Have you ever been ill with a fever, and experienced the strange sensation of feeling infinitesimally small, whilst everything else around you is extremely large?
Of course the feeling could be in reverse, with you feeling very large and everything around you seeming infinitesimally small. You may experience feelings of becoming thicker and thinner, rather than larger or smaller, or any number of variations.
It’s a difficult sensation to articulate as this experience is felt on a consciousness level rather than a linear one. If you have experienced this, or it sounds familiar then it’s possible you also, have experienced Hypnagogia.
Ill with Flu
I’ve been ill over the last week with flu, (real flu, not man flu) and during the illness I started to experience an altered state, which I recognise from as early as 6 years old. This is my first memory of lapsing into this state, and it started with a fever at that age too.
I remember coming downstairs in the early evening feeling completely disoriented, as I had been in bed ill for a few days. It was the same feeling I still experience now, and it usually starts with me feeling infinitesimally small, and everything else is extremely large, objects and rooms mainly, never other people or animals are present.
If this state persists, I can go from feeling small and everything else large, to the opposite, me feeling large and everything seeming small. There is also a near and far perspective which makes everything seem such a long way away, which also gives me a feeling of isolation when I am in the infinitesimally small state.
And in reverse, this feeling of isolation turns into one of claustrophobia, when I feel extremely large. This feeling isn’t manifest into the real world, the sensations are conjured in the mind and any objects or rooms are in thought, not the actual room I am in at the time.
I was perplexed by these sensations, and after doing a little research, found what I seemed to be experiencing was Hypnagogia.
What does it mean if you’re Hypnagogic?
‘Hypnagogic’ is a term coined by Louis Ferdinand Alfred Maury, a French Scholar and physician, born in 1817, for the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. The equivalent transition from sleep to wakefulness is termed ‘hypnopompic’.
The Hypnagogic state is another level of consciousness that we are party too. It is the deeply relaxed state of consciousness, which is accessed immediately prior to falling asleep.
Maury was the first person to give this state an official title but it has been recognised by observant sleepers for centuries. One of the first to cite hypnagogic experience was Aristotle who described it as “affections we experience when sinking into slumber,” and “the images which present themselves to us in sleep.”
So this state is not just one which is accessed when ill with a fever, it is one which can be accessed at any time. I have also noticed this feeling of seeming small and large when not being ill, but it would seem that due to the nature of illness with fever, where by a person is constantly drifting from wakefulness to sleep and sleep to wakefulness, you may experience this state many times in a day, making it more evident.
This state is not the normal dream state we experience whilst fully asleep, it is by its nature short but time is relative when experiencing its lucid and compelling visualisations.
You may experience visions or voices or both, you may be witness to weird insights and unusual sensations greeting you as you drift out of consciousness. Faces may appear or you may hear your name being whispered or shouted.
Geometric shapes may form with complex patterns and dance in your mind’s eye, similar to those seen under the influence of certain psychoactive substances. Splashes of colour, flashes or sparks may drift through your drowsing consciousness, supplemented by strange, absurd sentences.
You may feel that you are floating, or that your body has grown to an enormous size, or that you have sudden comprehension to the answer of life, the universe and everything. You may become paralysed whilst feeling you are still awake, which can be frightening, sleep paralysis is very common in this state.
I had thought these experiences where weird and was a little reluctant to discuss them with anyone, but I’m glad I did. Virtually everyone I have spoken to has had either the same sensations or very similar ones, great I wasn’t going mad!
With practice there are ways in which you can control these states of consciousness and this is known as Lucid Dreaming. You become aware that you are dreaming whilst in this state and it’s like waking up whilst still in your dream making the whole experience more vivid.
I am interested in Lucid Dreaming but have never been able to experience them, either by trying techniques or accidentally, however, the purpose of this article is to raise awareness of this Hypnagogic state and quell any notion that you might be going insane.
I know before I discovered this state is quite common, I felt strange about the whole experience. I certainly wasn’t aware of the name Hypnagogic and it took some research to find enough information to satisfy my curiosity.
Rest assured if you are experiencing any of the sensations in this article you are not mad, or at least only as mad as me.