Am I dreaming?

18th November 2023. Reading Time: 6 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 1456 page views. 0 comments.

An experience I had waking up the other night and seeing something that ultimately wasn't there inspired me to look once again at hypnopompic hallucinations.

The other night I was sleeping when I was awoken by the rustle of the curtain behind me. I have always been a light sleeper, but once I became a Mum over a decade ago, I became accustomed to sleeping with one eye open. My kids are much older now and sleep through the night (and well into the next day), but I am still woken by the slightest sound. In this case, it was the organza curtain behind my bed thanks to an open window. As I opened my eyes and looked at the curtain to see what was making the noise, I saw a large hideous scary Huntsman. Ready to burn down the house, I blinked a few times to make sure what I was seeing was real. It was still there. I then started to freak out a bit that I had been asleep with a large spider lingering over my head. I was still half asleep and very tired. If not for the spider, I could have fallen straight back to sleep within seconds. That is how tired I was. Something however within me felt like this thing I could see with my own two eyes wasn’t real. It turned out my gut instinct was correct. I grabbed my phone and turned on the flashlight feature and pointed it at the spider. As the light shone on the curtain, the spider slowly faded away. There was no spider after all. Even though I had seen it with my eyes. I had blinked. I had rubbed my eyes. I had even looked away and looked back again - tricks I have learnt over the years because I often wake up and see things. Sometimes it is figures, sometimes it is blotches, sometimes it is things like spiders. They aren’t there, but in the moment they feel completely real. It is what is called a Hypnopompic hallucination.

What is a Hypnopompic Hallucination?

A hypnopompic hallucination is associated with the same category as Hypnagogia and Sleep Paralysis. A Hypnopompic hallucination occurs when a person is just about to wake up from sleep. They may see, feel, smell or taste something that seems very real, and they may feel they are actually awake at the time. It could be hearing someone calling your name as you wake up or seeing a figure in your room. Maybe you open your eyes and see a light above the bed or in my own case, I often see black dots that come towards me. I feel like I am awake, but I really wake up often screaming from what felt like a very real experience in my own bedroom where I see black dots or mist coming at me. I can assure you that I am not under any sort of paranormal attack. This is something I have experienced since I was little and long before I started investigating the paranormal.

What sets this apart from a dream is that it lacks a story. It is not a part of the dreams that have been playing in your head throughout the night. It is a random and disconnected experience that can feel like it is taking place in your bedroom as you lie in bed. This is why so many people associate it with being a paranormal visitation as it is separate from your dreams and you are essentially in your very own bedroom. What makes it different to sleep paralysis is that you are not paralyzed and have movement of your body and can even speak or scream which again is why a lot of people tend to think it is a paranormal experience.

While the word hallucination is used, it does not mean there is a problem with a person mentally. While it could indicate a relation to a sleep disorder, these hallucinations happen to completely healthy individuals as well. It can however also be linked to poor sleeping habits, stress, and a high intake of caffeine. Lack of sleep and poor sleeping patterns can make a big contribution here (something common among paranormal investigators).


When we fall asleep, we enter what is called a hypnagogic state. It can cause us to hallucinate and hear and see things that are not really happening. It can equally help us to tap into our unconscious mind to gain clarity and inspiration. Thomas Edison would famously enter a hypnagogic state when he was stuck creatively and would enter this state with a question in mind. He would hold a metal ball in his hand so that when he finally fell asleep, he would be awoken by the sound of the metal ball he had been holding in his hand. As the hypnagogic state is one that we tend to remember, he would awaken with creative inspiration or the answer to the question he was asking. It is also considered by many to be a state which allows people to communicate with spirits. Perhaps not having all the noise inside our heads and having a clear mind is enough to open that door. The hypnopompic state is considered to be a similar state. Instead of falling asleep, you are in the midst of waking up. While it is considered to be a hallucination, is this also a state in which we are at our most open and relaxed to connect with our unconscious mind? It is a small window for something to connect with us before we fully wake?

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So in short is a hypnopompic hallucination paranormal? No, it isn't as it is a normal function of our brain and something that happens as we are waking up. It can feel very real and confronting and often causes a person to wake up screaming or jump out of bed with fright (something I do a lot). It is very easy for a person to associate this with some sort of paranormal attack, but it is important to understand that even though it feels very real, it is not. When you are investigating or researching the paranormal, it is easy to associate different experiences with a link to the paranormal. It is just how we are wired as humans. 

It is important to understand that not everything we experience is paranormal, even if it feels like it is. Equally, we must also acknowledge there is so much we do not understand, yet we have experienced so many different things that we cannot explain. We wouldn't be here exploring and researching the paranormal if we didn't think there was more. While there will be a lot of cases where what we experience is just our brain falling asleep or waking up, does this explain every single instance? If a person adapts all of the healthy sleep habits and has no diagnosed sleeping conditions and yet it still continues to happen, could there be another explanation? I think it is important to at least ask these kinds of questions because even though there is an explanation, it may not be what is going on in a particular case. Our brains are very powerful yet very much understood. We don't know what the full capability of the brain is when it comes to paranormal phenomena. Can we create it? Can we cause it? Can we access information? The question is when it comes to these dream states where our mind is clear to the point people use it to access their unconscious minds what information are these states allowing us to access? Is there more to our dreams than we think?


Cover Photo by Ivan Oboleninov :

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