sleep deprivation hallucinations

Hallucinations due to chronic sleep loss – You day dream if you are not sleeping at night

When you are extremely sleep deprived then there may arise a condition when you start doubting your wisdom.

You may wonder about the existence of certain things which you see but they do not really exist.

There can be varied reasons of sleep deprivation for different people. People usually give up to the home life or work related pressure and compromise with the sleeping schedule.

This may even lead to problems like insomnia which are caused due to inadequate sleep. Other consequences of sleep deprivation are attributed to the factors such as the time of sleep deprivation and the amount of sleep you get.

The outcomes of sleep deprivation influence both our mental and physical well being.

Hallucination can be defined as the perception of certain occurrences in the environment which are not actually happening.

This may not be an illusion but due to our mind misinterpreting something that is actually present.

Some common examples of this condition can be listening to a non-existing person or seeing a dog when it is not there. Thus being to hallucinate is a symptom of chronic sleep loss when your mind starts giving you false perceptions.

But you should also mind the difference between an illusion and hallucination. Illusion is mistaken identity of existing things whereas hallucination is associated with non-existing things.

Around 80% of the people who have sleep deprivation tend to have hallucinations, though the extent of hallucination depends on the length of sleep deprivation.

The most common type of hallucination is visual hallucination where people tend to imagine what is not present.

Some people with schizophrenia may experience auditory hallucination when they hear auditory sound which are not uttered or produced.

sleep deprivation hallucinations

Hallucinations- are there different types of it?

Going into the depth of the phenomenon of hallucinations, these sensations are created by your mind. All the five human senses are affected by this.

You can be sure you have been hallucinating if you see things and hear voices in your room that are not real. Hallucinations caused by sleep deprivation can be cured by sleeping more or by visiting a general practitioner.

Hallucinations can be of many types depending on the sensory organ affected by this. The affect may be on your hearing, vision, sense of smell or bodily sensations.

Below are some common types of hallucinations which a sleep deprived person may fall a victim to:

Visual hallucinations

This is one of the most common types of hallucination where you see things which do not really exist.

This may include lights, visual patterns, objects or people. For examples, you may see flashing lights or a person who is not in the room and no one else can see.

Auditory hallucinations

This is another very common hallucination where you may hear someone asking you to do something or just speaking to you.

The voice may be warm, angry or neutral depending on the state of your mind. For example, you may hear repeated tapping or clicking noise or hearing the walking sound of someone in the attic.

Olfactory hallucinations

This category of hallucination is associated with the sense of smell. In this condition you may smell something bad if you wake up from sleep at night, the bad odor may even seem to come from within you.

Such smell may be pleasant also but it doesn’t really exist and this is merely a hallucination.

Tactile hallucination

This kind of hallucination lets you feel some movement in your body or some touch.  The common examples here are the feeling of movement of internal organs, sensing someone’s hand on your body, or bugs crawling on the skin.

Temporary hallucinations

As the name suggests, these hallucinations are temporary. They occur based on some incident in your life and are healed with time.

For examples, you may hear the voice or see an image of your loved one who has just passed away. So as your mental pain heals, this hallucination also vanishes.

How sleep deprivation affects your brain and health as whole

Rational thinking may make you realize that in modern culture you have been running after to complete your tasks as the work seems to have grown twice as in the past but the time at your disposal seems to shrink to half of the required time.

This ultimately results in either sleep loss over a long period of time or long period of wakening. Some people may think eventually with time that they have now become used to less sleeping hours and they do not require more sleep now. But this is just a myth.

For the optimal functioning of the body and mind, sleep is needed to regenerate certain parts. When you start getting less sleep then the neurons start getting affected and the consequences can be felt in the behavior of a person.

Some parts of the body like the muscles may even regenerate in the resting periods of the body even if you are not sleeping but the neurons require strong sleep to regenerate as required.

The cerebral cortex of the brain is always in the state of semi alertness when you are resting and not sleeping. Thus to regenerate the neurons of cerebral cortex, certain type of sleep is needed.

Other parts of the sleep time are used in the formation of new synaptic connections and new memories. Sleep deprivation affects the activities in the several sections of the cerebral cortex.

The cerebral cortex area of the brain in the temporal lobe is a very active area. When the processing of languages takes place in this region while undergoing any verbal learning tests of a normal individual.

But when the same tests are conducted on a sleep deprived brain then the functional magnetic resonance images scans show no activity here.

The visible effect of this inactivity can seen in the speech of the people who have been suffering with chronic sleep loss.

Thus the brain is less vigilant for sleep deprived people than the fully rested ones. Hence the brain can not process the information reaching to it via the sensory organs of the body and hallucinations is the result of such misinterpretations.

The underlying reason for this is the loss in regeneration of the neurons. One interesting fact about the sleep deprived people is that they have a better short term memory than the well rested individuals.

The cause of hallucinations can also be related to the I-function.  This system is responsible for integrating all the information from all parts of the brain.

The picture produced in the brain by the I-function may differ from reality when the neurons involved in the I-function are too taxed to perform as expected.

The neurons keep on functioning but due to pressure the performance is not optimized. The sleep deprived person is able to process the information and see the surrounding but sometimes it may not be the existing thing which one sees.

When a person misses around 24 hours of sleep then the metabolic activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain may even drop to 11 percent.

If the sleep loss continues further and the required amount of sleep is not taken then the neurons behave abnormally and the I-function generates images which are less coherent with the actual picture. This may even result in temporal insanity.

Sleep deprivation can have even worse effects like paranoid thoughts, disorientation and other mental illness. The good thing about this is that the hallucinations can be come over by having an adequate sleep.

As stated earlier hallucinations are distorted or false sensory experiences that will seem real to the person who is getting any kind of hallucinations. When you are sleep deprived then such conditions are generated by the mind.

At this point the ability of the mind to distinguish between the memories based or internal perception from that of conscious perceptions reduces drastically.

Hallucinations occur in the time when you are conscious and not sleeping. 40% of the chronically sleep deprived people are believed to have experienced hallucinations while they are falling asleep and 12% of them experienced hallucinations when they wake up.

Sleep deprivation has adverse effects on your health. Hallucinations are just one of the many ill effects of chronic sleep loss. Other effects may be like mood swings, paranoia, vision problems, forgetfulness, depression and many more.

Many hormonal changes take place in the body when you do not get sufficient sleep. Doctors strongly recommend seven to nine hours of good sleep for a healthy lifestyle.

Even the efficiency of working increases when you have taken a good night sleep as the mind is more receptive and attentive.

Thus those people who are spending more time in completing their tasks while sleeping less can complete the same tasks in less time by sleeping more.

A new group of drugs claims to have reduced the side effects of sleep deprivation even after 36 hours of sleep loss.

These drugs may be doing their bit but nothing can replace sleep. Sleep is as vital for healthy human living as water, air and food and it should not be less prioritized.


One Comment

  1. I have never given it a serious thought but after reading through the piece, I now understand I may be suffering from tactile hallucination. I sometimes feel as if the hairs on my body are been caressed, great piece

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