Vivid dreamlike experiences—called hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations—can seem real and are often frightening. They may be mistaken for nightmares, and they can occur while falling asleep (hypnagogic) or waking up (hypnopompic). During these hallucinations, you may feel someone touching you, hear sounds or words, or see people or creatures near you or even lying in your bed.
Sleep paralysis often accompanies these hallucinations.
These hallucinations can be extremely scary for children. Younger children may become terrified enough to scream and cry. Children may be confused by their hallucinations, become too embarrassed to discuss them, or not be able to explain their feelings. Such hallucinations have been reported in 39% to 50% of pediatric patients with narcolepsy.
Hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations can be mistaken for, or misdiagnosed as, panic attacks, nightmares, or night terrors in children. More severe events can even be confused with psychotic disorders.