Sometimes writer research gets a little personal.
I recently had occasion to look up the difference between “hypnagogic” and “hypnopompic” hallucinations. The first happen when you’re falling asleep. The second, on waking up. Otherwise? No difference. Supposedly one symptom of narcolepsy…maybe. One article also stated that about seventy percent of people have one or the other at some point in their lives.
I dunno. That’s an awful lot of narcolepsy.
Or maybe it’s just the natural result of passing through a liminal (there’s that word again) point between waking and sleep. A transition where you’re not quite in one and not quite out of the other. And apparently a lot more common than one might think. Especially if that one is me.
Mine are the hypnopompic sort, apparently. I had my first experience when I was about eight years old. Scared the crap out of me. Perhaps it was the one-two punch of coinciding with my first experience of sleep paralysis. Are the two related? Maybe. They’re grouped together under the general heading of “parasomnia,” which covers almost everything related to sleep disorders. Night terrors, apnea, waking confusion, sleep talking, sleepwalking, paralysis, etc. And hallucinations, let’s not forget those.
Regardless, once I could move my body again more than a tremor, the air around me was filled with a swirl of small images of which I distinctly remember two: a boxing ring where two cartoon ghosts were fighting, and the other I swear was the Dixie Lilly Flour logo. The first was animated. The second, static. There were several others, but those two repeated, as if on a film loop.
No one knows what causes it. I mean, chemically they do. Something to do with phosphene. What triggers it? No idea, though in general parasomnia tends to run in families. My younger sister talked in her sleep. My mother and I both had occasional sleep paralysis. I’m the one who got the hallucinations.
Actually, that’s not meant to be sarcastic. I really was lucky. The hallucinations can be severe, terrifying, even debilitating. None of which happened to me, despite being weirded out the first time. These aren’t the sort of hallucinations that make you walk into traffic thinking you’re at the beach. Nope. I always knew they weren’t real, even that first one, and once I got over being afraid, it was much easier to appreciate how darned interesting they tended to be. You’re basically seeing dream images while you’re awake. I have seen everything from flying art-deco kitchen appliances to a two-foot tall glowing Pikachu floating over my nightstand.
It only happens occasionally. And, while I do find the subject interesting, as an old married man I’m really glad I didn’t get the “talking in my sleep” aspect. I’ve gotten in enough trouble for things my wife only dreamed I did. Imagine the trouble I could get in for things I dreamed I did. Though she did inform me that at least once recently I hummed a tune in my sleep. I hope it happens again since I’d like to know what tune I’m humming, but I still prefer the images.
And definitely no talking.