The following is a visitor-submitted question or story. For more, you can submit your own sleep story here, or browse the collection of experiences and questions other visitors have shared here.

I Know They Aren't Real

by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
(Des Moines, IA, USA)

I am a multi-published speculative fiction author and I have a very vivid imagination. When the hallucinations started, I really thought I was losing touch with reality. Now, I know better.

The first time I experienced a hynopompic hallucination was about three weeks after my husband's death. I woke to find what I thought was my youngest son standing in the bathroom beyond my bedroom door. The apparition was my son is...and it was rubbing its head as it stood in profile to me. I asked him what he needed but he didn't answer. I slowly began to realize it wasn't my son. I wasn't afraid just unsettled. The apparition finally faded but I had a hard time getting back to sleep.

A few nights later I woke to find a giant Mr. Potato Head with over-sized white Hamburger Helper Man gloves waving at me as it clung to the bathroom wall. Beside it, a little squirrel was clapping it's paws. After that, the hallucinations became a nightly thing:

Giant mouse with razor-sharp fur standing on its back legs, huge foot tapping on the floor, large head nodding in time to the 'music'; tiny kangaroo and cat doing the twist in my bedroom chair; bloody torso sitting on my nightstand. None of those actually frightened me. I knew they weren't real but when I woke to find a young boy sitting in the chair by my bed, crying as though his heart was breaking, I freaked out. I could actually hear his crying and that really disturbed me. The next morning, I made an appointment with my physician who sent me to a psychiatrist.

"You are perfectly sane," was the diagnosis. "Grief, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, the meds you are on for depression...these all combined to cause the sleep disturbances. Let's put you on Ambien."

That was a mistake that took me two weeks to get over after weaning myself from that hellish drug I took for eight months. By the way, the Ambien did not stop the nightly hallucinations. Those have continued. Last night it was a flock of different kinds of silly-looking birds climbing up my bedroom wall. I could hear their talons scratching against the paneling.

I've gotten accustomed to the apparitions and can now turn my back on them and go back to sleep. Sometimes I just lay there and watch them until they fade. I know they aren't real but they have made excellent fodder for my novel writing.

Comments for I Know They Aren't Real

Click here to add your own comments

Dec 05, 2010
by: Mike

Hi Charlotte,

Do you experience any sleep paralysis with your HH? I'm glad your "dreams" are not dark in nature. Its great that you can go with the flow. Have you been to a sleep doc. I've never had one give me sleeping pills to deal with SP and HH. Unfortunately my "dreams" are mostly nightmares combined with SP so I'm terrified and can't move for a minute or two. I know its no fun and I've never really had a sleep doc that could do anything about it. Therapy helps me deal with it but doesn't make it go away. Stanford is working so hard on Narcolepsy and it's symptoms and are making progress all the time. Maybe they will come up with some answers. (sooner than later I hope)
Hang in there and take care,

Dec 05, 2010
HH Answers
by: Kevin Morton

Hey Mike, you're right, the hallucinations are an elusive subject when it comes to practical answers and solutions. Some interesting stuff that I've come across recently lies in the insights of Ryan Hurd, whom we're actually having come to give a lecture this year at Stanford Sleep and Dreams. He wrote a book recently on controlling sleep paralysis/HH episodes that is really great. You can get info on it here:

Aug 25, 2013
inspired thoughts NEW
by: Truth

sounds like a spirit is trying to make contact with you. perhaps they would like your help, or perhaps they simply want to help you. perhaps both. please try to find out who and which it is. communicate with them. and if they are helping you, thank them. tell them how much you appreciate their input. hey.. we all like to be recognised for our efforts right?

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Sleep Paralysis Stories.

Enjoy this page? Please help us pay it forward to others who would find it valuable by Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, Stumbling, and/or Voting below.

About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

A Note On Visitor-Submitted Questions:

Publishing sleep stories and questions from our visitors is meant to create a forum for open and proactive dialogue about an extremely important portion of our lives (one that occupies 1/3 of it and affects the other 2/3) that isn't talked about enough. It is not meant to substitute a trip to the doctor or the advice of a specialist. It's good to talk; it is not good to avoid consulting someone who's profession it is to help you with this kind of stuff.

If you are in any way concerned about your sleep health, don't wait for an answer on here, and don't necessarily rely on them. See a sleep specialist in your area as soon as possible.

More Questions:

Ask | Answer

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.