Sees her cat knocking over a lamp when he is actually fast asleep at the foot of her bed
Type of Spiritual Experience
In this article the writer made a difference between visual hallucinations experienced on waking and those experenced on going to sleep, calling them hypnapompic and hypnagogic, but the differentiation tends to be unhelpful as often people do not say, have both kinds or have them in the middle of the night.
In one article covering 5000 people and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, over 12 % of the people surveyed experienced hypnopompic hallucinations and close to 40% had had hallucinations when falling asleep at night - hypnagogic. The conclusion drawn from the study was that of the two types of hallucinations hypnogogic sensations are more common. Another suggestion made by the authors of the study was that hallucinations occurring just before waking were more likely to happen if people did have a sleep disorder.
A description of the experience
I suffer from both hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations. Hypnagogic are usually just little noises and visual disturbances. Occasionally I’ll see my cat knocking over a lamp when he is actually fast asleep at the foot of my bed, or I’ll see innocuous shadowy figures moving about the room. These are rarely anything more that annoyances.
Hypnopompic hallucinations, on the other hand, are almost always terrifying and can make me shoot out of bed screaming bloody murder. I’ve seen a red demon crouching in the corner of my ceiling, a gaping hole in the ceiling from which spiders rain down on me, been entangled by a bloody fishing net that then drug me off the bed, and a glowing white stag running directly at me with his antlers aim at my face. All of these hallucinations occur while my eyes are wide open so I can’t just wake up to make it stop. The fishing net one will keep me awake and trembling for the rest of the night.
I’m scared to go to sleep at night because it’s only a matter of time before I wake up screaming. My partner is losing sleep, our roommate is now losing sleep, and I’ve averaging maybe three hours a night. Most of my doctors are confounded and I’m afraid to talk to friends and coworkers about why I’ve been so distant for the last six months. I’ve felt very isolated with this sleep disorder.
All of this boils down to the only reason I felt compelled to comment. Of all the blogs, articles, and medical journals I’ve read looking for answers, this article is the most validating thing that I’ve read so far. It’s so simple and matter-of-fact, but not without the compassion needed to talk about such a personal experience. It doesn’t make the word “hallucination” synonymous with “crazy” or “schizophrenic.” It explains how common it is, but also emphasizes just how detrimental it can be to one’s health and well-being. More importantly, this article is one that I feel comfortable passing along to the friends and family who have been unfortunately kept in the dark.