Hypnagogic hallucinations are a Curious Phenomenon of Perception

A summary of the characteristics of this type of hallucinations that appear before sleeping.

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Hallucinations are all those perceptions that, despite not being based on real stimuli, make us see, hear, or even feel by touch. In the case of hypnagogic hallucinations, these occur during the night, and are not directly related to organic disorders.

In this article we will review the concept of this type of hallucinations, as well as their causes and most relevant characteristics in terms of their symptoms, which usually occur while we try to fall asleep.

What are hypnagogic hallucinations?

Hypnagogic hallucinations have the peculiarity that they occur only during the transitory process from the waking state to the sleep state, specifically in the first and second phase of sleep (REM). This means that they happen when we find ourselves trying to fall asleep during the night.

It is frequent that these hallucinations are related to experiences lived by the subject during the previous day, and the most common are auditory and visual. They can be hallucinations of any kind; visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, or even tactile.

They usually occur in the young stages of development, when the subject is in childhood and during adolescence. They are less frequent during adulthood, where under natural conditions, it is normal that they have disappeared completely. However, there may be exceptions, in which case they could be considered as indicators of neurotic or psychotic pathologies.

This type of hallucinations are, in many cases, the explanation for the “paranormal experiences” that some people claim to have felt during the night, in which they tried to get to sleep.

They should not be confused with hypnopompic hallucinations, which occur during the transition process between the dream state and the waking state, that is, they are exactly the opposite of hypnagogic ones.

It could also happen that the subject knows that what he is feeling at that moment is not real; in that case, it would then be a pseudo-hallucination.


This type of hallucinations usually occur in isolation in people, depending on the stage of development in which the subject is. As we have mentioned previously, they are common in childhood and adolescence, at which time human beings do not yet possess the logical-rational thought, and the one that still prevails is magical-religious thought.

During these young stages of life, these hallucinations can be attributed to those fantasies and beliefs of the respective ages (between 6 and 17 years).

In more repetitive cases, when these hallucinations recur frequently, they could be caused by some specific sleep disorders. For example, the well-known sleep paralysis.

If it happens that the intensity of the hypnagogic hallucinations is more severe, it could be one of the symptoms of narcolepsy (excessive sleep during the day). However, this type of hallucination is not considered pathological when it occurs in isolation.

In adult life they could occur once without being considered as an indicator of a disorder. If, on the other hand, if the prevalence is significant, exactly in cases where they occur over a prolonged month, you should go to the specialist (neurologist or psychiatrist).

The doctor will be the one who performs the necessary tests to detect the possible origin of the hallucinations. Under normal circumstances, these experiences do not last more than twenty seconds, and when the subject wakes up, they usually do not remember them.

How are they prevented

The prevention of these hallucinations involves taking into account several factors related to the origin of the same, which means that you must have determined what causes them to proceed to prevent them in a specific manner for each circumstance.

Let’s start with the most common causes: excess fatigue caused by not having adequate sleep routines. When this is the cause, what is recommended is to distribute the time better. The idea is that you can go to bed at a prudent hour and get a good night’s sleep between 6 and 8 (in the case of adults).

Anxiety and the consumption of some substances can also generate these nocturnal hallucinations.

Particularly, when the cause is anxiety, the relaxation techniques before sleep work quite well. Its TThey include specific forms of breathing to reduce levels of anxiety and to be able to sleep better.

With regard to the consumption of certain substances, the prevention is to abandon such consumption, or otherwise the hypnagogic hallucinations will persist or may even intensify depending on which is the substance or if the person goes on to consume some other that has a more potent effect for your organism.

Finally, when the hypnagogic hallucinations are the product of some sleep disorder, then their treatment and prevention go through the same ones of the specific disorder that the subject is suffering.