Hypnagogic light experiences are a new way to experience the hypnagogia effect and hallucinations. By using stroboscopic light flicker at specific brainwave frequencies, a state of suspended consciousness can be encouraged and maintained.
What is hypnagogia
Hypnagogia or more commonly called the hypnagogic state, is a transitional state indicated by a changing of awareness from an alert awake state to a dream like sleep state.
It is the stage of relaxation where drowsiness takes over and in EEG electroencephalogram terms there is a sudden change in brain activity that causes certain types of trance style hallucination effects. These effects range from visual hallucinations to auditory voices to actual feelings of floating or out of body and lucid dreaming type experiences.
For some people, such as those who have high anxiety, this threshold of consciousness experience can be alarming. These unreal experiences can seem to actually be real because they are being experienced in a semi awake state of consciousness.
In some cases a type of temporary body sleep paralysis can occur, and this is something people who practice sleep processes like lucid dreaming or astral travel often become familiar with.
Are hypnagogic light effects and Hypnagogia common
For most people, the sensations created by hypnagogic light effects and hypnagogia are very pleasant. Resulting in complex cryptic pictures and sounds. And these can cause spontaneous creativity, messages from unknown parts of your unconscious mind, and a feeling of deep relaxation blended with heightened awareness afterwards. An example of natural hypnagogic light experiences is called the Ganzfeld effect. Ganzfled hallucinations produced by light are the result of constant unchanging light stimulation. And when the brain is given this constant source of stimulation, the effect is the same as used by sensory deprivation techniques. Because in the absence of changing stimulation, the brain makes up it’s own neural activity to fill the void. And this results in hallucinations. I’ve written about how to create your own hypnagogic light experience using the ganzfeld effect in the above linked article on ganzfeld hallucinations.
An extention of this ganzfeld effect is called ganzflicker., which we will get to shortly. Ganzflicker is more commonly known as photic or light based brainwave entrainment. Specifically as a type of psychedelic brainwave entrainment. Even this ganzflicker effect can happen naturally. An example being viewing sunlight through the moving leaves of a tree.
What are hypnopompic hallucinations
Hypnopompic effects are similar to the phenomena of hypnagogic imagery and linguistic intrusions (auditory hallucinations) which happen in the transition from wakefulness to sleep. This type of hallucinating happens just as you are waking up from sleep. And this progression over the border of sleep and awake is the common thread with the two phenomena. Often the two work in unison when someone is in a stimulating environment but sleepy. A person can remain in that tipping point between being awake and asleep and both have similar EEG encephalogram signatures. Famous people and geniuses like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison used to use the hypnagogic effect on purpose. To get creative answers to problems., they would use a sleep technique relying on being woken up just at the point of hypnagogia.
You may have noticed if you have a midday nap or mini sleep that lasts only 20 minutes or less, that you slip in and out of consciousness. And you may have become aware of seeing or hearing dreamlike (mainly abstract) situations or feelings.
You know they are not real but they are so close to your awake state that you remember them briefly as if they are real. And the same can happen when you are day dreaming but otherwise fully awake.
Hypnagogia can be a challenge for those with mental problems and can be experienced more often than is ideal. For example people who have challenges such as schizophrenia or narcolepsy (daytime drowsiness and the onset of uncontrollable bursts of sudden sleep). However hypnagogia and hypnagogic light experiences in general are completely normal and no cause for alarm.
And on the contrary, this experience is a sought out by many people wishing to tap into altered states.
What happens in the brain during hypnagogic states
Many studies have been done on hypnagogia including those created by hypnagogic light techniques. And the associated imagery and auditory hallucinations have been studied to understand what is happening. Both at and just before an incident of the hallucinations experienced.
Studies on neuronal activity in the brain have their issues. Getting accurate results can be a challenge because it requires the person being measured to interact with the scientists. Although patterns emerge, there are some slight variations in the findings.
The fascination for the hypnagogic effect has been thoroughly covered in this paper on the intrusions of a drowsy mind. Studies show that these hypnagogic experiences are experienced more as a passive observer than the usual experience of dreams. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) levels of sleep are where most dreams happen. And these have more body involvement as if being in the dream itself. So Hypnagogia and REM dreaming are not the same.
