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Sleep Disorders

Hynagogic Hallucinations

09/05/2007

Question:

For the past three months i`ve been suffering from hypnagogic hallucinations,this happend right after i got sick and was taking antibiotics,as soon as i got off the anitbiotics,i started having these hallucinations,i had the sleep paralysis a twice,i get alot of sleep every night and take alot of naps,what could be wrong with me? is it narcolepsy.i looked up narcolepsy and i dont have all the symptoms of it.all i have is visual hypnagogic and hypnapompic hallucinations, like circles,flowers or cartoon characters when im falling sleep and when im awakening i see just fuzzy looking circles,should i see a doctor or this is normal and what treatment i should seek?

Answer:

The sleep-associated symptom of feeling, hearing or seeing things that are not present represents a sleep-related hallucination. This may be a sign of a primary sleep disorder or possibly a psychiatric condition.

Sleep-related hallucinations are usually visual (seeing things), though they can be auditory (hearing things), tactile (sensation of feeling something) or kinetic (feeling of motion or movement). They more commonly occur with sleep onset (known as hypnagogic hallucinations) but can happen with morning awakenings (hypnapompic hallucinations) as well. Sleep related hallucinations can be frightening and may, at times, be associated with other sleep behaviors such as sleep walking or sleep talking.

The underlying cause of sleep related hallucinations is not always clear. Factors known to bring these about or increase the frequency of occurrences include younger age, current drug use, past alcohol use, anxiety, mood disorders, insomnia and lack of sleep. Certain medications, including some antibiotics, may also cause this as a side effect. In addition, these hallucinations may be a sign or symptom of another sleep disorder, such narcolepsy, a primary nightmare disorder, migraine headaches, or, rarely, they could be part of sleep-related seizures (epilepsy). Psychiatric disease (such as schizophrenia) should also be included as a possibility, though assuming these hallucinations occur only with sleep, then this would be less likely.

Depending on the underlying cause or factors associated with the hallucinations, they may decrease in frequency or resolve with age. Identifying factors associated with the hallucinations (such as alcohol use or lack of sleep) and avoiding these may help to decrease the frequency or intensity of the problem. In cases where this does not occur, specific treatments are available, though the type of treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of the hallucinations.

In your case, the occurrence of sleep paralysis and what sounds like excessive daytime sleepiness associated with the hallucinations raises the possibility of narcolepsy. It would be a good idea to discuss your problems with her Primary Care Doctor. Referral to a Sleep Specialist, depending on specifics in your history and examination. Additional testing may be required to help sort out the cause of the hallucinations.

To learn more about sleep or other sleep disorders, please visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information, the website contains a list of Sleep Centers across the country so that you may locate one near you. The website sleepeducation.com also provides plenty of good consumer friendly information. Good luck and here's to better sleep!

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Response by:

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University