I'm experiencing auditory hallucinations when waking.
April 4, 2008 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm experiencing auditory hallucinations when waking. What the phuck?

This morning, I was deeply asleep (about 7AM) and I clearly heard the pronounced sound of a doorbell (ding-dong) which startled me awake. It sound seemed to be VERY close to me, next to my bed on my left-side. Now, I don't have a doorbell and my cell phone (which doesn't have this tone) was downstairs.

A few weeks ago, I woke to the very clear sounds of applause.

Is this normal or something to be concerned about?

posted by iam2bz2p to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
IANAD but, I have had similar things happen to me, usually waking up directly from a period of "deep sleep". You were possibly still dreaming, not hallucinating. I wouldn't worry unless it starts happening during "full-alertness" hours.
posted by nikksioux at 9:32 AM on April 4, 2008

What nikksioux said. I've woken suddenly from deep sleep with words or sounds or even music from my dreams ringing in my ears. IA also NAD
posted by Bromius at 9:34 AM on April 4, 2008

Auditory hypnopompic hallucinations aren't terribly unusual. Googling hypnopompic (and hypno/hypnagogic) hallucinations will turn up a wealth of info. I don't think it's anything to be worried about (I have more general ones - not just auditory - fairy often) but IANAD and all that.
posted by edd at 9:36 AM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've also had that happen to me on occasion. No big deal. (IANAD)
posted by nzero at 9:37 AM on April 4, 2008

IANAD and I've had the doorbell thing as well. I always assumed that it was my unconscious at work as it sounds exactly like the doorbell from my childhood house, and I don't have a doorbell now. However, I would love to wake up to applause, you lucky devil.
posted by meerkatty at 9:47 AM on April 4, 2008

I have them, but in my case there's an explanation. I have hearing loss, and I wear hearing aids. When I take them off (as when I sleep) sometimes my brain tries to "fill in" the missing noise. Most of the time it sounds like a radio playing in the next room.
posted by desjardins at 9:50 AM on April 4, 2008

Yes, I've experienced this as well - I always assumed it was a form of lucid dreaming without visuals.
posted by annathea at 10:00 AM on April 4, 2008

I sometimes hear my baby crying off in the distance when I'm trying to go to sleep. (I check on him, consult with the wife, and conclude it must be my imagination.)

Also, during a stressful period in my life, I used to hear cicadas quietly buzzing in the distance.

Not sure what causes all this, but have noticed that it happens more when i'm stressed and/or tired.
posted by LakesideOrion at 10:03 AM on April 4, 2008

My mother once heard her hair dryer tell her to do something, though. If that happens, see a doctor.
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Desjardins has it right. Sometimes as you are walking up (or falling asleep) you senses come online /offline at different times. Your vision might have been "on" but your auditory stuff could have still been turned off. Your brain does a lot of amazing interpretations anyway (example, editing out the blind spot right in the middle of your eye) so it tends to do crazy stuff when your senses are being weird. Like reporting sounds that don't exist.
posted by sideshow at 10:41 AM on April 4, 2008

This is not normal, but it is usually benign. Auditory hallucinations on awakening have to do with the transition from sleep to wakefulness, which is not an immediate process but takes 10 seconds or so. During that time some people can occasionally experience some odd phenomena. It's not dangerous and it usually doesn't herald some other, worse problem.

If it starts disrupting your sleep, bothering you greatly, or happening when you're not just waking up or drifting off to sleep; or you start having other neurological symptoms; that's when to go see the doc.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:38 AM on April 4, 2008

In my case, real-world sounds manifest in my dreams as other related sounds. And as I wake up, the dream sound morphs into the real sound that is happening. The best examples are when I'm in the dreaded high school dream and the bell is going off (I've missed the exam!), and as I'm waking up, the school bell turns out to have just been the dream reflection of my real-world alarm clock going off. Same thing with dream fire alarms. There's a weird period where I'm half awake still hearing the bell/fire alarm and it just takes me a minute to figure out that it's actually the real-world noise.

