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Sometimes I hear loud screaming inside my head when I am falling asleep.
April 1, 2007 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes I hear loud screaming inside my head when I am falling asleep.

It's a really strange feeling. I am actually currently experiencing in this very moment. I've been experiencing once every two months or so the past few years. When I am falling asleep, it seems like I hear extremely loud screaming. I don't really hear it but it's like a feeling of hearing loud screaming inside my head. At the same time, time seems to slow down and I feel like I've traveled through time back to the past. All this time I experience extreme fear. Once again, I don't really feel the fear, but it's more like a memory of this feeling of extreme fear. It's strange because everytime this happens I have a vague memory of feeling this way once when I was maybe 5. It's like all this really happened to me at that time and it has been pushed into my unconsciousness and it would creep back up once in awhile. But I really have no recollections of anything remotely close to this ever happening to me when I was young. I had been experiencing this since about 10 minutes ago while trying to sleep and decided to wake up and write about this. Maybe someone with a background in psychology can explain this. I really would like to find out what this is all about.
posted by willy_dilly to Religion & Philosophy (59 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
It could be a panic attack, or something else related to anxiety disorders. Does it seem to be related to stress at all? Specific activities during the day, reading or seeing disturbing things before bed, being worried about things in your life?

Hope people have helpful idea for you, man--that sounds like a pretty rough thing to live with.
posted by hippugeek at 10:42 PM on April 1, 2007


Sleep Paralysis can often cause people to have auditory (as well as visual) hallucinations. Many times it is incoherent murmuring, talking, or even screams. I've personally experienced it as shouting coming from the next (empty) room followed by whispers right next to me.
However, I have never heard of anyone continuing to have such hallucinations while fully awake after the fact.
posted by nightchrome at 10:42 PM on April 1, 2007


Does it sound like one person screaming, or many? Words or just general yelling?
posted by Liosliath at 10:48 PM on April 1, 2007


I've had the exact same thing happen to me many times when I was a kid. Screaming sensation in my head and extreme fear when I was trying to fall asleep. Every time it would happen was when I was very sick with a fever or flu. I've never had it happen when I was in good health, and it hasn't happened to me since I was about 12. I dunno if that helps at all.
posted by sputgop at 10:54 PM on April 1, 2007


I've experienced what nightchrome describes few dozen times myself.

Also, when I was a child, I had night terrors; sometimes, now, after waking up after a semi-asleep sleep paralysis thing, I'm left with a feeling very evocative of the aftereffect of night terrors. This corresponds very closely to "...a memory of this feeling of extreme fear. It's strange because every time this happens I have a vague memory of feeling this way once when I was maybe 5."
posted by onshi at 10:59 PM on April 1, 2007


Wow, that is so interesting. I used to have a very similar experience when I was young. Like you, I would hear a loud screaming in my head or an intense buzzing/ringing sound. Time would feel like it slowed down and my movements, even the slightest ones, would feel incredibly fast and disorienting. The voice of my mom talking to me would sound impossibly far away though she was only across the room. My body would feel like it was shrinking down to a tiny size, yet I could look down and see that my arms and feet were still normal.

This was not a common occurrence. It happened probably once every month or so when I was 4-10 years old. Each time, it only lasted a minute or less. Although, I do remember that when it would happen, another "episode" would usually follow shortly the next day or so.

I think I eventually grew out of it. I haven't totally experienced it in over a decade. I'm 22 now. Very rarely, I'll experience it again, but very very slightly. But it will be enough to bring back the memories that I had when I was younger.

I googled around trying to find something that would explain these symptoms and the best fit is Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. I read online a few years back that there is an unexplained high percentage of children from Taiwan that suffer from Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. I was born in Taiwan, so maybe I did indeed have AIWS. It sounds crazy as hell, but who knows?

I've never met anyone else who's had the same experience as me, but your description sounds partly similar to mine so I figured I'd share that with you. I may be totally off here regarding your experience, but I figured it's worth a shot.
posted by atmu at 11:00 PM on April 1, 2007


I've also experienced it the way sputgop has, with a fever and mostly as a child. It sometimes happens very mildly when I'm really tired and I lie on my back (rather than my side which is my preferred position). Does it happen no matter how you're lying?

My most horrible memory of this was a face that came very close to mine, then receded over and over with a voice that shouted and whispered as it did. It's very scary as a child, and I'm not sure I'd enjoy it now either.
posted by joshnunn at 11:02 PM on April 1, 2007


Wow, I've never found anyone else who has experienced this. The extreme fear feelings started when I was a young child maybe 8 or 9 and occurred usually when I had a very heavy fever and was hallucinating, but there were these times when I would feel "crushed", and there was a very large object making its way towards me.

As for the screaming, the best way I can describe my experience is that it is this blood-curdling kind of screaming that just keeps going and going. I'm not totally conscious when this is happening, but I'm not unconscious either. However, rather than the memory of extreme fear, I am absolutely petrified when this occurs and oddly enough the "type" of fear is one that is very similar to the one I experienced when I was younger.

