Narcolepsy can increase a person’s chances of experiencing hallucinations, often when falling asleep or waking up. Hallucinations with narcolepsy typically involve visualizations, sounds, or touch sensations.
Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder. It affects the brain’s ability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, which leads to a person feeling sleepy and having difficulty staying awake during daytime hours.
Narcolepsy also affects rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A person with narcolepsy often enters REM more quickly than someone without the condition, which may contribute to the development of hallucinations when waking or falling asleep.
The condition affects an estimated
This article reviews how narcolepsy and hallucinations relate, the types of hallucinations, their causes, and more.
Sleep paralysis is another
During REM sleep, the body relaxes and
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder in which the brain does not properly regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This can lead to daytime sleepiness and falling asleep at inopportune times, such as when talking, driving, or working.
The condition also affects a person’s REM sleep, the sleep stage when most dreams take place.
Most people experience REM sleep about 60–90 minutes after falling asleep. A person with narcolepsy experiences REM sleep within 15 minutes.
Narcolepsy can also cause a person to experience muscle weakness and dream activity when awake. Experts believe these factors may contribute to a person experiencing hallucinations.
Narcolepsy hallucinations typically occur when a person falls asleep or wakes up.
When it occurs as a person falls asleep, it is known as a hypnagogic hallucination. When they occur while a person is waking, they are known as hypnopompic hallucinations.
When a person experiences hypnopompic hallucinations, they may be the continuation of a dream sequence.
Hallucinations associated with narcolepsy typically involve:
- visualizations; seeing lights, shapes, people, and faces
- auditory hallucinations; hearing noises, sounds, and voices
- tactile sensations; hallucinations involving touch sensations
When a person experiences hallucinations, either when falling asleep or waking, they commonly experience visual, auditory, or tactile sensations.
According to a
- Visualizations: These occur in about 86% of people who experience hypnagogia. They often involve seeing flashing lights or geometric shapes. A person may also see vividly detailed people, animals, or faces.
- Auditory: About 8–34% of people who have hallucinations hear sounds, animal cries, or people talking.
- Tactile: A person often experiences tactile hallucinations as they wake as a continuation of a dream. They may feel sensations such as weightlessness, flying or falling, bodily distortion, or a sense of presence in the room.
The exact cause of hallucinations while falling asleep or waking is not known. It
Experts note that about
- cataplexy; loss of muscle movement or strength triggered by strong emotions
- sleep paralysis
Narcolepsy may raise a person’s risk of hallucinations, but a minority of people with the condition will have them.
- brain injuries
- family history
- autoimmune conditions
People may experience other hallucination types when waking, which experts group under the term “perceptual phenomena.” The phenomena can cause both hallucinations and sleep paralysis. About
Perceptual phenomena can cause:
- feelings of floating or flying
- out-of-body experience
- inability to move
- hearing ominous sounds, such as footsteps
- a sensation of movement in the bed
- feeling or smell of a creature, animal, unspecified entity, or person climbing on the chest, smothering them or physically or sexually assaulting them
Waking hallucinations are often more vivid and potentially scarier than hallucinations that can occur when falling asleep. People generally know they are awake, which can worsen the experience.
A person may experience hallucinations from time to time, once, or never in their lifetime. They do not indicate an underlying condition and do not occur in all people with narcolepsy.
- interferes with their daily activities
- causes them to fall asleep in the middle of activities
- has no known underlying cause
Healthcare professionals can help diagnose or determine the cause of sleepiness. It is possible another underlying condition may cause excessive tiredness.
Narcolepsy can increase a person’s risk of having hallucinations when waking or falling asleep. It is a neurological condition affecting a person’s ability to stay awake and alert.
Hallucinations associated with sleep can affect anyone and often involve visual and auditory experiences, though a person may also feel other sensations.