Can't sleep; sounds will wake me.
January 20, 2010 1:50 AM   Subscribe

Auditory hallucinations at sleep onset wake me up.

Sometimes, usually after having woken up in the middle of the night, I'll have difficulty getting back to sleep - as soon as I hit sleep onset, I'll hear a strange noise, often rising in pitch, and wake up again. I know about hypnagogic sounds, but I don't know a quick and easy way to fall asleep without these. I can fall asleep without hallucinating much more often than not.
posted by LSK to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: In question form: Why are these happening and what do I do about them?
posted by LSK at 1:57 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Maybe white noise (e.g. from a fan) would mask the sounds enough for you to fall asleep?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:50 AM on January 20, 2010

Seconding a fan.
When my room mates are being noisy when I try to get to sleep, I turn on the fan and get right to sleep :)
posted by PowerCat at 4:19 AM on January 20, 2010

If they are truly hypnagogic hallucinations, I'm not sure a fan is going to help. Can white noise drown out sounds that are just in your head?

I have these from time to time, but that's because I have narcolepsy. Do you have any other symptoms? Are you taking any prescription or non-prescription drugs? Talk to your GP - a sleep study may be a good idea.
posted by thejanna at 6:01 AM on January 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

Hey - if this is indeed an auditoy hallucination then I'm not sure that a fan or any other white-noise source will help. (On preview, just like thejanna said.)

I have these too, but very rarely and, to tell the truth, I kind of get a kick out of them. I have a sneaking suspicion that they might get more regular and more annoying when I get older so I might be coming back here for advice in 20 years.

In the meantime the only thing I can suggest is that you learn to recognise and distinguish the hallucinations from real noises. Once you can do that, you can ignore the sound:

1. Identify the sound as a hallucination.
2. Smile to yourself.
3. Ignore it.
4. Quickly go back to sleep.

You may, or may not, be interested to know that people trying to achieve 'lucidity' in their dreams, love aural hallucinations and can use them to get back into a dream state while being conscious of the fact that they're dreaming (which is, frankly, a lot of fun).

Good luck.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 6:07 AM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and after looking at your posting history, this question makes me think you should definitely go for a sleep study. That sounds exactly like me when I was in college.
posted by thejanna at 6:10 AM on January 20, 2010

I've never given it much thought before, but I get something like this too. Sometimes a dream will have a musical soundtrack or special-effect noises of such volume that I wake up stunned by the silence of the bedroom.

Other times as I'm falling to sleep I'll keep being awoken by fragments of speech that I 'hear', usually more from one side than the other. The words will generally be very banal, and differ in regional or national accents. Sometimes they'll say my name with some urgency, but mostly it's as if I'm overhearing a few seconds of a bus-stop-stranger's conversation.

Let me know if you figure this one out - I'm interested to find out more about it.
posted by SebastianKnight at 7:27 AM on January 20, 2010

I get that a LOT. Used to get to sleep with the radio playing, now I put a movie on. It helps me - kind of adds a plausible source to the sounds so they can't freak me out enough to wake me up.
posted by Billegible at 9:00 AM on January 20, 2010

I don't experience the specific sound you do, I usually hear music, but I get the same thing. Sometimes just as I'm about to drift off, I'll hear my name shouted, startling me awake.

The white noise of a fan does seem to help, but if it's not loud enough it makes it worse. But, if it's too loud, obviously, I can't sleep.

I, too, kind of like it when it's not annoying.
posted by cmoj at 9:05 AM on January 20, 2010

I hear distant voices, too quiet/far away to understand what they're saying. I generally chalk it up to attempted pattern-recognition by my brain. Maybe it's the house's foundation settling, or one of the billions of electronics or an appliance humming/cycling... I've had these trying-to-sleep auditory hallucinations all my life, usually when over-tired, so it's probably none of those things. My brain is a *big* fan of pattern recognition, though, so I tend to opt for a radio over a white-noise generator. Turning a fan on can make the "voices" louder and sometimes more recognizable, thereby distracting me from the goal: sleep.
posted by MuChao at 10:03 AM on January 20, 2010

My wife and I have used a Sleepmate white noise machine for years... not to address this particular problem, but I can say that the thing works well and has lasted for a long time.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 10:51 AM on January 20, 2010

I often hear music in my head when I'm in that fuzzy place between asleep and awake. It sounds like a very softly playing radio tuned to an oldies station (oldies! why always oldies? I don't even like oldies). If I sit up to listen, it goes away. I've learned to ignore it, and it usually doesn't keep me awake anymore. On the rare occasions when it gets annoying, I take two benadryl and pass out cold.
posted by SamanthaK at 10:54 AM on January 20, 2010

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