this is the closest thing I have found to explain what is wrong with me, but I always have complete control over my body and I know it. I really need help with this!!

  • Jane May 22, 2016, 9:01 am

    Found this site after reading an online article where the author mentioned the hallucinations, almost as an aside. Part and parcel of her everyday life. It’s good to know that it is not unusual. Luckily for me, I tend to see things which do not frighten – hummingbirds, butterflies etc. Interestingly my dad used to see the nasties, rats and snakes. My sister sees people and my brother has the bad dreams where he thrashes about. Is there a genetic link?

  • Greg June 15, 2016, 3:15 pm

    I have hypnopompic hallucinations on occasion. I find I have them more when I am stressed. I had one on a camping trip in a tent. I slept completely in my sleeping bag, head and all, because it was cold. Awoke and forgot where I was so I freaked not knowing why I was in a bag. Screamed “what the F” super loud and woke up my tentmate. Whoops.

  • Shanon July 1, 2016, 12:50 am

    This site is so relieving. Thank you all for posting examples. I’ve had visions since I can remember. I’m 58 now and still have them every night. When I was little, I thought the people I saw were ghosts trying to scare me. I also saw my share of spiders and crawly things. Every night, yes every night.

    Over the years I realized the people I saw were not really looking at me so I concluded that they weren’t out to get me and maybe I was having a vision of my ancestors. I’ve seen photos of them later and that’s who they were, but not all of them. I slept in an antique bed once, and woke up to a man standing over me looking right at me. I couldn’t breathe. I decided he probably died of emphysema in that old bed.

    There has only been one night in my life that I had a peaceful night in which I could freely look around the room open-eyed in the dark and not see anything that wasn’t there. It was the night I moved out of the house after problems with my marriage. It was amazing! I felt so free. I could tell you many more stories but this is my question: Are these what shamans from the past experienced and used to help people?

    I seriously can’t believe it’s just between waking and sleeping. Most of mine happen before I go to sleep. I don’t take any prescriptions, have no health issues, although I do take a Brain Calm (natural vitamin) to help me go to sleep at night, but not every night. I don’t feel like I’m a shaman. That’s not the point. But just because it’s identified as a medical problem, does that mean it’s not spiritual?

    I’ve spent a huge part of my life coming to these conclusions.

  • Karen Milford July 13, 2016, 11:10 pm

    I am really really struggling at night time with literally a frenzy of flying long lace like things who are all over the room. Flying into my hair and face and body so I can feel them. Any help gratefully received. I have to leave the room and am so tired. They are here now.

  • Rebecca July 26, 2016, 2:15 pm

    Best site I’ve come across so far in regards to people sharing their experiences. Making sense of it all now at age 30 I have realised these hallucinations started at a young age not just at 25. All visual. When I was 5 I used to think I could see a tiny army of about 30 or so soldiers marching in pairs in formation on my carpet towards my bed.

    Aged 6/7 I woke up to the feeling of someone erratically tickling my feet that wouldn’t stop. I then saw that doll Chucky at the end of my bed. Would terrify me! The only touch hallucinations I would get, up until I was an adult would be someone tickling my rib cage harder than a normal tickle. It would wake me up but no one there. Age 25. I went through a few traumatic events in my life. I also suffered from a great deal of stress.

    I started to see spiders. Sleeping with bathroom light on to give a night light effect on my room I saw like it was daylight – a spider. No bigger than a golf ball. I jumped out of bed, flicked the light and started flicking the sheets, looking under the bed, flipping pillows to find there wasn’t a spider. Next up would be when I would see tentacles above my face. Sometimes in corner of the room but sometimes just above my face.

    They would be pale neon colors majority of the time. I would wave my hands about my face to make them disappear. Then I’d sit up after 15 seconds and then nothing. The spiders and tentacles were reoccurring at least twice a week. Then it progressed. I would wake up and say the weirdest stuff in a panic state that my house was very unkept so I would grab the laundry basket to make my room look tidier but would put it in the most random spots like on top of my chest of drawers.

    I realized the hallucinations would happen more frequently if my house was unkept. I’d see tentacles and get up and clean. I have had larger hallucinations too; I thought my bedroom wall was being renovated. I spoke to “whomever” telling them I love the rendered wall and it looks great. You’d snap out of it and feel quite embarrassed. My only scary hallucination was when I woke to see a short old lady dressed as a maid with the old school maid hats standing about two meters away from me.

    I closed my eyes out of fear from seeing a figure but when I opened them this maid was face to face. Inches away and her eyes were open with just the whites showing. I screamed, pulled the blankets over my face and snuck my hand out to turn my lamp on to have the lightbulb blow instantly. I slept with the torch from my iPhone on that night. Being a single mum to a toddler at the time I would have the occasional day nap.

