Those hallucination-things as you fall asleep.

On Wednesdays, I wake up at 4:00 AM. It doesn’t matter why, but suffice it to say that I really want a nap around, say, 3:00 in the afternoon. As I am writing this, it is 5:00 PM on a Wednesday and I haven’t had a nap. And yet I am taking the time to write a blog post. So I’m really sleepy.

But I digress. You know how, sometimes, right before you fall sleep, you’ll have those weird hallucination-type things, and it’s somewhere in between waking and sleeping and feels surprisingly real? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then this post may not make any sense to you.

For the rest of you, check out this research where people actually studied those hallucinatory moments right before sleep. By the way, being a participant in this study seems like it was equal parts awesome and annoying.

Who doesn’t like Tetris? (No one.) For this study, in which the participants were almost certainly financially compensated, researchers asked test subjects to play Tetris for two hours every morning for three consecutive days — sign me up! Here is a diagram, because this is the awesome part of the study:

Being woken up 15 seconds after falling asleep.

Then, the researchers told the subjects to take a nap in the afternoon (this study just keeps getting better). Here’s the catch: subjects were woken up either 15, 45, 75, 120 or 180¬†seconds after falling asleep. The subjects, after mumbling expletives to the scientists, then reported their “mental content” to three judges.

In what may or may not be a surprising result, 10% of the subjects (48 out of 485 people) reported experiencing exact replicas of the sights and sounds of Tetris. This was in contrast to two control groups: one in which the subjects played no games (sad face) and only 1 person in 107 reported Tetris-related hallucinations (ummm…Tetris fanatic much?); in the second group, participants played Tetris after the nap (still a sweet deal), and only 3 out of 112 of those guys pre-dreamed about Tetris (oh, the anticipation!).

So the key takeaway here is simply this: Don’t watch Nightmare on Elm Street films right¬†before taking a nap. Not only because Freddy Krueger will enter your dreams and kill you (duh), but because you might vividly hallucinate about him right before you fall sleep. And no one wants that.


Stay nerdy :)


Kusse C, Shaffii-LE Bourdiec A, Schrouff J, Matarazzo L, & Maquet P (2012). Experience-dependent induction of hypnagogic images during daytime naps: a combined behavioural and EEG study. Journal of sleep research, 21 (1), 10-20 PMID: 21848802

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4 Responses to Those hallucination-things as you fall asleep.

  1. Jordan says:

    This must be why I see scientific words in my head when I fall in and out of sleeping the night before an exam, after hard studying.

    So what exactly do these results suggest…that “repetitive” things cause the hallucinations, or just anything you do extensively? What is the bigger picture here? Why was this funded and not the project I wanna do…? -_-

  2. jujubbee says:

    in the moment before i am falling asleep something is taking over my body. the first time something held me down and a black large oval shape w/whitespikes around it was above me. it swooped down and encompassed me then went back up, this happened one more time then i was let go. then two days later while trying to take a nap i was pull by my hand with a rope thensomething layed on top of me. the night, tonight, things got real wierd. this time, of course right b4 i should have fallen asleep, i was not moving in my bed,but what was happening was felt real. i put my feet on the carpet it was black and slippery and it burned my feet. i yelled somehow and brought myself to consciousnous to feel my feet burning. i can’t fall asleep tonight because something is controling me in the moments b4 a should fall asleep. there is a sound going all the time which keeps me hypnotized enough to not let me move. i am so tired so i stay in bed and keep trying to fal asleep, but i can’t. this is happening very fast. what ever it is won’t leave me alone. can you help me?

    • NerdyOne says:

      I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been having this problem! The only thing I can recommend for certain is seeing a mental health specialist or anyone who specializes in sleep disorders. No one should have to put up with this.

    • mrshall says:

      This used to happen to me a lot, except I could open my eyes but I couldnt move my body. Its called sleep paralysis, and it SUCKS. Its definitely a hallucination, but it seems extremely real because you see the place you fell asleep. Most people that have sleep paralysis have a feeling that someone is choking or sitting on top of them, and there is always a scary figure or phantom sounds. Mine went away, but at one point, like you, it was so bad that i didnt want to sleep. Just something to think about!

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