Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hypnagogia Is A Scary Thing...

Sleep
Salvador Dali
1937

When my brother (I will call him Edward) was a little boy -- from the time he was three years old until he was 11 -- he suffered from hypnagogia. Hypnagogia is defined as visual and auditory hallucinations on the periphery of sleep. Transition to and from sleep may be attended by a wide variety of sensory experiences. These can occur in any modality, individually or combined, and range from the vague and barely perceptible to vivid hallucinations. ... Wikipedia

In my brother's case, the hypnagogia took the form of "shadow people" or more specifically, a man dressed in a dark outfit, wearing a hat. This manifestation of shadow people is apparently quite common with children.

During hypnagogia, a person can be conscious and aware of their environment, but also in a dream-like state where they can perceive images from their subconscious. People experiencing waking-sleep commonly report the sensation of lights or shadows moving around them, as well as other visual hallucinations. A feeling of dread is also a sensation that occurs when experiencing hypnagogia. Hypnagogia is sometimes known as 'the faces in the dark phenomenon' because those who experience this state commonly report seeing faces while experiencing waking-sleep. Similar hypotheses have been put forward linking this condition to a number of other apparent paranormal experiences, including alien abductions, paranormal nocturnal visitations, and religious experiences such as contact with angels or demons. ... Wikipedia

My brother said the man never harmed him or attempted to harm him. He looked at him for a few minutes and then left. He visited every two weeks, like clockwork. My brother shared a bedroom with our older brother (I will call him James), who never saw the shadow person. Only Edward saw him. When Edward saw this illustration here, he said that was exactly what he saw visiting him. When Edward was 11 years-old, he had a calcified growth on his upper arm, which required surgery. As soon as the growth was removed, the shadow person stopped visiting him.

I am a natural skeptic, and I believe there is a plausible scientific explanation for these visitations. Hypnagogia would explain it, but my brother is convinced it was something else. To him it was too real, and too terrifying. When it was happening to him, he tried to explain it to our parents, but they did as all parents do and told him it was nothing. How often do we discount the "monster under the bed". "See...? There's nothing there."

"Yes, there is...!"


Apparently hypnagogia is more common than we think. We have all occasionally experienced auditory sensations just as we are drifting off to asleep, or the sensation that we are falling, and our body suddenly jerks. I don't have an answer or an explanation for what my brother experienced. But I do know I am going to sleep with my light on tonight.

Have a good sleep...

34 comments:

Nancy said...

My youngest daughter suffers from night terrors, which are different from this, but still very scary. It's interesting that the growth on his arm was somehow linked. Glad it went away.

Leslie: said...

When I was a little girl, I used to experience visual "hallucinations" when I was trying to get to sleep. Bright lights would rush forward towards me and then just as quickly would recede. This would go on for a long time but would stop if I opened my eyes. It was very frightening but I never thought to tell my parents about it. I wonder if this is a form of hynogogia.

Lorna said...

This is very very interesting. I have not experienced it, but I guess a lot of people have.

~Lorna
____________________________________

John said...

That is the oddest thing. It seems like it would be so frightening. I have heard about stuff like this on the "Coast to Coast" am radio program (formerly Art Bell).

Seems scary and I hope I never get this condition! I'm glad your brother stopped seeing the shadow people after having the calcified growth removed. That is a strange coincidence too!

I'm going to stay up awhile and hopefully forget about this!

lovelyprism said...

I still have that! And the auditory part too. Not only just as I'm falling asleep though, sometimes I wake up absolutely SURE someone has called my name. And you know what? I always called them shadow people. I didn't know that was the actual term for it. Weird.

Brenda said...

I had never heard of this before, so it was informative for me. Our son used to walk and talk in his sleep which made it hard for him to have overnights at friends houses when he was growing up. I wonder how many people have experiences like these but they afraid to tell anyone about. It sounds like it would be really a very scary experience. I am also curious how this was diagnosed and what type of Dr. would diagnose it.

Ruby Isabella said...

A visitor from the other side of the veil perhaps.

Leah Fry said...

