Hypnagogia: Hallucinations When Falling Asleep

What Is Hypnagogia?

hallucinations while falling asleep


Hypnagogia, also known as “hypnagogic hallucinations,” refers to the transition between wakefulness and falling asleep – a period in which many people have strange sensory occurrences like visual disturbances, sleep paralysis, or lucid dreaming. People experiencing hypnagogia may feel like they have seen, heard, or smelled something that is not actually there. This is a vey common phenomenon, affecting more than 25% of the U.S. population at some point in their life. It is also found more frequently in females than males.


The exact cause of hypnagogia is not known, but the following factors are believed to increase the likelihood of experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Drug use
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Narcolepsy
  • Mood disorders
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder


There is only one type of hypnagogia.



  • Hearing sounds that have not been made
  • Seeing objects or images that are not there
  • Smelling scents that are not there
  • Feeling as if someone is near to you when no one is there
  • Feeling as if you cannot move for several seconds
  • Experiencing lucid dreams


If your doctor suspects that you are experiencing hypnagogia, they will refer you to a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist will assess your reported symptoms and medical history. They will order a sleep study, a diagnostic test in which you are hooked up to monitors that measure your breathing, heart rate and brain activity while you are sleeping. This can determine if your mind or body is reacting to any perceived sensory disturbances while you are falling asleep.


Many people do not seek treatment for hypnagogia, as it is more of a nuisance than a significant medical problem. If the hallucinations have become bothersome to the point that they are leading to sleep deprivation or insomnia, the best course of action is to avoid factors that may trigger the hypnagogia.

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