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Hypnagogic Hallucinations, Dreams, Or Something Else?


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#1 stoic

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 12:36 PM

I recently went to a sleep specialist and have completed a PSG/MSLT for an expected case of narcolepsy. Since then I've been taking regular naps and have been a lot more aware of what happens during these naps.

I've used a Zeo to track my last daytime 6 naps. Each nap shows up as going straight into REM sleep for about 10-15 minutes.

During these naps I feel that I'm awake the entire time. I also experience what I can most accurately label as dream fragments or imagined memories.

I will feel awake and can hear the birds outside and can move my body (e.g. swallow, flex my thumbs, etc.). Then, seemingly suddenly, I have this memory of a small fragment of a dream. It may be something like one person speaking a single short sentence to someone else, or even just a word or two. These are almost always quite benign and not disturbing - in some ways (which I don't understand why) I find the experience fairly relaxing and pleasant (I guess it's because I take it as a signal that I'm entering sleep). Once this happens I still feel quite awake - awake enough to count and track these experiences. When I finally actually wake from the nap and get out of bed I'll remember the count of how many of these dream fragments I experienced and I may even remember what happened in some. In one 15 minute nap I lost count at about 10 of these dream fragments, but remember what happened in 3 of them.

I don't seem to have any control over these experiences. For example, I tried to direct myself to dream about flying a helicopter by thinking about that consciously. The next thing I know I'd dreamt about the words EGG and BANANA. LOL...still can't figure that one out! They seem to just instantly become a memory, rather than something I've actually experienced in real time. It's somewhat hard to describe...I've not seen anyone describe anything like this, so was keen if someone could help me categorise and label what I'm experiencing?

Thanks!

#2 SeeBee

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:41 PM

It sounds like it's probably hypnogogic hallucinations, but could also be plain old vivid dreaming (which seems to be pretty common with narcolepsy.) Most people's experiences tend to be quite different, though, so forgive me if I'm not terribly convincing or clear.

Do you sometimes find that there's a "transition stage," in which something happens to make you recognize that you're falling asleep? For me, my transition is going from something similar to what you describe, to not being able to see anymore (presumably because my eyes close) and a really loud rushing noise, like standing under a high-pressure showerhead or a waterfall. In the moment, I recognize that I'm falling asleep, and after that, everything I see is a dream. (Unless I have another REM cycle right before waking, which sometimes sets me up for more HH.)

The only other way I'm able to differentiate is by what I saw, rather than what my brain perceived; my brain tends to be a bit more realistic about HH, and more detached and fantastical in dreams. For example, with HH, I'd see the view as it actually is off my balcony with maybe one or two smallish changes, like clouds that aren't actually there or a different color paint on the eaves. My brain recognizes it as "my balcony" and leaves it as that. In a dream, the balcony, the view, and the location are completely different (often someplace I've never been) but my brain still perceives it to be "my balcony." I hope that makes sense, sometimes language is a bit lacking for such experiences...

Either way, nothing to worry about :) Hope this helps, and that you find the answers you need!

#3 stoic

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:22 AM

This is the closest description I've found:

Dream fragments occur at times when the person is not fully asleep! The individual may begin watching a vivid dream while still hearing his or her surroundings, or instead hear the "sound track of a dream" when not fully asleep. In other cases, the person may feel things that aren't there (rain on one's forehead, the sensation of a rat running across one's leg, etc.). These hallucinations are called hypnogogic hallucinations when they precede sleep onset and hypnopompic hallucinations when they occur immediately after awakening. They often seem real to the point of causing terror or fears that one is losing one's mind. They can arise from narcolepsy, withdrawal from REM suppressants, and occasionally from such other causes as sleep apnea and severe sleep deprivation.


REM (Rapid Eye Movement Sleep)

I think what is happening during my naps is that during the first half I'm awake. Then almost instantly I start having very rapid switches into and out of REM, which is why I still feel awake and am aware of my surroundings. Then about half way through I just switch into full REM. Then at the end I instantly switch back to wakefulness.