I've always just believed that it was some kind of crazy tinnitus, but I'm favouriting this thread in case anyone can provide a better answer. It's nice to know I'm not the only one.
posted by perpetualstroll at 11:06 PM on April 1, 2007


Is it actual screaming? Or is it just a loud piercing noise? I have tinnitis, but this screaming sounds really rough. Sorry to hear about it. :(
posted by miss lynnster at 11:09 PM on April 1, 2007


"My body would feel like it was shrinking down to a tiny size, yet I could look down and see that my arms and feet were still normal."

I had the exact opposite sensation..felt like my body was becoming huge, even though I was looking at my little skinny arms. Same time frame, about 5-12, and a couple of times since then. The screaming sounded more like a bunch of people all talking really loudly, but with no discernible words. I thought it was some kind of temporary psychotic episode and hoped it wouldn't happen again!
posted by Liosliath at 11:09 PM on April 1, 2007


Sounds like a form of hypnogagic hallucination. If you're not fully asleep by the time sleep paralysis takes over, that could explain the extreme fear.

Neither of these things are terribly abnormal or symptoms of mental illness. Stress and lack of sleep can make them more intense/likely to happen.

I've never heard screaming upon trying to go sleep (though now I'll probably worry myself into actually experiencing it, thanks ;) but I sometimes hear fragments of conversation. The oddest sleep paralysis experience I had was one of being "assaulted" by a malevolent force that I half-dreamed had entered my apartment. Weird stuff, but, again, nothing to really worry about.

What does sound unusual to me is the memory aspect of it. That could just be an aspect of the hallucination, but it's interesting you've been able to zero-in a specific time in your life. Did anything traumatic happen to you around this time, something that could have registered as not necessarily a literal scream, but as a figurative one? Or perhaps you first experienced this phenomenon around that age, but don't actually remember experiencing it . . . ?
posted by treepour at 11:28 PM on April 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've had this happen to me as well -- mostly when I've been tired and it's very late and I'm stressed out and alone. The screaming/noises are sounds that you don't really hear but that you can still listen; once you try to listen to them, they subside.

I suggest getting up, going to some joke site or something and calming down, getting a laugh, realizing that you're not the only person in the world.
posted by suedehead at 11:33 PM on April 1, 2007


"My body would feel like it was shrinking down to a tiny size, yet I could look down and see that my arms and feet were still normal."

I have had that a few times in the past, though I am not sure if I've experienced what the OP is describing.

Since I was a kid, and less frequently now, I've occasionally late at night gone through spells where everything sounds as if it's being SHOUTED. AT. ME. no matter how loud it is -- in fact, more so sometimes, if it's quiet. Little things like keyboard and mouse clicks especially sounds like gunshots, even though I'm consciously aware that they're no louder than normal -- the only way to describe it is that they somehow have the same tonal urgency that you'd expect from a bloodcurdling scream.

I can't say that it's the same thing that the OP is experiencing, but my pyschiatrist just called it a standard panic/anxiety attack (don't remember which) and prescribed some xanax, which seems to work fine, but they usually last so briefly that I'm not certain that it changes anything. Might be useful to you though, I don't know. I would recommend talking to a doctor about it, but it doesn't sound like it's too serious or you're heading down the road to schizophrenia or anythin' like that :) Probably just a mild neurosis/anxiety issue.
posted by spiderwire at 11:37 PM on April 1, 2007


As far as I'm aware, sleep paralysis occurs when waking up (the hypnopompic state). This is the hypnagogic (falling asleep) state. Both the hypnopompic and hypnagogic states are known as hypnagogia, just to make things complicated. Fear seems to be pretty common during these states. All sorts of weird stuff has been known to happen during them - hallucinations occurred for 37.5% of respondents in this British Journal of Psychiatry article. Seems to be more common in those with sleep problems like insomnia or narcolepsy. Make sure you're getting enough sleep. If it really bothers you, see a sleep specialist, they can have a look at your brainwaves while you're asleep to see if anything out of the ordinary is going on.
posted by terrynutkins at 11:50 PM on April 1, 2007


Wow. Reading some of the comments here is definitely giving me chills. Particularly perpetualstroll's description of feeling "crushed" - I would often have similar experiences when I was a kid accompanied by a loud ringing or buzzing sound. I feel like these "dreams" or "night terrors" were reasonably common when I was a kid and have only happened once or twice in my teen years and (thankfully) almost never in my adult life.

I have occasionally had more traditional "night terrors" (as described the wikipedia link) once or twice in the past few years - usually when sleeping in unfamiliar places. These are usually only a sense of foreboding or deep fear maybe with some sort of scary component such as a figure standing beside the bed. There is a sleep paralysis component to it as well. Screaming? Sure, but I always felt like the voice in my head was my own... you know, screaming because I was scared.

