I have been tasked with writing on three separate topics. This essay is on the first — the state between sleep and wakefullness. During the course of this project I am to write on whether I have experienced it, what it is like, and what happens here. Additionally I was asked why there was no name for it, but there actually is and the term is hypnogogia.
During the point when you lays yourself down for sleep and actually fall asleep you will go through a period of relaxation known as hypnogogia. This is a transitional state that is usually associated with the following phenomena — lucid dreaming, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Technically hypnogogia refers to that state that exists at the onset of sleep while the term hypnopompia is used to denote the onset of wakefulness. For the purpose of this article hypnogogia will be used as the universal term as that is typically how it is used in the psychiatric industry.
My own personal experiences with hypnogia have included visual components, audio components, and recently kinesthetic components. Visually, when lying down to sleep and the eyelids are closed, one will see patterns of blue or green color alternating and, if focused on for a period of time, can coalesce into specific shapes. This visual activity is used as a key component to lucid dreaming and can be used to practice creative visualization. Scientifically these visual patterns are known as phosphenes and are caused by changes in electrical stimulation to the brain. It is my feeling that these phosphenes may be used to seek answers to questions by the subconscious mind manipulating currents and producing imagery associated with one’s question.
This experience has a similar counterpart in its audio components. My auditory hallucinations have been experienced by hearing far off conversations, my name being called out, and exploding head syndrome. The latter is the most annoying of the three as it occurs as a loud bang which will wake me from sleep. This experience can happen several times in one night, several days in a row, and go into remission for months at a time. The one I tend to focus on most is the hypnogogic speech or conversations. Normally what is heard is typically incredibly mundane. As an example one might here something like, “Hey Gary, how’s it going man?” Whoever ‘Gary’ is talking to responds with, “Oh fine. What are you up to?” To which ‘Gary’ follows up with, “Not much, man.” My own personal theory is that the brain receives signals on a hypersonic (meaning outside normal hearing range) level and the information is easier to consciously access during the hypnogogic state. It is still difficult, though, as one must allow the voices to “drift forward” in order to make sense of them and this is usually only for a short period. Studies into telepathy have, more often than not, proven fruitless as experiments are unable to be duplicated. The common denominator in these experiments is that those being tested are always fully conscious. This indicates that an experiment involving the hypnogogic state is required.
The final component is kinesthetic, meaning the hallucination of physical sensation. Most recently during a “night terror” I had the feeling of kittens crawling all over my face only to return after being pushed off. The sensation of cats covering my face was followed by the sensation of someone getting in to bed next to me. When I awoke no one was there. A friend of mine has awoken from dreams physically attacking people and/or objects in his bedroom.
Though the topic of this article is not to discuss the existence of the supernatural, it is easy to use the hypnogogic state to explain away much paranormal activity. Most often this activity occurs during the “witching hour” which is around 3:30AM. During this time most sleepers are transitioning out of REM sleep and may encounter any of the above hallucinatory experiences. This does not necessarily express my true opinion, but in order to give unbiased thought to the matter I must be willing to accept the scientific rationalization before fully exploring the non-scientific rationale.
In conclusion the hypnogogic state is common, not unusual, has little explanation for its causality, but still can be used for additional guidance. Creative visualization and lucid dreaming may be performed with visual hallucinations. Seeking “external” insights can occur while listening in on hypnogogic speech. Lastly kinesthetic hallucinations are just incredibly scary.