    My hallucinations would only happen during my solid sleep of a night time until one day nap. I woke up staring at my chest of drawers and saw a transparent cartoon turtle walking on my chest of drawers. This was one hallucination I enjoyed. I took my time to enjoy the turtle until it disappeared. I moved units and they eased off. I had de cluttered my belongings and felt at ease. Until I didn’t clear off my kitchen bench one night.

    As I look out my bedroom door I can see directly down the hallway to the kitchen. I woke up to see a huge yellow and white pythons sitting on my bench. That lasted longer than usual. A few tentacle hallucinations here and there if I was under a bit of stress and sleep was limited. Skip ahead 2 years I now get them again. I’ve started to sleep in total darkness which has helped. Small lights from my laptop or the air con can trigger hallucinations.

    I even have a crazy thought for 10 seconds that because I leave the lights on or the lights from the laptop etc that neighbors across the road think I have a marijuana farm in my bedroom. (I promise I don’t. Give you my word.) I panic and get up and turn all lights off. Maybe that’s a crazy thought but it’s all around 3am every time. I then saw the transparent word HAPPY in bubble writing coming out of my wall one night not long ago.

    Sorry for the long winded post. It’s so comforting to know I’m not alone and feel a sense of relief submitting my experiences. I do feel that mine could be from stress – unkept house and irregular sleep. I don’t suffer from bipolar etc. I had come to terms with it quite quickly after being diagnosed and my doctor told me not to worry about it if it happens in the middle of the night and to go back and see him if it happens after my solid night sleep. So far, so good. Sleep tight my fellow hypnopompic friends. :)

    • Antonella September 18, 2016, 8:35 pm

      Thank you for sharing, such a relief for me too to know I’m not alone in this experience!

  • Jlyn August 21, 2016, 9:20 am

    I have been dealing with these a long time only didn’t know that was it. I thought maybe a haunting? I just woke to one not too long ago as it is 5 am right now. Usually they are music, my name being called, or something making me yell “What?” and wake myself up to see no one there, smells, whooshing wind like from the roar of the tornado I was dreaming of, a normal size spider on me or the wall, figures, mist, black mist, shadows and others. I do have disturbed sleep from fibromyalgia and sleep in spurts off and on at night. I have bipolar and also on medications. Guess I am not haunted after all.

  • Amy Malone August 21, 2016, 7:38 pm

    My hypnopompic hallucinations just began recently. After the stories I’ve read I am grateful that mine are pretty mild. When I open my eyes in the morning the light fixture and pictures will slide down the wall. I see black lines and an orange textured, moving ceiling. Mine do not scare me but can be dizzying.

    I have found that reducing the visual stimuli in my bedroom helps greatly. This is an affront to my artistic sensibilities. I love pretty junk and lots of pictures. I recently took down the pictures and cleared my surfaces. I was amazed by how much it helped. It is worth the austerity. My visions are far less disconcerting. I am sorry that so many experience the terrifying side of this condition. Maybe this could help?

  • Jackie August 30, 2016, 4:02 am

    I am so glad I discovered this term today and then this site. I have been waking up to seeing people close to my face, at the foot of my bed and hovering for at least 30 years and very recently, I am seeing spiders. I used to think the people were ghosts and am so relieved to know they are not!! I cannot tell you how many times I have woken up screaming and waking my dad, as a kid, and now my husband! I wish this would stop, but at least I now have a name for it!

  • Carole September 4, 2016, 3:23 am

    I have only had one of these hallucinations. In my case it was tactile and lasted about 3 or 4 minutes. I could feel my daughter lying against my back. I laid very still so it wouldn’t stop. My daughter had died when she was sixteen. I felt let down when the feeling stopped. I would love for it to happen again.

  • Parker September 8, 2016, 5:53 am

    I am a lucid dreamer. I have experienced waking dreams many times, but knew I was still dreaming. I recently experienced a different dream experience that has affected me. The Hypnopompic… I have been visited by a “Shadow Person” upon me awaking from feeling it’s presence. But the other night took a deeper turn.

    Asleep I felt a presence and quickly awoke to find a spider creature similar to the movie Alien face hugger creature coming at me on the side of my bed. It darted away when I opened my eyes, But I got up saying “What the f–k is that?”, no paralysis, and saw the thing in the shadows making a nest under my night table next to my bed in my wrinkled sheet.

    I though it was a giant spider. I pulled at my wrinkled bed sheets to see what it was… And there was nothing. Freaked me out! I was awake the whole time. I remember the whole thing. There wasn’t even a moment where I “Came to” to say “This was a dream”. Total straight I’m awake. I’ve been researching this very much since then.

    I was not paralyzed or needed to wake up. To me at the moment it was real in my room and then the creature disappeared when I investigated it more. In hypnosis. I’ve always been a believer in the power of the brain. Very intense what is there behind your eyes. We are the most intensely formed beings in this universe.