The last one was a few years ago when I was house sitting for some friends and sleeping in an unfamiliar bed. The screaming, paralysis, and scary figure by the bed were all there but after what seemed like a short interval (20 - 30 seconds perhaps?) I was somehow able to say to myself, "This is a dream, it isn't real. Wake up now." I slept with the light on after that.

For the OP I'd recommend that you checkout the link on "night terrors" that oshi links to up thread as this sounds like a more accurate assessment of what your is experiencing rather than only sleep paralysis. Some other thoughts:

- Changing something in your sleeping environment may help - lighting (night light, at least for a while?), perhaps leaving a radio or television on, may help as well (personally I've always heard that its a little unhealthy to have a tv in the bedroom, but I know people who can't go to sleep without having the tv on - usually with a "sleep timer".)

- There seems to be some connection to stress involved with these episodes in adults, so obviously work to alleviate that if its an issue in your life (for other health reasons as well.)

- Okay, this sounds silly, but if I watch a scary movie just before bedtime (and I love scary movies - particularly of the monster variety) I'll sleep poorly. Dog Soldiers (meh, a serviceable werewolf flick) kept me tossing and turning the other night with visions of 8-foot-tall lycanthropes chasing me around my apartment... YMMV

- Lastly, some light reading before bed has always helped me adjust to nighttime and sort of "tune out" all the daily things that are on my mind.
posted by wfrgms at 11:54 PM on April 1, 2007


As far as I'm aware, sleep paralysis occurs when waking up (the hypnopompic state).

I've definitely had it (or something much like it) occur just as I'm falling asleep.

Also, have you (the OP) ever tried a white noise maker? I find these help tremendously. In fact, I don't think I remember ever experiencing significant hypnagogic phenomena when using one.
posted by treepour at 12:02 AM on April 2, 2007


Exploding Head Syndrome
(this is real)
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:04 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I had this for the first time recently, and I seem to recall it being when I was really, really sick with bed-soaking fevers (but that might be the case). It was as I was trying to call asleep, and I distinctly remember wondering if I was crazy because I was definitely hearing voices.

It sounded like several voices, but sort of far away, and exactly like the kind of effect they'd use in a scary movie to indicate a character is hearing voices or is haunted. I fell asleep okay and it hasn't happened sense.
posted by Brittanie at 12:11 AM on April 2, 2007


I regularly experienced something similar to what's being described here when I was younger (teens, early twenties). Mine was a visual / kinetic feeling, and there was frequently a sort of rushing, humming, or whining sound. I would experience complex, shifting, organic imagery at extremely high speeds which I can best compare to that crazy arm thing that happens to Tetsuo near the end of Akira, along with the knowledge that the imagery represented responsibilities, worries, fears, expectations, etc. piling up. I felt stress, but never fear. This would happen when I was lying in bed near sleep, but I always felt that I could consciously observe the experience from a slight distance.

Turning on the lights or getting up and walking around would calm things down.
posted by migurski at 12:19 AM on April 2, 2007


I never had the screaming, but periodically had a similar bundle of symptoms to what people are describing here (problems with scale, time, big big fear) during sleepy night time. It usualy combined with feeling extremely isolated, to the point that I might be the only person alive. The only thing that helped was speaking and interacting with other humans who could bring normality back to the table.
I just presumed I was quite mad, but it seems to have dissipated almost completely over time.
posted by robself at 12:27 AM on April 2, 2007


I also have a feeling or memory that seems connected to some time in my childhood. It's just a feeling of dread that there is something very large near me. I can't really pin down the sensation now that I'm awake - I need to be in a different state of consciousness to really "remember" it.

I'm guessing that these are hypnagogic hallucinations which are maybe more prevalent in kids, and that as adults when we experience them they seem like memories.

Also, reading this thread gave me the hollering fantods.
posted by lemuria at 12:51 AM on April 2, 2007


I sometimes hear the sounds "inside my head" while falling asleep as well, to the point where I often sincerely can't tell whether the TV is on in the other room. A couple of times, it actually is. Mostly not.

Some other symptoms you and others here have described - time slowing down/speeding up, loud ringing sounds, depth-perception problems, along with other sorts of indescribable mental "flickers" - sound like the "auras" I used to get before having a seizure (I had temporal lobe epilepsy as a child, but haven't had a full-on seizure since I was 12). Not that I'm saying you have epilepsy, but since there are only so many conclusions you can draw by comparing notes with internet strangers, it'd be worth mentioning all this to your doctor.
posted by granted at 1:24 AM on April 2, 2007


I second the fantods, by the way. God damn it willy_dilly, now you've got us all wide awake and terrified.
posted by granted at 1:26 AM on April 2, 2007


Oh, and might I recommend checking out Oliver Sacks if you're interested in quirky brain stuff like this. Now I'm off to play Snood until it gets light outside.
posted by granted at 1:28 AM on April 2, 2007


I just got into bed and only then did I remember the other part of the hallucination - a voice murmuring something gravely to me. I guess that goes with everyone else's experience that it's going to sleep that triggers this happening, since I didn't even remember that when I was fully awake.