I've never heard of it either. I would have assumed it was the same as night terrors. I can't sleep worth a flip anymore, but that's middle age, not hynogogia.

Barry said...

Definitely scary.

I know Carl Jung, the psychologist, frequently experienced hynogogia.

Owen said...

The human mind is full of surprises, unplumbed depths, untold wonders and horrors... and amazing how just a few molecules of certain chemicals (psilocybin mushrooms for example) can set off incredible hallucinations, if one can believe the literature on the subject... see Aldous Huxley or Carlos Castaneda for starters...

cornel said...

interesting...I have no words for this !

Alissa said...

My sister and I both experienced the same dream/nightmare of a creature we called the deer man (basically a buck that walked upright like a person.) What is weird is that we only ever had this dream while staying at my grandmother's vacation home up in the woods and that we had never shared the dream with anyone until we were in our teens and were shocked that for all these years we had been having the same dream.

Deb said...

Once again, you are a wealth of information. I believe this condition is more common than one would think.
For me, as a child, it was a visual contraction of pulsating squares, as if it was a maze. As I saw these things, I could see everyhing in the room and the light emitting from the kichen.
I, too had them from about the age of 9 to 12.

Russell said...

So, are you telling me that all those people who float in and out of my bedroom every night are NOT real?! Heh!

And they seemed so, uh, nice....!

A.M. said...

wow, thank goodness I don't have this. Your poor brother. I think the trick sometimes to a good night sleep is not eating two-3 hours before bed. As far as a medical condition goes... I have never heard of this before. Thanks for sharing.

The Bug said...

I still sometimes have the sensation of falling, but never of people being in the room thank goodness! But I was always afraid of the dark as a child - I wonder if I experienced things I don't remember?

Jean said...

The quick jerk as we are falling asleep is called the "myclonic jerk." As the body relaxes in preparation for sleep the brain can sometimes interpret it as dying. It jerks the body in response to that perception. I learned this on an episode of House M.D.
http://luciddreams.ws/hypnogogic_imagery_myclonic_jerk.html

C Hummel Kornell a/k/a C Hummel Wilson said...

How interesting your blog is! Into my 20's I experienced a feeling of falling and when I hit it was more like my entire body had been suspended above my bed (not just a jerk). People used to say that if you actually hit the ground you would die, but I didn't.

I think we don't give enough credit to our minds. We fail to tune into those thoughts or brain waves that can predict or warn us of things to come. My Mother had the ability to know prior to things happening that they would. Growing up, before I was in total control of my own mind, I experienced similar things. One evening after going to bed I heard the front door open as my Father put my dog outside to go potty, I immediately knew he was going to be killed. Next morning my Father had to tell me that the dog had been hit by a car and killed the night before.

Charles Gramlich said...

I experience hypnagogia, although not regularly. It's very very cool, but it can be frightening. I've had a ghost in my bed at least once during such an experience.

ivan said...

Geez.
In my brother's case, the hypnagogia took the form of "shadow people" or more specifically, a man dressed in a dark outfit, wearing a hat

Geez, I wrote a whole novel about this feeling.
Hypnagogia. Is that what I had?
And I put in twenty years on the book.
Friggin' crazy.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Whatever happened to the good ol' fashion Boogey Man, that's what I wanna know?!

Marguerite said...

And all of these years I thought it was the "Boogey Man"! As a child, I used to not only talk and walk in my sleep, but also experienced this thing that is called hypnagogia. It would happen as I would fall asleep, except intead of a shadow, I would see a pair of men's black shoes walking toward me. It was so scary and thank goodness, it stopped as I got older.

pranksygang said...

Thats interesting Jo!!

Land of shimp said...

Hmm. Well, I've experienced this very occasionally. Particularly the auditory hallucination aspect, which happens to this day, very infrequently. I will be positive I've heard the doorbell ring. As an adult I've always been aware that it's just mind junk floating around.

It's great that there is an explanation, but I do have to wonder if it is the whole explanation.

I'm not a big believer in the supernatural, but neither do I disbelieve, and my feeling on it is that if your adult brother still says it was actually something real, and not merely a thing concocted by a mind on the edges of sleep? I tend to believe that is also possible.

