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Tripping without LSD: How your brainwaves can put you into a ‘waking dream’

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Between wakefulness and sleep is a fascinating, hallucinogenic state of consciousness that you’ve likely experienced even if you didn’t know it had a name. It’s called hypnagogia, and during this brief transition you may feel unusual sensations, see splashes of color, streaks of light or other visions. Or perhaps come to a brand of existential insight normally left to acid trips. It’s a perplexing state, one that has inspired creativity and confusion to equal measure. And it can lead to some of our most unique thoughts.

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The term hypnagogia derives from the Greek words hypnos, meaning sleep, and agogeus, meaning guide, or leader. The altered state may last just a few seconds or several minutes. In it, you’re neither dreaming nor fully unconscious, yet you have enough self-awareness to catch your thoughts drifting as you’re slowly “led” to sleep.

What does the leading are brainwaves. Fully awake, our brains emits beta waves, which are characterized by active thinking and focus. These are good for problem-solving, but they can also bring on anxiety and stress. In a relaxed state, your brain produces alpha waves, and just before REM sleep, we shift to theta. Hypnagogia is marked by presence of both alpha and theta brainwaves. And it’s this unique neural synergy that creates the state of “threshold consciousness,” where we feel as though we’re straddling the waking and dreaming worlds.

In the state, you’re neither dreaming nor fully unconscious, yet you have enough self-awareness to catch your thoughts drifting as you’re slowly led to sleep.

As our brain waves vacillate, we begin to lose our so-called ego boundaries and our awareness becomes less logical and linear. We’re more open, empathic and suggestible to outside and other influences. When our brain’s empirical left hemisphere loses sway, fluid association between ideas, thoughts, images, feelings flow more easily; without the normal constrictions of logic, we can experience extraordinarily inspired and creative moments.

Hypnagogia has probably existed as long as humans. But, as Neel Patel discussed at length in his piece “Sleeping on and Dreaming Up a Solution” Scienceline, scientists have only been formally studying it since 1987 when the psychologist Andreas Mavromatis published the first important paper on it. .

Edgar Allen Poe, for example, wrote of so-called fancies that he experienced “only when I am on the brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so.” Mary Shelley, as Patel pointed out, claimed that her masterpiece, Frankenstein, was inspired by a “waking dream” that she had while falling asleep.

“Hypnagogia is the shortest path for communication from our subconscious.”

Hypnagogia researcher Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, notes that Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali both had methods of deliberately instigating hypnagogic dreams. Edison would hold a set of metal balls as he napped, and when his hand relaxed, the balls would crash to floor. Waking with a start, he usually had a solution in mind.

Whether you try to consciously create or tap into this state, or simply enjoy its drifty, trippy sensations, Patel points out that consciousness researcher Marques-Bonham, from the University of Texas at Austin, notes that “hypnagogia is the shortest path for communication from our subconscious. Your subconscious mind might send you solutions through imagery or other sensations,” she says, likening this to Archimedes’ famed “Eureka!” epiphany.

In addition to inspiration and insightful visions, hypnagogia brings auditory hallucinations as well. It’s not uncommon for people to hear voices, doorbells or even music, some of which is loud enough to wake them. Occasionally there are smells or some type of touch. This is believed to be what happens naturally when the brain goes into a state of sensory deprivation.

Another phenomenon that occurs during hypnagogia is sleep paralysis, the curious condition of being barely awake yet unable move while still experiencing dreamlike visuals and feelings. While this can be distressing, scientists believe it exists for our safety. Without this protection, we might try to physically act out what we’re dreaming and possibly injure ourselves—or anyone else who’s around. And in the weird world of hypnagogia, that could get freaky.

 

This article originally published by Van Winkle’s, vanwinkles.com, the editorial division of Casper Sleep


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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BUSTED: Trump flack Kayleigh McEnany has voted by mail 11 times in the last 10 years

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Trump White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany this week echoed President Donald Trump's statements that allowing everyone to vote by mail would result in an unprecedented surge in "voter fraud."

However, a review conducted by the Tampa Bay Times has found that McEnany herself has voted by mail a total of 11 times in the past decade alone.

"In fact, the Tampa native has voted by mail in every Florida election she has participated in since 2010," the Tampa Bay Times has found. "Most recently, she voted by mail in the state’s March 2020 presidential primary, just as Trump did after he made Florida his new permanent home."

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Kentucky militant’s wife plays victim after militia leader fired for hanging governor in effigy

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A right-wing militant was fired for hanging Kentucky's governor in effigy during a lockdown protest -- and his wife is furious.

Terry Bush, president of the Kentucky 3 Percenters militia group, lost his job Tuesday with Neil Huffman Auto Group after he was photographed and recorded hanging Gov. Andy Beshear in effigy before demonstrators gathered outside the governor's mansion and demanded that he come outside, reported the Courier-Journal.

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Jerry Nadler shoots down Eric Trump’s attempt to paint him as a hypocrite on mail-in voting

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This Wednesday morning, President Trump's son, Eric Trump, took a dig at Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) by tweeting out an old video featuring Nadler saying that "paper ballots are extremely susceptible to fraud," in an attempt to paint Democrats as hypocrites in light of President Trump's disparagement of mail-in voting.

https://twitter.com/EricTrump/status/1265605224699441153

"At least with the old clunky voting machines that we have in New York, deliberate fraud is way down," Nadler says in the video.

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