What are the brainwaves of sleep that lead to hypnagogia
In general, most stages of sleep start with an increase of low Alpha brainwave activity (approx 8-10 Hz). And this then lowers into Theta brainwave activity (4-8 Hz) which is the first real level of sleep for most people. Alpha is considered a kind of bridge between the conscious and unconscious mind and is a level of mild meditation. Many people experience this even when doing something they relax into like walking in nature or listening to music.
Some studies show that Alpha is the most common band for the effects of hypnagogia and hypnagogic light experiences. Other studies show Theta as being the main band of brainwave activity for hypnagogic effects. And I think that rather than being conflicting results, this is the point.
After all, we are talking about a phenomenon that happens between resting alertness and sleep. So it makes sense that it is both, and that it is neither of these stages of brainwave exclusively.
What are the brainwaves of hypnagogia and a hypnagogic light experience
Typically there are what are called spindles (short pronounced spikes) of both Beta (12-38 Hz) and Gamma (38 Hz and above) brainwaves during hypnagogic experiences. And particularly just before a hallucination. There seems to be EEG measurements of a levelling or flat-lining of neural activity at or around the point of certain hallucination effects.
The suspicion as best as can be proved scientifically, is that the transition of Alpha to Theta dominance (because both are present even if one is stronger) combined with bursts of Beta and Gamma activity are all part of this whole and dynamic brain state. And that we are neither awake or asleep in those moments. Recently a user of Roxiva audio visual brainwave entrainment sessions confirmed these EEG measurements from hypnagogic light effects. His brain activity centred around this Alpha Theta border while drifting in and out of awareness in this way. Although his EEG equipment was not advanced enough to also spot the Gamma spikes.
What is a hypnagogic light experience
So we know that hypnagogia is a natural and totally safe experience for the majority of people. And we know what is going on in the brain while it occurs. So how can we induce this effect on purpose?
It’s actually quite easy. Although to do so in a consistent way takes more intention.
As mentioned earlier, taking a short nap can get you there and if you practice this short nap idea over time. And you will get better at staying in the zone of hypnagogia for longer periods of time.
Breathwork and meditation can get you there although again sustaining being in the right zone can be challenging.
External stimulation such as neurofeedback, brainwave entrainment and audio visual entrainment can get you there too. And this can be a more reliable way to get there and stay there for longer periods.
How do light machines create a hypnagogic light experience
Light based photic stimulation by way of stroboscopic light and sound journeys is one consistent way to achieve hypnagogic states. This type of technology does assist people to have these pleasant and mind expanding experiences. And hallucinated images, movies, sounds and inner voices, and floating feelings of suspended reality are quite common. Light and sound meditation sessions can give you hypnagogic experiences reliably and on demand.
And all but a very rare few have an exhilarating experience that leaves them relaxed, refreshed, and creatively inspired.
Technology like the roXiva RX1 uses a natural and unique function of our brain called the frequency following response. This is where external repeating stimulation synchronises with your brains own internal rhythm and then influences that rhythm. By doing so, the pre-programmed sessions can guide you into altered states of consciousness including this state of hypnagogia.
The RX1 session called ‘Hypnagogic Vision’ uses the same protocol found in the studies.., guiding you to encourage the associated visual, auditory and kinaesthetic effects of hypnagogic hallucination.
Experience from users of audio visual brainwave entrainment show the use of this technology to be very effective at getting them into this in-between state. And the result is often types of eureka or insight moments that can in some cases be instrumental to life changes.
Going beyond a hypnagogic light experiences into drug free psychedelic trips
There is an added benefit of light based photic stimulation with technology like Roxiva. Certain frequencies can be used to create a drug free psychedelic light trip. This is not necessarily the goal of hypnagogic experiences but the results can be surprisingly powerful and en-light-ening.
And the real point of interest is that users of actual psychedelic drugs report not just similar visual experiences but also similar feelings to go along with it. This makes sense in that the brain stores memory in clusters that include visual, auditory and kinaesthetic/feeling components all linked together. So by stimulating one of those senses, often the rest will follow.
Users of such sessions as ‘Return of the Squirrel’ and ‘DMT – Talamasca trip’ have out of this world trips that leave a huge smile on their faces. And the resulting hallucinations are powerful portals into other realms of consciousness.
That is another subject altogether and the mechanisms behind it are fascinating.