33 Terrifying Hallucination Stories From People Suffering From Sleep Deprivation

33 Terrifying Hallucination Stories From People Suffering From Sleep Deprivation

These stories from Ask Reddit prove why sleep is so important.

1. I just see spiders scuttling up the walls and floor in the corner of my eyes.

2. I was in Costa Rica patrolling the beaches every night to find sea turtles laying their eggs. It was a eco vacation thing so during the day we would be up and exploring the area. I don’t know how they expected people to function on like 3 hours of sleep for a week. But we did it.

I mostly remember super irrational thoughts. Thinking animal noises were people talking. Thinking monkeys were dogs up in the trees.

But the hallucinations were crazy. I’m not sure if the beach really was glowing some, or if I was making all of it up. But my mind was making crazy glowing patterns in the sand. I thought the glowing stuff was also biting me. Really it was sand fleas. We would stop and take a break mid patrol. I’d lay down to rest and think I was still walking. Then wake up and keep walking. I got really confused as to when I was awake.

3. I once went 106 hours without sleep, no drugs, not even caffeine… after 48 hours it was just to see how long I could go.

Started seeing movement in my peripheral vision, like Freddy Kruger darting between aisles, I felt and heard my foot go through the floor (it didn’t). When I went to sleep, I was out instantly. When I woke up it felt like the best 10-12 hours of sleep I ever had… I had only been asleep for about 2 hours. I stayed up for about another 20 hours because I felt so well rested.

4. When I had a new baby, I was in target with the baby and got a call from an officer. Turns out I had left every single door of my car open. He thought it was a break in. It was not… just me sleep deprived!!

5. Used to overwork myself to the point of hallucinations fairly regularly.

Most were auditory; I’d hear someone talking nearby (usually saying my name or just a couple of muffled syllables), bits of songs; like having an ear worm except louder. A distant ringing telephone was also common. Less commonly I’d hear something loudly falling somewhere.

Visually, I’d mostly see flashes of color or blackness in the periphery of my vision. Like when someone walks by and you just barely see them out of the corner of your eye. Tall figures in the room (such as a coat on a rack) would also briefly appear to be a person standing there. Those were probably the most startling to me.

6. It was the weirdest thing. I was taking notes on an extremely boring video in theology but then words started appearing on their own without me writing anything. They were dancing around for a bit and I found it completely normal for a bit but then I realized that words aren’t suppose to dance. Then I snapped back to reality with nothing on my paper.

7. Once or twice I had instances where familiar people were complete strangers, no recognition whatsoever – that was pretty trippy and more than a little terrifying.

8. I once spent three days without sleep. By the third day everything was in soft focus, colors were wrong and I was hearing voices whispering my name. I do not recommend it.

9. I used to have episodes of insomnia as a teenager. Once, while walking home from school, I saw a car driving in my direction. It suddenly veered onto the sidewalk, continued toward me, and swerved back onto the road moments before hitting me. I thought it was real, but I was so out of it from exhaustion that I didn’t even flinch. I realized a few days later that the curb of the sidewalk was too high for a car to have possibly driven over.

10. Hearing my brother and other loved ones calling my name whether they’re there or not I can hear them, somewhere.

11. Chronic insomniac here. I have lots of stories especially sleep paralysis that happened twice. I legit thought I was dying when the hooded man without a face hovered next to my bed.

I also woke up one morning after a restless night to see a girl standing by my bed in a white night gown. I shrugged it off and rolled over. It wasn’t until I woke up later that I realized what happened. I did a major cleanse that night and never saw her in my apartment again. This was years ago.

12. Shadows creeping up the walls, but it’s complete blackness and tendrils consuming everything. Or skittering shadows in my peripheral that look like people, animals, or bugs moving.

Whispering, talking, or worse: singing. Sometimes I’ll hear what sounds like music playing, and when I try to figure out where it comes from it disappears. So, I go back to whatever I was doing, and then I’ll start hearing children singing or people talking, footsteps, or a door closing.