Now I'm going to go turn on all the lights and have a nice cup of tea.
posted by lemuria at 1:33 AM on April 2, 2007


Yes, I've experienced some of the things described in this thread as well. So you're not alone or crazy.

And thanks, all of you. It's 1:45am and there's NO WAY I'm going to sleep anytime soon. Hellllllo staying up all night.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 AM on April 2, 2007


Not to drop this into Chatfilter area, but as an aside note: awhile back I started to have sleep paralysis a few times in a row. At first it was quite disturbing, but then I learned what it was and became determined to "fully experience" it next time. Pay full attention, get the most out of it, see what is and isn't possible in that state, etc.
Since then it hasn't happened to me again. :(
Like many subjective experiences in life, it may dissolve under intense scrutiny. Maybe consider the next occurrence as an "experiment"?
posted by nightchrome at 1:55 AM on April 2, 2007


I second the Exploding Head Syndrome. This has happened to me a handful of times, frighteningly twice in one week. A sudden, ear-shattering, flinch-inducing...well, explosion. Sounds like a shotgun blast to me. Very realistic and very spooky.
posted by zardoz at 3:52 AM on April 2, 2007


As soon as I read this I thought you might be having Night Terrors. I have had the screaming, and my wife indicates it is usually me. I have not had a Night Terror in a good 4-6 months but I usually have them a couple times a year.

For me it is a combination of stress and sleep deprivation. Do you live alone? A roommate will tell you right away if you were screaming your head off in the middle of the night.

Usually I start to become conscious, I find I am in the grip of an utter panic, my heart pounding out of my chest, already out of bed pacing, and usually to the tune of OMIGOD, OMIGOD.

My wife has questioned me before I have 'woke up' and she says I am usually afraid that everyone is dead and trying to kill me.

Ever since I found that out I have also watched most of the classic zombie films and read The Zombie Survival Guide. This and working on getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night seem to have taken care of it for me.

Good Luck.

posted by Wong Fei-hung at 4:33 AM on April 2, 2007


It's amazing, because you are describing something that's happened to me occasionally since I was very young. And then commenters have added a few details that also apply to me. I've always had a hard time describing it, because I can't really hear the screaming, it's more like a memory of screaming, and I also have a murmuring sound (that's not really a sound) like a lot of people in a large room talking quietly to each other but with one guy screaming. But it doesn't always happen when I'm falling asleep. In fact, it happens more at other times, mostly when I'm alone and when I'm doing something mindless like folding or playing a really repetitive computer game or something. It feels like my insides are speeding up but my outsides are moving very slowly and calmly. I feel afraid but I don't react, especially because I recognize the feeling now as something different from regular fear.

When I was little, I thought it was just the vague memory of a really bad nightmare that would sneak up on me now and then. Then as I got older I suspected that they were actually mild panic attacks. Unfortunately I haven't seen anything linked here in this thread that actually explains or gives a name to this feeling.
posted by lampoil at 5:12 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


My body would feel like it was shrinking down to a tiny size, yet I could look down and see that my arms and feet were still normal.

I had this, but I felt that my body was heavy, not large. Or that something heavy was on me, like those things they drape on you at the dentist's before giving you an x-ray. This happened at random times though, usually not before sleep. Still happens occasionally.

I also got the "screaming in my head but not for real", except my brain was convinced that I was curled up on the floor bawling my eyes out while I was actually sitting calmly talking to friends. This happened in a period of my life when some bad shit was going down and I probably should have spent some time crying about it, but I was in major denial. (I also had the reverse: crying but having no accompanying emotion, and having all the [detached] emotion but no physical accompaniment.)

Yours is probably related to sleep in a way that mine wasn't at all, but yeah, the brain has some weird quirks.
posted by heatherann at 5:26 AM on April 2, 2007


ditto night terrors.
posted by mr_book at 5:38 AM on April 2, 2007


Well, dangit, now I know I'm insane.

I regularly experienced something similar to what's being described here ... mine was a visual / kinetic feeling, and there was frequently a sort of rushing, humming, or whining sound. I would experience complex imagery at extremely high speeds ... This would happen when I was lying in bed near sleep, but I always felt that I could consciously observe the experience from a slight distance.

Now, what I felt was me and my bed traveling at unreal speed through some psychidelic morass, and I couldn't move (presumably because of the g-forces, right?)

Well, I got to like it, actually, even with the fear. I considered it a roller coaster ride. I'd go to sleep with the hope/expectation of having one of those rides.

They maxed out when I was 12-13. I've had them a few times since then. Usually nowadays when I'm in a dream I don't like and I "feel" my eyes are closed, I'll argue with myself about whether to continue the dream or wake the hell up*.