In your case it sounds like there is no morphing from dream noise to ongoing waking noise, but I'm wondering if you might have one-time waking noises that manifest differently in the dream (air conditioner unit fan whirring down outside becomes dream applause, bird call right outside your window becomes doorbell, etc), and which also wake you up because they are waking noises. But since they aren't continuous noises such as an alarm clock, you can't match the dream noise to anything waking during your half-awake phase and they therefore seem hallucinatory.
posted by Askr at 11:46 AM on April 4, 2008

I've often "heard" someone calling my name upon awakening. After searching the house and checking the front door a few times, I've learned to ignore it.
posted by SPrintF at 11:55 AM on April 4, 2008

If you are taking any kind of happy pills, they can trigger both auditory and visual hallucinations. (Wellbutrin did not end well for me.) If this is the case, I'd dial your doctor's office and leave a message with the 24 hour service just to be on the safe side.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:32 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry; "they can" should have been "some can." I have no idea if hallucinations are a known side effects of all anti-depressants or anti-anxiety drugs; I do know that they are a known side effect of some.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:33 PM on April 4, 2008

If you want more information on auditory hallucinations, Dr. Olive Sacks explains them at length in his new book Musicophila. Turns out, they're pretty common.
posted by Maia at 1:12 PM on April 4, 2008

I used to wake up hearing the TV on in the room down the hall. The sound would persist until I opened my bedroom door, at which time I would hear either the TV on, or silence, depending on whether the TV was actually on. I think this was mostly because of an expectation on my part.
posted by owtytrof at 1:16 PM on April 4, 2008

This happens to me all the time. Heck my dreams are almost always lucid and I've come to accept that any memories or anything I experience within 10 min of waking is not to be trusted. The tea pot has to be whistling and NPR has to be blathering on before I accept awakeness. I dont think its any big deal but consult a Doc if it concerns you. Dissonant reality can be entertaining.
posted by elendil71 at 2:07 PM on April 4, 2008

I'm glad to read this. I've been waking up to 3 loud knocks for years, and was pretty sure I was just nuts. It's great to see that it's pretty common.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:50 PM on April 4, 2008

Last week after being awake for 3 days, I turned on the ceiling fan which was off balance a bit, it went "ha ha ha ha" and next thing I know "Oh Superman" flashed across my eyes. Then came 4 hours of auditory and visual hallucinations or lucid dreaming, take your pick.

Agree with others, occasional auditory thing while going to sleep or waking up is nothing to worry about. Happens all the time. Sometimes freaks me out a bit, a voice in my head that's as real as can be... but only during going to sleep or waking up, that middle ground where your brain is a bit fuzzy.
posted by zengargoyle at 4:55 PM on April 4, 2008

Last week my husband was taking a nap and heard me call his name. He said it was so real that he got up and looked all around the house for me. Only thing was, I was 20 miles away. He had to call to make sure I wasn't in a car accident or something. Freaked him out for a couple of days.

I've woken in the middle of the night and could've sworn that someone was knocking on the bedroom door. Once it was so real that I made him get up and check. Of course, no one was there.
posted by tamitang at 8:26 PM on April 4, 2008

You're good, man. Hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations are the thing to look into, as recommended above. Those full-on I haven't experienced, but my sig other has, semi-frequently (including sleep paralysis, which, awake, would freak me out. But I have totally experienced the auditory hallucinations of which you speak, and the weird thing is how clear and... well, perceived they are, as opposed to the kind of stuff your imagination is usually capable of manufacturing in your waking head.

Don't sweat it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:59 PM on April 4, 2008

See, now I just had a visual hallucination of a closing bracket after "out."

Ok, I lie like a cheap rug. But still don't worry.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:00 PM on April 4, 2008

Also check out Exploding Head Syndrome.
posted by zardoz at 11:52 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you want more information on auditory hallucinations, Dr. Olive Sacks explains them at length

That's the superior Olive, of course.

Oh lord, I slay myself.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:03 AM on April 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

I often wake up because I've heard my mother calling my name (in the impatient, slightly pissed off tone she used to rouse me as a teenager). Problem? I'm 28 and I don't live with her. But I swear it sounds clear as day. I wonder if my brain has just so strongly associated that experience with "time to wake up" that when it is time to wake up, my brain reproduces the experience.
posted by katyggls at 8:31 PM on April 5, 2008

Not a big deal. This actually happened to me this morning. I actually just now read the question and I was like WTF coincidence??!?
posted by ostranenie at 5:47 PM on April 6, 2008

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