The hypnagogic state

The hypnagogic state

Most people have never heard of the hypnagogic state. First of all, sleep is essential for our good health and a good night’s rest can help combat stress, nervous exhaustion, headaches and irritability. As we sleep, we dream — and dreams can be restorative. People who are deprived of sleep for long periods, such as junior doctors, have admitted to worrying that they may not be considering all perspectives when making important decisions. In sleep-deprivation experiments, people have hallucinated (imagined seeing things and hearing voices), become paranoid, and they could not function properly on a mental level. Once they had caught up on their sleep, their health returned to normal.

It is also estimated that two-thirds of all long-distance drivers’ near-misses are caused by the driver falling asleep at the wheel.

We need to sleep, and we need to dream.

As we fall asleep, we enter a hypnagogic state. This is a strange time when we are neither fully asleep, nor fully awake. If you have ever found yourself suddenly jerking into wakefulness (also known as a hypnic jerk), it is usually while in the beginning phase of the hypnagogic state. While in the hypnagogic state, it is often difficult to distinguish between thoughts and reality. We might hear voices, see visions and all sorts of strange thoughts and sights come into our head.

The hypnagogic state leads into sleep and then, as we leave sleep, we once again enter this strange half-awake, half-asleep state. We see scenes before our eyes — such as someone cooking a meal, people dancing, a crowded airport. We hear sounds: the telephone ringing, your partner talking, the dog barking. And then we come into full wakefulness, sometimes feeling confused as to what was, and what was not, real!