Home » Sleep Disorders » Sleep Hallucinations
December 2020 |  Reviewed by:  Imran Shaikh, MD and Reeba Mathew, MD

What are sleep hallucinations?

Sleep-related hallucinations is a sleep disorder and is categorized as a parasomnia. A parasomnia involves undesired events that come along with sleep.

Sleep hallucinations are imagined events that seem very real. They are mainly visual. They may also involve your senses of sound, touch, taste, and smell. They may even involve a sense of motion.

It is easy to confuse them with a state of dreaming. You may not be sure if you are awake or asleep. They may be like nightmares; however, when you wake up from a nightmare, you are aware that it occurred while you were asleep. Nightmares are clearly recognized as a dream and are not thought to be real.

You may also have complex visual hallucinations in the form of stationary images of people or animals. These tend to occur just after you are suddenly awakened. You do not recall being in the middle of a dream when you wake up. You know that you are awake. At first, you are often afraid and think that the images are real. You may jump out of the bed in terror. This can cause you to injure yourself.

These images may be distorted in shape or size. They may remain present for many minutes. They tend to go away if a light is turned on. These episodes are much rarer. At times they may be caused by a migraine headache. In this case, head pain quickly follows the visual images.

Sleep hallucinations generally occur at one of the two following times:

  • As you are about to fall asleep
  • As you are just waking up

Sleep hallucinations can be a sign of narcolepsy, especially if the events occur during the daytime.

Sleep hallucinations and sleep paralysis may occur at the same time. You may also have separate episodes of sleep talking or sleepwalking.