Interestingly, this is something I've really only noticed since my MSLT. It seems to occur when I try to have a nap even when I'm not sleepy.

#4 stoic

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 03:37 AM

It sounds like it's probably hypnogogic hallucinations, but could also be plain old vivid dreaming (which seems to be pretty common with narcolepsy.) Most people's experiences tend to be quite different, though, so forgive me if I'm not terribly convincing or clear.

Do you sometimes find that there's a "transition stage," in which something happens to make you recognize that you're falling asleep? For me, my transition is going from something similar to what you describe, to not being able to see anymore (presumably because my eyes close) and a really loud rushing noise, like standing under a high-pressure showerhead or a waterfall. In the moment, I recognize that I'm falling asleep, and after that, everything I see is a dream. (Unless I have another REM cycle right before waking, which sometimes sets me up for more HH.)


Yes, the signal that I'll be falling asleep is the first dream fragment I get. However, I'm still fully awake and in control at this stage. If I wanted to I could very easily finish and just get out of bed. It seems that I really have to allow this to happen. I have to be very relaxed and quiet to initiate the whole process. It feels like I need to give my brain permission to take over and do what it needs to do. The amazing thing is in the few days I've been doing this my nocturnal sleep has improved significantly and my daytime alertness is amazing.

The only other way I'm able to differentiate is by what I saw, rather than what my brain perceived; my brain tends to be a bit more realistic about HH, and more detached and fantastical in dreams. For example, with HH, I'd see the view as it actually is off my balcony with maybe one or two smallish changes, like clouds that aren't actually there or a different color paint on the eaves. My brain recognizes it as "my balcony" and leaves it as that. In a dream, the balcony, the view, and the location are completely different (often someplace I've never been) but my brain still perceives it to be "my balcony." I hope that makes sense, sometimes language is a bit lacking for such experiences...


Yes this all makes sense to me. But I'm not sure I experience that distinction. Probably because these dream fragments are just that - very small fragments. Sometimes all I get from them is a sense of a word or two, sometimes an image, and sometimes a very short but incomplete 'video'. I basically don't see much detail.

Either way, nothing to worry about :) Hope this helps, and that you find the answers you need!


Thank you so much for your reply - it does help and I think I'm starting to get an understanding of what's happening. Hopefully my specialist will be able to clarify some of this for me too.

#5 munky

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:14 AM

stoic,

I think I know what you're talking about here. I thought I might, but wanted to wait until my scheduled nap this morning before I answered.

I work graveyard shift, and I've been told to take a scheduled, 20 minute nap every 4 hours, so that's around 3:20-ish AM for me. I've been a good girl and done this every single morning, even though I'm not feeling sleepy, and the feeling I'm experiencing is very similar to yours!

I'm not in bed, of course, but I am curled up across the back seat of my car, with a pillow and a blanket, and pretty comfortable. I never, at any point, actually feel like I've gone to sleep, but when the alarm I set on my phone goes off, I sure don't feel like I've been there for 20 minutes! I get bored way too easily to have actually been lying there awake with nothing to do for 20 minutes and not have it feel like it's been hours, so if I weren't going to sleep, I should feel like I've been there forever, not for just a few minutes ... if that last part even makes sense.

I never actually seem to fall asleep. When the alarm goes off, I don't feel like I'm actually waking up, but I know 20 minutes have passed, and I don't feel like 20 minutes have passed.

However, despite the fact that I don't feel like I've gone to sleep or feel like I'm waking up, I will have dream fragments ... I don't really remember what they were after I wake up, but I'll be aware that they existed, if you know what I mean? Never thought of counting them, but I remember them as separate, distinct fragments. And between them, I feel like I was just lying there awake, with my eyes closed, thinking.

Still, it seems to be helping. I think.

Are you liking the Zeo? I've been thinking about getting one, but haven't made up my mind yet.

