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Hypnagogic and Hypnopompic Hallucinations: Pathological Phenomena?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Maurice M. Ohayon*
Centre de Recherche Philippe Pinel de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Robert G. Priest
University of London, Academic Department of Psychiatry, St Mary's Hospital, London
Malijaï Caulet
Centre de Recherche Philippe Pinel de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada
Christian Guilleminault
Stanford University School of Medicine, Sleep Disorders Center, Stanford, California, USA
Maurice M. Ohayon, Centre de Recherche Philippe Pinel de Montréal, 10905, boulevard Henri-Bourassa Est, Montréal (Québec) H1C 1H1, Canada



Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations are common in narcolepsy. However, the prevalence of these phenomena in the general population is uncertain.


A representative community sample of 4972 people in the UK, aged 15–100, was interviewed by telephone (79.6% of those contacted). Interviews were performed by lay interviewers using a computerised system that guided the interviewer through the interview process.


Thirty-seven per cent of the sample reported experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations and 12.5% reported hypnopompic hallucinations. Both types of hallucinations were significantly more common among subjects with symptoms of insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness or mental disorders. According to this study, the prevalence of narcolepsy in the UK is 0.04%.


Hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations were much more common than expected, with a prevalence that far exceeds that which can be explained by the association with narcolepsy. Hypnopompic hallucinations may be a better indicator of narcolepsy than hypnagogic hallucinations in subjects reporting excessive daytime sleepiness.

Copyright © 1996 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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