I get this from insomnia, before I have a seizure, or if I get too overwhelmed or overtaxed.

13. This happened to me once when I was driving home late at night (I know looking back I should have pulled over).

I was driving down a country road and thought I saw a giant brick wall blocking the road so I slammed on the brakes. This woke me up immediately and when I looked at the road again the wall was gone and I realized I had hallucinated it.

Moral of the story is if you ever feel yourself falling asleep behind the wheel don’t try to tough it out. You should pull over and walk around a bit to wake yourself up.

14. I have a cat and I would randomly step over her while I was walking – except that she wasn’t there. I’d feel her jump in my lap and I’d go to pet her – no cat.

15. Once, when I was sleep-deprived, I was writing something down, looked up, and I saw the wall in front of me, but I also saw strobe lights, shadows running around, and I heard voices and Celine Dion singing. When I looked back down at my page, it was covered in scribbles I didn’t remember making. Really weird shit.

16. Ranger School. Literally saw people as trolls and goblins under night vision. It was freaky and weird as all hell.

17. Literally happened last week. For me I was saying something to my friends but they didn’t respond because I never said it. My brain made me think I said it but in reality I just made an entire conversation between the three of us while the other two were talking. Happened 3 times before I actually was able to say something out loud.

18. For me, people kind of stuttered like a scratched dvd and then they were suddenly doing things that they were not in real life, then they would stutter again and snap back into place wherever they actually were. Everything was in real time and I heard everything that was actually happening around me so the disconnect of what I was hearing vs. what I saw was really confusing and freaky.

19. After 4 days with no sleep, I stood in front of the mirror in my bathroom and tried to pull all of my hair out because a voice told me it would make me fall asleep. I tugged as hard as I could on handfuls of hair and it didn’t work. Sleep is important.

20. Some bull-like monster was watching me and coming for me while I was laying down on the sofa to rest for a bit. I couldn’t move. The house was dark and I was alone at the time.

21. Fucking scary man. In bootcamp for our final phase we were forced to stay up for 3 days straight. By hour 60+ I was hearing people call my name, shadow people darting in and out of my periphery, falling into micro-sleeps and waking up confused and completely disoriented. Was a trip.

22. When it comes to hallucinations, I’m pretty sure I saw my walls moving kind of like waves. When looking around everything seemed to be “moving” in a weird way.

23. Colicky baby woke up every 45 minutes for 6 months straight. It would take 20 minutes to get her back to sleep, leaving me 25 minutes of sleep until I was woken back up. Not enough for a REM cycle.

I once was in line at the grocery store, blinked (or something) and the cashier just…disappeared. How long was I standing there? Did I pay for my stuff? No idea what happened.

Another time I was waiting in a downpour at a crosswalk for the walk symbol. A homeless man also waiting was yelling about how he lost his umbrella. Suddenly my umbrella disappeared from my hand. I look back at the homeless man thinking he swiped it but there is no homeless man. Also the sun is out and the sidewalk is bone dry. I guess I was walking down the street with my arm up like I was holding an umbrella.

Too many stories like that.

24. Over one summer in high school, my friends and I stayed awake for a few days playing Dungeons and Dragons and other rpgs. We had tons of sugar and caffeine to help us play through the pain. I was laying on the couch staring at the ceiling and I saw a leprechaun (may have been a gnome…hard to tell from that distance) walk into view standing on the ceiling. He looked down at me, smiled and doffed his hat to me, and started to dance a jig. I said to myself, “Oh HELL no,” and buried my head in the pillow until I fell asleep.

25. Three days without sleep.

I started to answer questions out loud that I was hearing in my head.

My husband took our newborn downstairs so I could sleep.