--munky

#6 stoic

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 06:54 AM

stoic,

I think I know what you're talking about here. I thought I might, but wanted to wait until my scheduled nap this morning before I answered.

I work graveyard shift, and I've been told to take a scheduled, 20 minute nap every 4 hours, so that's around 3:20-ish AM for me. I've been a good girl and done this every single morning, even though I'm not feeling sleepy, and the feeling I'm experiencing is very similar to yours!

I'm not in bed, of course, but I am curled up across the back seat of my car, with a pillow and a blanket, and pretty comfortable. I never, at any point, actually feel like I've gone to sleep, but when the alarm I set on my phone goes off, I sure don't feel like I've been there for 20 minutes! I get bored way too easily to have actually been lying there awake with nothing to do for 20 minutes and not have it feel like it's been hours, so if I weren't going to sleep, I should feel like I've been there forever, not for just a few minutes ... if that last part even makes sense.


Yes, that makes a lot of sense and I'm somewhat similar. If I weren't actually asleep or approaching it I would be extremely bored too! I think that's why I've never tried having naps unless I'm extremely sleepy.

I never actually seem to fall asleep. When the alarm goes off, I don't feel like I'm actually waking up, but I know 20 minutes have passed, and I don't feel like 20 minutes have passed.

However, despite the fact that I don't feel like I've gone to sleep or feel like I'm waking up, I will have dream fragments ... I don't really remember what they were after I wake up, but I'll be aware that they existed, if you know what I mean? Never thought of counting them, but I remember them as separate, distinct fragments. And between them, I feel like I was just lying there awake, with my eyes closed, thinking.

Still, it seems to be helping. I think.


Yep, this sounds very familiar and quite similar to what I'm experiencing. When I finally wake I can remember the count, but I'd find it quite difficult to actually remember any of the fragments.

Are you liking the Zeo? I've been thinking about getting one, but haven't made up my mind yet.

--munky


Yeah, I love it so far - have had it for a few weeks now. When I saw that my naps had me consistently straight into REM everything started to make a lot of sense. I've suffered from some extremely poor and interrupted nocturnal sleep and the Zeo has allowed me to objectively monitor what's happening and how poorly or how well I'm sleeping.

Thanks for the reply munky!

#7 munky

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 07:02 AM

Yeah, I love it so far - have had it for a few weeks now. When I saw that my naps had me consistently straight into REM everything started to make a lot of sense. I've suffered from some extremely poor and interrupted nocturnal sleep and the Zeo has allowed me to objectively monitor what's happening and how poorly or how well I'm sleeping.


Will it record/upload multiple sleeps in a day? Like, your regular sleep and your naps? I'd heard that it couldn't do that, which was one of the things that made me hesitate.

Which model did you get? The tabletop w/the clock, or the mobile?

I have to say, I was glad to see your post! I was starting to wonder if I just sucked at taking a nap and needed to look for some kind of class!Posted Image

#8 stoic

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 11:25 AM

Will it record/upload multiple sleeps in a day? Like, your regular sleep and your naps? I'd heard that it couldn't do that, which was one of the things that made me hesitate.

Which model did you get? The tabletop w/the clock, or the mobile?


I got the mobile version. It seems to have limited support for multiple sleeps per day. What happens for me is that on the mobile app it records and retains all sleeps. However, it appears that on the web interface all you see are non-nap sleeps. I use my iPhone to record all sleeps, but I can also sync this data to my iPad (naps get included too).

I have to say, I was glad to see your post! I was starting to wonder if I just sucked at taking a nap and needed to look for some kind of class!Posted Image


LOL - well the first time I had a planned nap like this was my MSLT. So, I guess it's taken me 30+ years to learn! ;)

#9 munky

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 01:48 AM

I got the mobile version. It seems to have limited support for multiple sleeps per day. What happens for me is that on the mobile app it records and retains all sleeps. However, it appears that on the web interface all you see are non-nap sleeps. I use my iPhone to record all sleeps, but I can also sync this data to my iPad (naps get included too).


