Hypnagogic Hallucinations

What is it?

Sometimes referred to as waking dreams, Hypnagogic Hallucinations occur as someone is drifting off to sleep. Although the term ‘hallucination’ can often be associated with potential mental disorders, there are some common factors that distinguish hypnagogic hallucinations from those that could be related to mental health issues. For example, they are often recognised as not being real and quickly dismissed, rather than having long lasting effects to the individual.

According to the sleepfoundation.org, eighty-six percent of these hallucinations are visual, where the individual see’s patterns, shapes, faces, animals and scenes. Up to thirty-five percent involve the experiencer hearing sounds, such as voices and music. In about twenty-five to forty-four percent of the cases, there may be a physical sensation usually associated with falling or weightlessness.

Of course such an experience can bring with it some confusion for the individual, but thankfully this is only a brief thing as hypnagogic hallucinations are relatively short in length.

Photo by Ivan Oboleninov on Pexels.co


There appears to be a great deal of research into this area over the years touching on the subject of hypnagogic hallucinations from very different view points. Some include a psychical research approach, whilst others are specifically around mental health and aspects of sleep analysis.

Two areas that may interest the reader is that of hypnagogic hallucinations and their relation to nightmares, but also sleep paralysis too. One such paper ‘The Devil Lay Upon Her and Held Her Down – Hypnagogic Hallucinations and Sleep Paralysis Described by the Dutch Physician Isbrand van Diemerbroeck (1609-1674) in 1664’ by EJO Kompanje; which looks at case reports and specifically that of a 50 year old women.

There is of course a great deal more research into this area available.


I have to admit that I do not have personal knowledge of experiencing this myself, but then that may simply because I have not recognised an experience to be a hypnagogic hallucination. However, reading on this and understanding the concept itself begins to provide us with additional possibilities that may occur during a ghost hunt for example.

If we bear in mind firstly that the majority of ghost hunts will naturally occur at night, then add to that the distinct possibility that many in attendance would have had a full day before; then we are presented with the attendees being tired in some shape or form. Whilst ghost hunters may not fall completely asleep during their time at a location, it is reasonable to sugges the possibility that a few may begin to doze off. As they enter this state between wake and sleep, they also enter the phase where hypnagogic hallucinations are experienced. Hence it could equally be reasonable to suggest that, when ghost hunters experience something paranormal, there is a distict possibility that this is a hypnagogic hallucination. Especially as we’ve heard, these could be visual, audible or have physical attributes. All of which fit the reports of ghost hunters seeking a paranormal experience.

I am not stating definitively that all experiences are hypnagogic hallucinations, simply that this is something else to take into account when investigating the paranormal. Especially as the main common-denominator in all experiences of the paranormal is us, so we have to be careful of the conclusions we jump to before ruling out logical possibility first.

A Couple of references

Hypnogogic Hallucinations

The Devil Lay Upon Her and Held Her Down – Hypnagogic Hallucinations and Sleep Paralysis Described by the Dutch Physician Isbrand van Diemerbroeck (1609-1674) in 1664′ by EJO Kompanje

2 thoughts on “Hypnagogic Hallucinations

  1. Interesting that you equated this topic to paranormal researchers. During your opening paragraph, I instantly thought of the clients that tell me of loved ones visiting while they are in the sleep/wake state, or those that claim being held down. What if a percentage of those moments were attributed to this? I’ve seen a few fellow ghost hunters drift to sleep late at night during an investigation, but cannot recall any that said they felt/saw something connected to those moments (although I’m sure it’s happened!) Just additional observation to your intriguing article đŸ™‚


    1. Whilst not ruling out any possibilities, we must begin to understand that there are other possible and probable explanations such as these. So whilst I respect that some of your clients may attribute visitations to loved ones in this state, we must equally be aware that those could be hypnagogic hallucinations too. Something that we need to understand greater as we move forwards in this field.


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