As someone noted above, if you can get around/past the fear and inspect it some, it should calm down on its own.

*and it's really funky when I've missed a Xanax dose
posted by lysdexic at 6:48 AM on April 2, 2007


A question for the OP - can you correlate the position you're in with these experiences? I recently asked Metafilter why I get nightmares/sleep paralysis most frequently when I fall asleep on my back. (Unfortunately, the hive mind was not particularly helpful.)

Spiderwire - No one else has commented on the sensation you described where everything is shouting at you, but I get something similar. When I am about to fall asleep, or if I doze off and wake up again, my hearing becomes super sensitive, and everything sounds horrifyingly LOUD. It drives me a bit bonkers until I can fall asleep again. Just thought I would share.
posted by infinityjinx at 6:58 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I started reading this thread because I thought - jeez, that poor bastard, at least I don't have freaking screaming in my head, who has that forchrissakes? - but as I kept reading and realizing it's not so uncommon, I became fascinated. And then people began talking about weird perceptions of size, which I have had: rarely, always while falling asleep and not unpleasant feelings of great distance, as if I were hovering over a stadium, which suddenly switches in this very vertigoesque way to a feeling of overwhelming closeness, as if I were looking at something in a microscope. Weird, but like I said, rare and not unpleasant.
Then someone mentioned hallucinating muttering voices and Goddamn if that hasn't happened to me once too! It sounded like two old people chatting and while I can't remember what they were saying, it was clear and so mundane to the point of my feeling sort of like "a wire got crossed in the universe and I'm hearing something I shouldn't." Remember crossed phone lines, when you would suddenly be evesdropping on someone else's conversation? Like that. Again, it was while falling asleep as an adult and so your sense of logic isn't on alert. I had forgotten that strange experience until now.
posted by poxuppit at 7:01 AM on April 2, 2007


I don't really hear it but it's like a feeling of hearing loud screaming inside my head. At the same time, time seems to slow down

I got that as a child. Sound filled my head (distorted, slowed screaming) time slowed to an excruciating crawl, my visual field seemed to slowly swirl, along with a sense of dread, panic and paralysis. I remember those experiences distinctly--I just thought it was a recurring nightmare I'd get every few months.

I grew out of that, but I do still have occasional sleep paralysis, usually 10-15 minutes after I've fallen into dreaming sleep (according to my husband) and if the dream is disturbing or verging on a nightmare.

The latter I was glad to read about and confirm it's not uncommon. The former? Yours, and other accounts, are the first time I've read about others sharing the experience.

Not being versed in matters of the brain, I chalk it up to the young, growing brain, and occasional glitches in conciousness/sleep/states of awareness.
posted by Savannah at 7:31 AM on April 2, 2007


Then someone mentioned hallucinating muttering voices and Goddamn if that hasn't happened to me once too! It sounded like two old people chatting and while I can't remember what they were saying, it was clear and so mundane to the point of my feeling sort of like "a wire got crossed in the universe and I'm hearing something I shouldn't." Remember crossed phone lines, when you would suddenly be evesdropping on someone else's conversation? Like that. Again, it was while falling asleep as an adult and so your sense of logic isn't on alert. I had forgotten that strange experience until now.

Sorry for the double-post, but ditto. I used to hear literally, "voices in my head" clear as anything. Random, as if accidentally tuning into an exceptionally clear radio station in the middle of a conversation.

I kept quiet about that, because no one wants to admit they hear voices in their head.

That, too, hasn't happened as a distinct, memorable experience in a while (it happened a lot more in my 20s; I'm now 41), but it still occasionally does. When I was younger, I used to anticipate it as I lay in bed to sleep, as it was interesting, and I wanted to confirm that it really happened. I used to think of it like tuning into the 'mental radio'.

Perhaps these experiences are all related? I am not versed in psychology or the workings of the brain, but it wouldn't surprise me if that if one experience wasn't associated with the others. I don't know if it happens to people who are creative more than people who aren't, or if it's indicative of something more sobering.

I'd love to read more from people who've studied this sort of thing, but it never occurred to me to research it in depth, as these things happen on the verge of sleep, and by the time mundane morning arrives, other thoughts of the day ahead have taken hold.
posted by Savannah at 7:40 AM on April 2, 2007


poxuppit, you perfectly described the odd sensations I sometimes have. Looking at an object as if from a great height, then suddenly appearing very very close to it, as if I were suddenly very small. Sometimes this is accompanied by a comfortable pressure on my entier body. Not unpleasant at all.
posted by lyam at 8:02 AM on April 2, 2007


Oh my god. I have only ever met one other person who has experienced this, and I swear, I thought I was maybe a little crazy.

It happens mostly when I have a fever (it still happens to me occasionally), and I always called it "whisper-screaming". It was like if you had a radio on and someone was screaming, really hard, something un-understandable, but the volume was turned down really low.