I think there's a lot we still don't understand. As I read your post I was nodding along because, yup, the doorbell thing happened within the last year and it's interesting to know it's technical name.

That your brother still argues that it wasn't? Like I said, if he still believes that, I can't help but wonder if maybe his explanation might not also have merit.

Our understanding of what is possible is still quite limited, after all.

In fact, in response to another post you made last week (about the dad drinking in the bar, while his two children were in a van) I mentioned that I was once in a house fire but escaped unscathed. To this day I vividly remember a man waking me up, and telling me I had to get up because the house was on fire.

Although I've had the doorbell ring, or the telephone ring, or even the "someone just called my name" sensation in my life, and recognize it as being something bubbling up in a brain drifting about different states of consciousness, I have to say, the voice that woke me during the fire was nothing like that, at all. Maybe it is different because of the urgency of that situation, I don't know.

To this day I can't fully commit and say, "And something paranormal woke me, saving my life because I was alone in the house with my grandmother, who was passed out at the time, on the floor below me!" but you know what? I've never been able to fully discount that either.

Elise said...

Hi, just wanted to stop by and say how much I've enjoyed reading your posts - they are very interesting and I think your pictures are just stunning. Really cool blog - thanks for sharing it !

Russell said...

I don't want Jean to take this the wrong way as you, Jean, are a good person and I like what you say.

I just had to laugh a little when I was reading about the "quick jerk" people experience sometimes before going to sleep and then seeing the term "myclonic jerk."

Um, well, this is a G rated blog (for Good! or Great! or Grand!!) but if it were not, well, um.... let's just say I thought of about two quick retorts that I thought were a bit amusing. But, keep in mind, I have a twisted mind at times!! Heh!!

Take care.

Patty said...

I didn't know it had a name either. I would experience this dark shadowy thing standing at the foot of my bed, it always reminded me of the reaper, or at least pictures you see of the grim reaper. It was always black, no face or hands, just something similar to the drawing you have in your post that you call the hat man, except mine didn't have a hat, it was more like a hood. I would wake up and see this thing standing there, and would try to wake my husband but couldn't seem to move, it was like I was frozen in place. I would see this quite often, UNTIL I started delivering newspapers, early morning, so I would sleep a few hours, get up, run my motor route, come back and go back to bed for a few more hours. The shadow seemed to disappear. Don't know why, unless I was sleeping differently. Nice to know I wasn't nuts at the time. LOL Nice to know others have gone through it also.

robert said...

Still remember the shadows within my first child-room until tonight. However they were friendly.
Thank you for teaching me something I did not know until now.
http://stefanorfeas.blogspot.com
a further sleeper, at work dreaming.

Paula Slade said...

Fascinating. I never knew of this condition until now. Thank you for sharing!

TC said...

I have the "myclonic jerk" thing and no I don't think I'm a jerk. Not every night but probably once a week. I also sleepwalk, especially when tired, not as bad as I get older, it was really scary when I had babies and would pick them up, that only happened twice, I unlocked the front door once, get up and turn on lights.....

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

The mind is largely an enigma to us, still. Interesting that their is a name for this experience. However, I am of the opinion that some experiences are only meant for us, individually, and that not everything can be or must be explained.

I, too, have premonitary visions. And my mother has always had a spooky way of knowing what would happen, too.

Are you now feeling refreshed and cooled by the rain? ... ahhhh, I certainly am.

Gledwood said...

I used to suffer from that big time in my late teens early 20s.

Smoking pot can make it worse but I can confirm it happened to me before I ever tried any drugs.

I once had a dream, under the influence of antidepressants, where I woke up and carried on in a crossed sleep/waking state for about a minute afterwards. That was really weird!!

ivan said...

Russell,

You tempt me to say it right on.

Oh what the hell. Faint heart never made it with small animals. Or denizens of Hollywood.

The Succubus exists. I know.

He left his card after hiding under my bed all night. It read,

Meoff. Jack. 69 Santa Monica Bouleveard.
(209) 1 2 O 4 O 6 9

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