Thanks so much for the info! I'm not terribly worried about the web interface, since I don't expect the results to be clinicaly useful. I just want to be able to monitor it myself so I can see if diet/lifestyle changes are having any impact. I've already cut way back on my caffeine intake (oh, the headaches!) but I'm planning on cutting way down on sugar and artificial sweeteners, too.

LOL - well the first time I had a planned nap like this was my MSLT. So, I guess it's taken me 30+ years to learn! Posted Image


Yeah, first time I noticed it was in the MSLT, too. The lady would ask me if I'd slept and my answer was always either, "I must have, because I dreamed," or, "It doesn't feel like it, but if it's been 20 minutes already, then I guess I must have!" Not sure they have a box for that on the form ... Posted Image

#10 J718

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 04:49 PM

Thank you for posting about these weird fragments! I experience the same thing when I'm falling asleep and I never knew what to make of them. My now-former sleep doctor didn't seem to know what I was talking about—one of the many reasons I'm looking for a new doctor. I didn't know if simply "seeing" a scene or a word counted as dreaming, or was it something else? It happened at the beginning of every nap of my MSLT even though I never entered REM (I'm on antidepressants so that wasn't surprising.) I plan on showing this post to my new doctor when we discuss my symptoms. Thanks again!

#11 Asleeper

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 11:32 PM

I was thinking about this just today.
When I'm awake and up and about, I see my life out there before my eyes. When I close my eyes, rather than seeing nothing, I see something else. A different time and place but it's like I'm still awake. When do I get to just sleep?

#12 munky

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 12:36 AM

I was thinking about this just today.
When I'm awake and up and about, I see my life out there before my eyes. When I close my eyes, rather than seeing nothing, I see something else. A different time and place but it's like I'm still awake. When do I get to just sleep?



I've read books and stories like this, where the main character lives a normal life during the day, but another life in another place/time when they're asleep, and I've always wondered, why aren't they as tired as I am when they wake up, 'cause it's sure killing me!

#13 stoic

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 06:06 AM

Thank you for posting about these weird fragments! I experience the same thing when I'm falling asleep and I never knew what to make of them. My now-former sleep doctor didn't seem to know what I was talking about—one of the many reasons I'm looking for a new doctor. I didn't know if simply "seeing" a scene or a word counted as dreaming, or was it something else? It happened at the beginning of every nap of my MSLT even though I never entered REM (I'm on antidepressants so that wasn't surprising.) I plan on showing this post to my new doctor when we discuss my symptoms. Thanks again!


I'm glad it helped! Sometimes all I get is a sense of a word, so it can be very minimal. I didn't know this was not normal until I asked some else if they have the same experience.

Since my MSLT, I've been taking up to 4 scheduled naps everyday (I'm on vacation). My nocturnal sleep and sleepiness during the day have both improved dramatically. It also feels like everyday my dream fragments are happening less and less in my naps.

However, I'm yet to get any kind of diagnosis, so I'm looking forward to seeing my sleep doc.

#14 SleepyDays

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Posted 12 December 2012 - 09:48 PM

I have similar experiences.

As I'm falling asleep, I'll find I'm thinking about something....and then it's like my mind slows down and I get stuck on one word of what I was thinking.
So, for example, I'm thinking about my garden. I think: "I wonder if I need to ......" and then the word WATER (the last part of the thought) sticks in my head and it kind of hangs there in slow motion. Then I wake up and think "what was I thinking about WATER for?". This sort of thing will happen several times if I'm laying on my back in bed. Once I realize I'm starting to fall asleep...and i roll to my side.....I'm right out and these hallucinations are gone.

I also hear weird things as I'm falling asleep - if I'm laying on my back in bed. Usually I hear my dogs barking or my husband telling me something. I'll ask my husband "why are the dogs barking?" and he'll say..."they didn't!"

When I went onto my meds this stopped completely. When i had to go off the meds for a week...it came back again.