I have never gone off the bend and murdered someone, so I don't think you're crazy. My fear feels weird as well - sort of like a bemused, out-of-body kind of fright.
posted by mckenney at 8:22 AM on April 2, 2007


1) My husband has some sort of night terrors. He wakes up screaming (absolutely terrifying for me, laying next to him) and is convinced that there's something or someone in the room.

2) I sometimes hear someone very clearly saying my name. This freaked me out when I was younger because I would somehow get the idea that it was someone trying to wake me out of a coma, and I couldn't wake up.
posted by nekton at 8:29 AM on April 2, 2007


Another double-ditto post - perhaps because its so fascinating to learn that the strange thing that happens at night that you never talk about because people think you're completely nuts if you do actually happens to other people.
I've never had the noise - but the spatial distortions I've had all my life. Less now that I'm out of my adolescence, but at least once a month. I used to call it "being a flea and an elephant" - it was like being a blob of wax in a Lava Lamp: that same sense of languid swelling and shrinking, though the bloating and dwindling happened at the SAME TIME. The large feelings were comforting and heavy and gave me an anchor from which to watch my limbs stretch and shrink away to nothing. I I have always found this state very comforting as it means I'm falling asleep. Sometimes I try to hold and prolong the state, for the fun of feeling and watching myself like this.
posted by tabubilgirl at 8:53 AM on April 2, 2007


You're on the verge of an out-of-body experience. Read books by Robert Monroe to hear how he explains it, and the fun things you can do with this skill you have.
posted by bink at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2007


As with people above, I've experienced very similar things - glad I'm not crazy.

I'm interested if anybody apart from the OP has actually had the sound continue after you've "woken up":
I am actually currently experiencing in this very moment

I've always found hypnic jerks pretty scary too...
posted by muteh at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2007


Heh, I knew somebody was going to mention Journeys Out of the Body eventually. I can only reiterate what others have said; auditory, detached-emotional and body-sensory experiences on the verge of sleep are commonplace. Personally I have experienced what I guess is being called exploding head (perception of something like a jet plane sound dopplering past my head, and a loud gun-like explosion on a few occasions), hearing a voice loudly and distinctly say my name, sensations similar to others' descriptions of body-size distortion and a sense of detachment from my extremities, and in a particular stretch that recurred repeatedly over several weeks, a sense of something expanding inside my head - an uncomfortable but not painful sensation as if a void was inflating centered behind the eyes. The latter was associated with a period of intense personal stress.
posted by nanojath at 9:53 AM on April 2, 2007


I'm really relieved to hear that I wasn't the only one - the strange size loud-voice thing used to happen to me all the time as an adolescent. It always happened just before falling asleep, or just before waking. I thought I was possessed or something. Good to know that others have had this happen too (or that I'm not possessed alone).
posted by Flakypastry at 10:05 AM on April 2, 2007


i had the screaming sounds, and the shrinking/growing feeling very occasionally as a little kid, always when i had a high fever. for me it was a teeny, twinkly-sounding daisy trying earnestly to grow, then a massive truck roaring by and smashing it, again and again.
laura ingalls wilder, the pioneer woman who wrote her autobiography in the "little house on the prairie" books, describes the same feeling (paraphrase: "something dwindled until it was impossibly tiny, then grew til it was impossibly huge"). at the time, she was very sick with scarlet fever or malaria or typhus or something.
in college, my roommate showed me a surreal painting she'd done of a scary giant about to stomp onto a tiny floating island with one miniscule flower on it. i immediately recognized this as a variation of my childhood fever dream, which we'd never spoken of. she was stunned; it was her fever dream too.
my current roommate just now said he used to have the same feeling of slow-mo screaming and size shifts when he was high on acid as a teenager. could this be a drug flashback?
posted by twistofrhyme at 10:20 AM on April 2, 2007


Are we ruling out here that you were all used in horrific experiments as children and the memories hypnotically suppressed or removed?

That's what it always is in the movies.
posted by ontic at 11:18 AM on April 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


As atmu mentioned above, I do believe everyone's descriptions of things feeling near/far when they are not, and huge/tiny when they are not are symptoms of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. I suffered from this as a child also and remember great fear and confusion. I'm not sure willy_dilly's experience is the same or perhaps just a different version of it. It also may be suppressed memories of the syndrome that's coming to the surface now (which is why the feeling comes back but less of the perception hallucinations).
posted by pinksoftsoap at 12:29 PM on April 2, 2007


This is the best of the web.

I've experienced this as well, - the "spells where everything sounds as if it's being SHOUTED. AT. ME.", the time slowing down, talking with someone and gradually them becoming giant, the sensation of touch becoming abrasive and irritating...

Most happened as a child, as well as during high fevers, but has continued throughout my life.

At 15 years of age, I found a copy of Monroes Journeys out of the Body, and once I flipped the lucid dreaming switch, I constantly lucid dream and experience the most absurd nonsense hallucinations and thoughts when I get tired and shut my eyes.