26. I sat down on the couch at 6:59pm not sure if I should go to bed then (after not sleeping at all the night before) or try and force myself to stay up another few hours so that I wouldn’t wake up too early the next day and throw off my whole sleep cycle. Well I felt like I couldn’t even force my eyes open another minute. The next thing I know I am waking up and it feels like it is the middle of the night and I am wide awake and mad at myself for letting myself fall asleep that early and throwing off my whole sleep cycle but it it what it is now. I get up and go to make myself some tea and the time on the stove catches my eye and it says 7:00. So I assume it is 7am and I must have slept a lot longer than I thought and I didn’t throw my sleep cycle off after all. But then I see it is kind of dark out. So I look at my calendar on my phone. It is 7pm on the same day I sat on the couch. Literally only 60 seconds had past since I sat down and contemplated trying to keep myself awake. Still can’t figure out how it happened.

27. For context, this happened during some military training. Laying down in the woods desperately trying to stay awake, usually the plants turn into people. Like you’ll see a figure walking around out in front of you, and then “come to” and realize it was just a sapling or a bush or something. Happened surprisingly more during the day than the night.

28. It’s honestly scary, like one time I was on the verge of falling asleep and I thought I felt somebody run their finger across my cheek. When I snapped upright into a sitting position, nobody was there. I live alone btw. I’m sure I hallucinated it but that shit is scary regardless.

29. Scary enough it always happens while driving. I wouldn’t say I’m hallucinating so much as dreaming with my eyes open. The darkness begins to creep in from the side until you’re somewhere else. Then you feel your eyes open and BAM!! Adrenaline. Only lasts for a moment until the same darkness begins creeping from the side again and you’re doing everything you can to keep your eyes open, but keeping them open doesn’t help.

30. Very calm as far as hallucinations go. I had driven for 20+ hours and was in the Arizona/California desert. It was the middle of the night, it had been dark for hours and only other car lights and stars were visible. Started seeing things out of the corner of my eyes, just kind of objects off a distance on the side of the road. Then it was things in the road ahead. That got my attention. After a bit I started seeing fantastic meteor/light showers in the sky. Wasn’t scary or anything, didn’t stop driving. To be young, dumb, and invincible again.

31. While deployed overseas with lack of sleep for like 70+ hours, I would black out and re-experience/dream completely different scenarios that happened days prior. It was crazy. Like Deja Vu, but for like an hour.

I’d snap out of it and be completely confused for like 30 seconds, wondering which experience was real.

32. Mostly auditory for me, like whispers or someone saying my name.

33. I had a meth problem several years ago. I think my longest stretch was 4 days.

Past a certain point you just don’t know which way is up. Sure meth can make you weird, but in my experience I think the sleep deprivation is actually what makes you lose your marbles after long enough. When I made sure I slept and ate regularly, it was almost like an energy drink. But when I binged and had my junkie weeks, oof.

Once I thought I was hearing music playing loudly somewhere outside. I was convinced it was a soundtrack to a big music festival I had attended a few weeks before that someone had also attended, and was now playing loudly in the middle of the night. (The whole musics festival? Multiple bands had a soundtrack? Bruh.) I couldn’t hear it when I listened for it, but while distracted I could plainly hear it. Dead of the night and no music was playing.

Another time I was sketching in my room at like 3am. I had a friend over who was just chilling with me, asking questions every so often that would lead to discussions. Slowly they responded less and less until I looked at them and they were just looking at me. Asked what was wrong, looked down, looked up waiting for the answer, and they were gone. Never there. They hadn’t talked to me in months after they found out I was using.

So many shadow people. And those took a long time to go away after sobering up.

Whispers, hearing someone talking to me, my name being called, hearing someone talking about me. Even though I was by myself.

Sometimes I’d be driving and cars would suddenly be coming straight at me, lights blinding and everything, only to sort of “come to” and realize I’m driving on a back road and I’m the only car for miles.

By no means am I saying any weird mental shit had nothing to do with the meth. But in my experience not sleeping for days had a much more horrifying effect.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

January Nelson is a writer, editor, and dreamer. She writes about astrology, games, love, relationships, and entertainment. January graduated with an English and Literature degree from Columbia University.