I also notice that sleep paralysis seems to happen when I'm sleeping on my back.

#15 stoic

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Posted 13 December 2012 - 02:20 PM

I have similar experiences.

As I'm falling asleep, I'll find I'm thinking about something....and then it's like my mind slows down and I get stuck on one word of what I was thinking.
So, for example, I'm thinking about my garden. I think: "I wonder if I need to ......" and then the word WATER (the last part of the thought) sticks in my head and it kind of hangs there in slow motion. Then I wake up and think "what was I thinking about WATER for?". This sort of thing will happen several times if I'm laying on my back in bed. Once I realize I'm starting to fall asleep...and i roll to my side.....I'm right out and these hallucinations are gone.

I also hear weird things as I'm falling asleep - if I'm laying on my back in bed. Usually I hear my dogs barking or my husband telling me something. I'll ask my husband "why are the dogs barking?" and he'll say..."they didn't!"

When I went onto my meds this stopped completely. When i had to go off the meds for a week...it came back again.

I also notice that sleep paralysis seems to happen when I'm sleeping on my back.


Sounds quite similar to what I experience to. It's almost an indication of sleep and so in and of itself can be quite a relaxing experience.

#16 2Tired4This

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 03:50 AM

So just for clarity, it's not normal to have some dreaming as youre falling asleep? I just assumed it was pre-dreaming and that everyone had it. Isn't that common?

#17 stoic

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 04:31 AM

So just for clarity, it's not normal to have some dreaming as youre falling asleep? I just assumed it was pre-dreaming and that everyone had it. Isn't that common?


From what I've read it's not normal. The few people I've spoken too about this find it somewhat strange - nothing they've experienced.

Interestingly since I've been taking scheduled naps I've noticed this happened less and less. However, the first few days I started scheduled naps, it happened constantly as I was trying to fall asleep.

#18 2Tired4This

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 12:04 PM

Do you find scheduled naps to be effective? I haven't tried any scheduling of my naps since my diagnosis. When I do take a nap I rarely wake up feeling refreshed. It's just a short reprieve from the sluggish feeling I get all day.

#19 stoic

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Posted 24 December 2012 - 04:11 PM

Do you find scheduled naps to be effective? I haven't tried any scheduling of my naps since my diagnosis. When I do take a nap I rarely wake up feeling refreshed. It's just a short reprieve from the sluggish feeling I get all day.


They've made a big difference for me. I'm typically refreshed and alert after them. However, within 90-120 minutes I start getting tired. I noticed any form of physical activity seems to bring on tiredness more quickly.

I've also noticed my nocturnal sleep is much better with naps. However, there's some confounding factors such as stopping work for the year that could be affecting things as well.

#20 munky

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Posted 25 December 2012 - 12:37 AM

Do you find scheduled naps to be effective? I haven't tried any scheduling of my naps since my diagnosis. When I do take a nap I rarely wake up feeling refreshed. It's just a short reprieve from the sluggish feeling I get all day.


Turns out they're a huge help. I didn't think they were doing much, since I didn't feel particularly refreshed when I woke up, but I always make it through the end of my shift and can go home and do a few household chores before going to bed without nodding off. However, there were two days last week that I couldn't take my scheduled nap, one night because everyone else called in sick, and the second night because we had issues we were dealing with and I couldn't get away. Both of those nights, I was fighting to stay awake through the end of my shift, had at least one sleep attack, and ended up having to take a nap in my car before I could drive home, and it was longer than my scheduled 20-minute nap (30 minutes the first day, an hour the second).

After that nap, though, I was okay. Did some shopping the first time, before going home. The second, I went home and put together my mother's Yule gift (made her a necklace, the pieces for which I bought on the shopping trip the previous day).

So, yeah, I'd say they're effective, even if I don't feel refreshed--heck, don't even feel like I'm sleeping while I'm lying there--it does help me stay awake for the rest of my shift and reduces the chances of a sleep attack.