I always thought it had something to do with having epilepsy. Can I get a show of hands?

Anyways, I'm bookmarking this thread. I'm not crazy! (or at least, you are all crazy too).
posted by iamck at 2:08 PM on April 2, 2007


Not wanting to make it worse for anybody, but I'd be very interested to hear how the "figures" people see actually appear. As many will know, sleep paralysis is a leading rationalist explanation of "alien abduction". If you experience sleep paralysis and see figures, can the figures you see take the form of something familar, either from real life or from TV/film/books, etc.? Or are they not really seen clearly?
posted by galaksit at 2:11 PM on April 2, 2007


Well, with regards to it being related to epilepsy, I found this on wikipedia:

Simple Partial Seizures (SPS) involve small areas of the temporal lobe and do not affect consciousness. These are seizures which primarily cause sensations. These sensations may be mnestic such as déjà vu (a feeling of familiarity), jamais vu (a feeling of unfamiliarity), a specific single or set of memories, or amnesia. The sensations may be auditory such as a sound or tune, or gustatory such as a taste, or olfactory such as a smell that is not truly present. Sensations can also be visual or involve feelings on the skin or in the internal organs. The latter feelings may seem to move over the body. Dysphoric or euphoric feelings, fear, anger, and other sensations can also occur during SPS. Often, it is hard for persons with SPS of TLE to describe the feeling. SPS are sometimes called "auras" by lay persons, and are sometimes thought to just be a prelude to an actual seizure. The latter is incorrect. SPS are seizures.
posted by granted at 3:00 PM on April 2, 2007


Spiderwire - No one else has commented on the sensation you described where everything is shouting at you, but I get something similar. When I am about to fall asleep, or if I doze off and wake up again, my hearing becomes super sensitive, and everything sounds horrifyingly LOUD. It drives me a bit bonkers until I can fall asleep again. Just thought I would share.

I should clarify that I don't experience this as a wake-from-sleep issue -- it happens when I'm working on the computer late at night and start to notice that all the key clicks are going BAM BAM BAM. it happens when i'm lying in bed, too, but less frequently.

I'm baffled that we've gone so long in this thread, with so many people acknowledging similar howling-fantods like symptoms, and it still doesn't seem to me that anyone's really pinned down what exactly's going on.
posted by spiderwire at 6:38 PM on April 2, 2007


infiniftyjinx: Wikipedia on sleep paralysis notes 'lying supine' (facing up, or lying on your back, same difference) as a possible cause.
posted by onshi at 8:46 PM on April 2, 2007


I always thought that this was just something that happens when going to sleep. For me I find that as I enter the state between awake and asleep where I am starting to dream but not completely lost to the outside world I will often hear screams or shouts that jolt me back awake. If I had to guess I would say that it is related to your brain switching states and since in dreams you can "hear" people talking and sounds it is not really that difficult to imagine it happening as you are falling asleep. The strange sensations felt that people refer to with fevers are something I remember from childhood where I would feel my arms but not believe that they could move. I have since attributed this feeling to cold medicines but am not certain about this.
posted by occidental at 12:23 AM on April 3, 2007


I'm baffled that we've gone so long in this thread, with so many people acknowledging similar howling-fantods like symptoms, and it still doesn't seem to me that anyone's really pinned down what exactly's going on.

granted's suggestion of simple partial seizures, or focal seizures, is the closest thing I've seen in the thread to describing my experience with it. Looks like you don't necessarily have to have epilepsy to have them.

I'm also not convinced they're not mild panic attacks. Among the symptoms listed in wikipedia:

# Loss of the ability to react logically to stimuli
# Loss of cognitive ability in general
# Racing thoughts (often based on fear)
# Loud internal dialogue
# Terror
# Heightened senses
# The apparent slowing down or speeding up of time
# Dream-like sensation or perceptual distortion (derealization)
# Dissociation, or the perception that one is not connected to the body or is disconnected from space and time (depersonalization)

But it's the specific mention of screaming and/or murmuring by so many people that throws me off there. Could be part of the loud internal dialogue/dream-like sensation/feeling of going crazy, especially since most people admit it's not an actual sound of screaming but rather a sense of screaming, for lack of a better way to describe. Still with so many people mentioning it specifically, you'd think so would a symptom list of what it might be.

I'm interested if anybody apart from the OP has actually had the sound continue after you've "woken up":
I am actually currently experiencing in this very moment


Yeah, like I said, it actually usually happens to me when I'm awake, not in bed at all. Though it is usually when I'm doing something particularly mind-numbing or repetitive. I've experienced sleep paralysis as well, and I've never thought of the two things as being related. But also, like I said, when I was little I did think it was a memory of a nightmare, so it seems likely that early instances (that I've since forgotten) happened while falling asleep.
posted by lampoil at 5:05 AM on April 3, 2007


I'm baffled that we've gone so long in this thread, with so many people acknowledging similar howling-fantods like symptoms, and it still doesn't seem to me that anyone's really pinned down what exactly's going on.

