Ghosts in the Bedroom – Hypnagogic Hallucinations
Have you ever become terrified by a looming figure in your bedroom as you started to fall asleep? You try to cry out or move, but you can’t escape. The figure approaches and your heart pounds so fast from fear that you bolt upright in bed, finally awake! You have just experienced a hypnogogic hallucination. These hallucinations occur during the transition from wake to sleep. They normally occur when your brain moves from awake to dream (REM) sleep too quickly. It’s almost like part of your brain stays awake while the other part falls into a dream state.
Imagine every time you fall asleep you slide into a scary experience like the one above that feels so real you can’t tell it’s a dream. People with narcolepsy experience visual hypnogogic hallucinations like these a lot. These frightful experiences are one of the hallmark symptoms of narcolepsy. Thankfully for the rest of us, they don’t scare our pants off too often.
Incidentally, if the same experience happens as you are waking up, it is called a hypnopompic hallucination.