If the idea of a nightmare is enough to snap you out of a deep sleep, imagine what it would be like to have sleep hallucinations. Sleep related hallucinations take dreams to the next level, causing people to see and sometime even experience things that aren’t really there. They are most often visual, but may also include aspects of the other senses including touch, taste or sound which can add to the horror of the occurrence.
Sleep hallucinations are sometimes experienced along with sleep paralysis, a condition in which you are physically unable to move during the falling asleep or waking up process.
But one of the reasons sleep hallucinations can be so disturbing is that they occur at the beginning or end stages of sleep, before deep sleep with dreaming occurs. Different than a nightmare, which clearly takes place while asleep and dreaming, this can incorporate the environment around you and feel very real.
The Experience of Sleep Hallucinations
For those who experience sleep hallucinations, and sleep paralysis, the experience can be devastating. They may notice shapes or shadows in the darkness and feel as though they are awake but simply cannot move. They may try to scream, which they can hear in their own head, but are unable to may an audible sound.
Sleep hallucinations are categorized as parasomnia, which include other abnormal sleeping experiences and behaviors such as sleep walking or REM sleep behavior disorder. Parasomnia affects about 10% of the population and while these conditions affect people of all ages, children can be more susceptible due to their stage of brain development.
A person suffering from sleep hallucinations shouldn’t be awakened abruptly. However, because the experience is happing subconsciously, it would be unusual for another person to notice the behavior, unlike sleep walking.
Sleep hallucinations and sleep paralysis may also be associated with narcolepsy in some patients.
The Unexpected Way of Dealing with Sleep Hallucinations
If you’re experiencing this phenomenon and it’s negatively affecting your sleep cycle, you may want to discuss your experiences with a sleep specialist.
However, in many cases, simply understanding what is happening is often enough to remain at ease and not feel the negative effects of sleep hallucinations.