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How half-asleep hallucinations can actually help with relaxation and sleep

Hey sleep enthusiast,


Have you ever found yourself abruptly snapping out of something that wasn’t quite a dream, but wasn’t being awake? A half-asleep hallucination could be feeling startled by an arm or leg jolt with a sense of stopping you from falling as it brings you back into the room. Or maybe a flash of light, sounds or some trippy visuals that wake you from your nap, making you want to check you’ve not been abducted by aliens.


These kinds of experiences can come up with clients in sleep coaching sessions once they get their sleep routines to a place of being ‘mostly reliable’. That’s the point when they have the capacity to explore how to optimise their lifestyle and sleep to support their ongoing well-being.


Learning from dreamy, altered states

I love the ‘aha moments’ that can land during this stage of exploration of the sleep coaching experience. Many of these can be uncovered through insights from those dreamy, altered states. So I wanted to share some knowledge about this to inspire more people to get curious about what they can uncover!


To make it clear, this is serious sleep geek stuff. It’s what I am excited to keep learning more about and sharing. Specifically with people who also want to learn about the science behind altered states. That way they can make sense of their sleep difficulties and use the insights to create their version of a more vibrant life. As energising as all that is, it does require a certain level of wakeful energy to begin with.


A recap on the basics for getting better sleep

So if you’re struggling with a sleep rough patch, and your focus is on simply getting some sleep, firstly, I feel you. Secondly, the guides for enhancing your mind, body and environment for Restful Sleep may be helpful for covering the basics to help you get back on track. Or you’re welcome to book a free discovery call if you’d like to ask some specific questions about your sleep struggles.

If you do have some mental capacity to be curious (hooray for your current, good enough sleep!), let’s take a look at those in-between sleep phases. Read on to find out how half-asleep hallucinations can offer ways to enhance your personal growth, relaxation and Restful Sleep.


What goes on in half-asleep hallucinations?

There are a couple of transitory states between wakefulness and sleep that have been identified. These hallucinations happen in the stages of sleep when falling asleep (or trying to sleep) and waking up:


Hypnagogia - from wakefulness to sleep

You notice this one when trying to stay awake or when you get to take a quick nap. Hypnagogia brings visuals, sounds, flashes or light that wake you up. Or you could have an arm or leg jolt. More intense experiences of this can include sleep paralysis, which can be a scary not-quite-sleep experience.


Hypnopompia - leading out of sleep to wakefulness

Maybe you wake with your alarm but are still sleepy, then you notice a thought turns into a dream and you’re almost drifting back off to sleep. Some visions, sounds, hearing voices or even feeling sensations can ‘wake’ you out of this state. That’s when you suddenly realise they aren’t there and you’ve kind of been napping. Hypnopompia is less common than hypnagogia, however it also stimulates a sensory experience that can bring back alertness.


A hypnotic effect

As anyone who has struggled with their sleep knows, falling asleep is not a binary process from being awake to sleeping. Unfortunately! Scientists still don’t fully understand all that takes place in our brains during these processes. We know that our brains and circadian rhythms have various phases to move through, both between sleep and wakefulness, as well as during sleep itself.


As we move through the different stages of sleep we enter into various altered states of consciousness. Like with hypnosis, there’s a direct route to the subconscious so brains are more open to seeing different perspectives. This offers the potential for personal development, with hacks to address long-held limiting beliefs and more.


Some of the benefits of working with these altered states include:


From a creative block to a fresh creative drop

Research shared by the World Economic Forum shows how our brains hit peak creativity just before falling asleep (hello hypnagogia!).


Both the renowned inventor Thomas Edison and artist Salvador Dali reportedly used a napping technique based on this to boost their creativity. They would take a nap with a steel ball or spoon in their hand, then when the object hit the ground, the sound woke them - ideally with a new creative idea.


If you are working from home and have flexibility in how you manage your time, this could be something that you could experiment with during your day. Maybe when taking a break after some focused productive periods, so you can both get some rest and see what new ideas may drop after it.


Boosting relaxation and productivity

I often hear how meditation can be difficult to access initially, that’s because if you regularly experience racing thoughts, they can become overbearing in contrast to trying to ‘do nothing’.


The half-asleep hallucination states between sleep and wakefulness can help you build more familiarity with relaxation practices. By understanding and getting more comfortable in these in-between places, it may be more possible to intentionally get your system into a similar state. For example, through practicing yoga nidra.


Stanford Neurobiology Professor Andrew Huberman promotes these kinds of non-sleep-deep-rest practices for their productivity and relaxation benefits, which also help with sleep:


‘A 10-20min nap or NSDR (Non-Sleep-Deep-Rest) have both been shown to replenish physical energy & increase cognitive function. NSDR, however, also increases striatal dopamine & improves one’s self-directed-relaxation ability, which in turn improves sleep.’

Increased self-awareness and well-being

Exploring the half-asleep states between wakefulness and sleep can provide a window into the subconscious mind. This can be helpful for catching limiting beliefs, as well as accessing new possibilities through thoughts, images, and sensations that might not be apparent during full wakefulness.


Connecting with these kinds of experiences can stimulate awe in the brain. This experience can generate more inspiration and motivation to make changes in our lives that previously didn’t seem possible. It starts by bringing more attention to the fleeting experiences, to gain insights into inner thoughts, fears, desires, and creative impulses. Which can then be used to inform the choices we make in our everyday lives.


Interpreting these insights is where Restful Sleep coaching can help. Clients are guided through simple and effective embodiment exercises to understand more about the signals that our bodies and minds share with us.


How sleep coaching can help you make the most of your sleep

If you’re finding your way to better sleep and want to uncover ways to make the most of your energy, Restful Sleep coaching can help. With one-on-one sessions, you get support in reviewing all aspects of your waking hours and sleep habits, in order to determine what serves your well-being and sleep. You also get accountability in making the changes that will make a difference to your well-being!


To find out more about how sleep coaching could help you cultivate more reliable and consistent Restful Sleep, you’d be welcome to book a free discovery call where you can ask any questions about where you are at.


Stay curious,

Maša.


About the author

Maša Nobilo, Sleep Coach

From first-hand insomniac to certified Embodied Facilitator with training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, the Feldenkrais Method and Embodied Yoga Principles, Maša is well-equipped to support you on journey to restful sleep.
Learn more below.

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