Insomnia and hallucinations

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello! From Slovenia:
I’m 18 years old and I want to know if I should be concerned about my problems or it will fade away.
As long as I can remember, I had trouble sleeping. I need about 2 to 4 hours to fall asleep and when I do fall asleep, I sleep very lightly. The smallest noise can wake me up and I constantly dream, mostly about somebody chasing me and me luckily flying away. But I do have some nights when I don’t have trouble sleeping but still have problems falling asleep. This problem is irritating me now even more because it all got worse in the last 6 months and I have no idea why.

I have another issue to point out. When I was 12 I started to hear voices calling my name, that stopped after some months but I started to hear another voice. It was a woman’s voice and I could see her in my head and she would stand in a black room with two other men sitting opposite her. She was saying to those men:”Look how slow she is!” And then they would all laugh at me, then she would yelling at me saying:!Look how slow you are, how can you be so slow, aren’t you ashamed of yourself!” While this scene was going on in my head, the time seemed to slow down and at the same time it was going really fast, so when I was doing something(drawing, watching TV), I tried to do it really fast but I couldn’t.

I’m sorry I can’t really explain it that well. Another vision in my head would occour also out of blue, is that I would be running away from a big ball made out of spaghetti(I know it sounds stupid)and my mother would be sitting in a chair spinning and laughing at me. I have to point out that while I was hallucinating it really hurted me physicaly. This visions stopped a few years ago but I still have some hallucinations, like when I’m sitting or laying on my bed, my limbs start to get extremly heavy, like stone, even my toung feels heavy and I can’t talk. Sometimes I can see my limbs and later on my entire body getting very large, I mean huge and can’t move for a few minutes.

After all of these years I figured it out that the woman yelling at me was in fact my maths teacher, she would always pointed out to our class that we calculate to slow and I probably took it too seriously. But I don’t know about my mom and the spaghetti, I have a really good relationship with my mom and my dad. They are the only two people im my life that I really care about.

Which brings me to my third problem. I have extreme difficulties with people in terms of relationships. And I know this lies in my poor self image. Don’t get me wrong, I do have few friends and people like to be around me but I don’t like them. Most of the time I hate being around people, I would much rather be by myself. I just think I’m too ugly to be around people, it makes me feel ashamed if they have to look at my face. My mom and some of my friends say that I’m beautiful, but I just can’t belive it. My common sense says to me that I can’t look that bad, but as soon as I look in the mirror I see this face that just doesn’t belong to my body. In my mind I don’t see that kind of a face as I see it in the mirror. In the mirror it looks so deformed. I don’t know who to believe. And I know it’s stupid of me to be worried about my looks, when there are much more important problems in the world than my vanity. But it does cause me much problems with my love life…well my non-love life. I’m afraid of falling in love, because I have the felling that I will be a disgrace to the person next to me.

I’m just wondering if that is because of my young age and if it will all fade away as I get older? I don’t want to live like this for the rest of my life, I’m sick of always being sad or lethargic, I lack of joy I used to have when I was a child. Nowdays all I have is my daydreaming for a better and different future. But I don’t want to be daydreming my whole life, I want to help myself but I don’t know how. I have read so many books about selfesteem and life but it just doesn’t help me overcome my problems. So now you know why my only hope is that it will all go away by me getting older.
I thank you so much for taking the time and reading this.
Best wishes!

A: I think I have good news for you. You told me the root of all your problems in the first couple of sentences. You have a serious, serious sleep disorder. The result is that you are suffering from regular bouts of sleep paralysis and hypnogogic hallucinations. Sleep paralysis occurs during the periods between sleep and wakefulness. The body can’t move. It may feel like something heavy is on your chest. If you want to call out for help, you find that you can’t. It can be terrifying if you don’t know what it is. It is a normal phenomenon but most people are too sleepy to be aware of it. Some people, like yourself, are closer to consciousness during this period and so do have the experience you described.

Hypnogogic hallucinations occur during sleep paralysis and feel very, very real. They can include all the sensations: touch, smell, visions, sounds, tastes. People who experience them sometimes think they’ve been abducted by aliens or possessed by evil spirits because the visions and experiences feel so real. Your distorted opinion about your own face may also be connected. It may be something else but let’s deal with the sleep issues and see whether that problem fades as well.

The very first thing to do is to make sure there is no underlying health issue that is creating the insomnia. In the U.S., I’d then refer you to a sleep disorders clinic to get a total evaluation and recommendations for how to readjust your sleep habits so that you would get the 4 – 6 complete cycles of sleep every night that a person your age needs. Please investigate what resources are available in your country.

Simple things you can do yourself include making sure you get good exercise every day, limiting caffeine, alcohol and sugar in your diet, making your bedroom a place you associate with sleep, and creating a bedtime ritual that tells your mind and body that it’s time to settle down and sleep.

A sleep clinic or a counselor who is familiar with insomnia will teach you how to relax and how to reprogram yourself so that you sleep at night. Please take care of this. As you’ve already found out, sleeplessness causes more than feelings of being tired or out of sorts. Lack of enough sleep can cause serious distress.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jan 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Insomnia and hallucinations. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/01/13/insomnia-and-hallucinations/