I think sleep-related phenomena are, by nature, hard to pin down. We're talking about stuff that occurs when one isn't fully conscious and alert -- and it's not like someone can peer into your head and watch it happening. Moreover, I think scientific research into these things is still pretty young.

I think it's way, way cool that we've been able to not only to trade notes on a wide variety of phenomena but also come up with several possible trajectories for further investigation.
posted by treepour at 1:10 PM on April 3, 2007


Someone said that "auditory, detached-emotional and body-sensory experiences on the verge of sleep are commonplace" but that makes it sound like they are meaningless, cognitive phenomena.

When you are almost ready to go to sleep, your body is in a meditative state. Sleep is actually a form of meditation. When you sleep, you are not just unconscious. Everyone does do astral traveling (out-of-body experiences) while they sleep. As you are entering sleep, your brain goes into a state in which you are extremely relaxed and some of your mental barriers are down so that spirit guides, angels or departed loved ones can speak to you, and you can actually hear them. They exist on another frequency, just like changing the dial on the radio and picking up another signal. Your brain is able to pick up those signals when your conscious mind is at least partially disengaged.

Perhaps they have tried to contact you before, and you weren't paying attention, so screaming is the only way they can get you to notice them. They often speak with a still, small voice, but people only notice this if they are watching for it. Or, perhaps they are taking you back in time to a memory that happened to you long ago that they want you to focus on, so you can heal from it.

You can explore these experiences further, get rid of them completely, or uncover other issues related to them using EFT (emotional freedom technique). Feel free to email me for more information about these phenomena.

Judie C. Rall, M.S., EFT-CC, Reiki Master, "Unhindered"
posted by unhindered at 4:31 PM on April 7, 2007


Well this is a late response (I was clicking through my profile, reading my previous comments which brought me back here - a bit of MeFi narcissism that I engage in from time to time) but I wanted to throw in an additional thought or two in case anyone else comes back to the thread...

galaksit asked about the nature of the "figures" that some of us have reported "seeing" (or "sensing" I guess if we're asleep with our eyes closed.)

I vividly remember my last "night terror" from a few years ago (described above) and the figure beside the bed was tall and shadowy. It (He?) maybe have been wearing a black or gray cloak. His features were certainly obscured. The image most reminds me of the archetypal "death" but could also be the demonic Gorton's Fisherman from "I Know What You Did Last Summer."

It wasn't the figure's appearance which I found frightening, but its presence beside the bed. What was frightening was the hair raising realization that this thing had crept into my room and was now standing over me.

The fact that other people have mentioned it tells me that its perhaps a common trend in nightmares. After all, whats more compelling that the fear or an intruder? Even now, just thinking about gives me tingles and I keep glancing around the room to make sure no one has snuck up behind me... *shudder*

Anyway, something stuck in my mind from an Iron Skeptic piece from a few years back:
According to a tiny, tiny fringe group of UFO enthusiasts, which in and of itself is already a bit of a fringe group, the Men In Plaid are even more ominous than the much feared Men In Black that cover up stories of alien sightings. It goes like this: in the dead of night you wake up for no apparent reason, feeling disoriented. You look to the foot of your bed where you see, of all things, a huge man wearing a plaid shirt. After a frantic scramble for the switch, you get the lights on only to realize that the Man In Plaid has disappeared. All of this happens either before or after you spot a UFO, experience missing time, have your home invaded by a poltergeist, so on and so forth.
pssst... while your at Iron Skeptic, check out my piece.

Getting back to the shadowy figure. I feel that it, like a lot of my scary dreams are influenced by Hollywood. As silly as it sounds, my nightmares mostly involve zombies, sharks, killer robots (ala Terminator) or the creature from Alien. I chalk this up to the fact that I've spent my entire life exposed to scary monster movies.

So it doesn't surprise me that others have similar experiences. Presumably we're all Westerners within a certain age range (20 to 50?) and we've all been exposed (via Hollywood and literature) to the same notions of what should scare us.

...

Okay, one last thing which I just can't let go: Unhindered's comments about otherworldly intelligences ("spirit guides, angels or departed loved ones") trying to contact us as we're falling asleep is so carelessly naive and willfully moronic that part of me wants to believe it was written in jest as a belated April Fool's Day joke.

Entire books have been written (and whole branches of science founded) which both debunk and explain clearly why what she is proposing is ludicrous.

Such new age quackery is dispiriting (heh) in an era where scientific knowledge is so readily accessible. I don't doubt that unhindered is an "open minded" person, but perhaps she is so open minded that her brains fell out a long time ago.
posted by wfrgms at 11:04 PM on April 15, 2007


Could any of this be left over fear from - or flashbacks of - childhood abuse that took place at night?
posted by jitterbug perfume at 9:58 PM on May 26, 2007


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