    • Antonella September 18, 2016, 8:33 pm

      Mine work like that too, I’m awake instantly but obviously hallucinating and have freedom of movement. We are complex aren’t we?!

  • Kate September 17, 2016, 5:23 am

    I’m so happy to have read through this post and all the comments. I’ve had chronic anxiety for the last ten years and chronic fatigue for the last six years or so, and only in the last 8 months did I start experiencing shadowy shapes or bugs/spiders appear in my vision as soon as I awake up sometimes. It’s something I’ve been telling myself not to be afraid of (for fear of my mental health deteriorating beyond my control, etc), but reading all these comments that are so calm about their experiences have made me feel a little less like I’m slowly going insane despite the endless slow climb out of debilitating chronic fatigue.

    I sleep horribly after if I wake up out of a dream, disoriented and briefly hallucinating a shadow of a crawling beetle. I’m definitely afraid it’ll slowly get worse. Sleeping well is vital to my ability to even function at all the next day… at least I’m glad that its “normal” and not a sign of going crazy. I’m never afraid of what I see… every time I wake up like that I just immediately feel irritated that its happening, knowing that I will not be able to quickly fall back asleep.

  • Antonella September 18, 2016, 8:31 pm

    I had this when I was growing up and now again in my forties. Often the hallucinations involve one of sons who often sleeps in my bed, he looks like he isn’t breathing and is dead, terrifying! I’ve also hallucinated matrix like lights and symbols, aliens, scary creatures etc sometimes I hear sound but mostly they are visual.

    My husband ignores my cries for help now lol I guess he knows that within seconds I’ll come round. I think it may be a mixture of brain wiring and stress/insomnia related triggers. I’m glad I’ve finally found a name for it and can see that others have similar experiences!

  • Anna September 24, 2016, 12:12 pm

    My two-year-old has done this several times. Jerks awake suddenly and starts screaming in terror that there are worms in the bed. She asks to watch a cartoon, and they go away once she is watching a cartoon she likes. I don’t usually have the hallucinations, but I have had sleep paralysis since I was 19.

  • Marjorie October 8, 2016, 1:40 pm

    My Father is experiencing the same hallucinations, only occurs after he wakes up and is been happening now for years. I took him to several Neurologist, tried many medications, sleep study, CT Scan, MRI, you name it and he already had it but no Doctor can tell me exactly what the problem is. The last Neurologist said it’s part of Dementia since he is now 79 (it started in his early 60s) and she can’t do anything about it because it is part of aging.

    Few months ago, I took him and my Mom for a vacation and he had episodes during the flight, few times after waking up from a nap (it’s a 17 hours flight) he tried to reach the blanket of another passenger because he said the guy took it from him. When I pointed out that he has his own blanket, he threw his blanket to the guy. I was so glad he missed. Another episode, again after waking up, he tried to take the shoes of a passenger in front of him (the passenger removed his shoes and put it underneath his seat) because he said the guy exchanged his shoes to his so he is getting it back.

    He sees things, fighting with people, kids running around, seeing dwarfs, raining inside their room. Just this morning, I heard a commotion in their room, he said there is a guy trying to hit him. I am afraid he will mistakenly attack my Mom who sleeps next to him. This is all happening right after waking up, he is as normal as he is when he is awake. But the interesting thing is, he remembers what happened and will actually tell the story (in a calming way).

    I am just so frustrated what to do to help him. The hallucinations is almost every night :-( and it is my poor Mom who witness all of this. I don’t want her to get sick and I know it is not my Dad’s fault either. Can anybody have a suggestion what to do please?

  • Kirsten October 15, 2016, 12:45 pm

    I had my first one when I was young. It was a little green creature sitting by my pillow looking at me. I didn’t have anymore that I remember till I was in my 30s. In times of stress I have them. Spiders coming down from the ceiling, patterns on the walls etc. The scariest one I had was when I woke up to my partner screaming and the dog barking. When I opened my eyes and sat up I could see eyes everywhere.

    Of course I thought it was real because my partner was screaming and I thought she was seeing the eyes too. But once I finally woke up we both realized what was going on… she had woken up to a banging on the door and she thought someone was coming through the window and that’s why she was screaming. All it was was a guy banging on the door not realizing the people he wanted to visit with didn’t live there anymore. It was pretty late as well.

    It’s a funny story but at the time it was the most frightening experience I’ve ever had. I honestly thought the paranormal truly existed. I had a nice one where I woke up to see a beautiful middle eastern looking man with a red jersey on looking at me with the deepest love. It scared me at first of course, but it left me feeling very happy and relaxed the rest of the day.

    Just recently I had one when I woke up and actually got up. I saw a big black insect with wings gliding from the coffee table to the couch. I honestly thought I was seeing a large bug and I really wanted to make sure it wasn’t there, but I didn’t want to wake up my wife by turning the light on. It definitely wasn’t a bug. But what bothered me was that I felt fully awake this time….

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