In my two previous posts on the subject, I presented my conceptualization of the Daytime Parahypnagogia (DPH) hypothesis as well the data on how this altered state of consciousness is experienced. Today’s post presents the circumstances under which DPH is most likely to occur and the interference it has with cognitive functioning. Recall that the sample consisted of 164 clinical psychologists and 267 college students.
Sixty-four percent of the psychologists who acknowledged having experienced the described altered state said that it has occurred during psychotherapy! I was describing my DPH thesis to a colleague who was not a participant in the survey. He said that when he instantaneously recovers from these brief altered states, he has to make sure he responds to the content of what the patient just said and not to the content of the DPH event.
66% of the students and 42% of the psychologists who acknowledged experiencing what appears to be DPH report having such an experience while attending lectures. About half of both groups experience DPH while reading or lying down to rest in the afternoon. About a fifth to a quarter have DPH while watching television. Some participants report DPH as a passenger in a car or sitting inactive in a public place such as a theater. Some people report having had DPH characteristics when sitting and talking to someone.
I had conjectured that DPH is more likely to occur in lowered alertness levels. While the data generally support the assumption, it is not so clear cut. For example 12% of the students and 35% of the psychologists reported experiencing DPH signs when feeling active, vital, alert or wide awake. DPH was most likely to occur when one is awake, but relaxed; responsive, but not fully alert (40% of students, 46% of psychologists).
Does DPH interfere with functioning when it occurs? About a fifth of the psychologists felt that when DPH occurs, it interferes with their ability to maintain full wakefulness in psychotherapy. Similar numbers reported that when it occurs, DPH interferes with their therapeutic effectiveness, responsiveness and interpretation. About a quarter felt that a DPH event interferes with therapeutic listening.
Thirty-eight percent of the college students noted DPH interference with their ability to stay awake in class. About 60% reported negative effects on their ability to maintain attention in class and to do assigned reading.
In conclusion, this phenomenon of momentarily spacing out can interfere with attention be it in a class, while listening to others, while reading, or even while watching television or plays. A minority of the psychologists perceive DPH, when it happens, as interfering with their effectiveness. DPH may occur at any wakefulness level.
Further research could address whether DPH can be reproduced in a laboratory. What would DPH look like using neural imaging such as EEG and f-MRI? Is attention fatigue a factor in producing DPH? How similar or different is DPH from ordinary hypnagogia that occurs when we are drifting into sleep? Would those clinical psychologists who experience DPH be able to reduce its occurrence through more active engagement with their patients?
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Thank you for this article and your research. No doubt this will be established more further in the future and your name will be mentioned in relation to it.
I, myself, have OCD and often experience this daytime parahypnagogia; actually, everyday. If I’m very active it’s usually not noticed, but during stress or exhaustion I experience this faintly in the background. For the most part, it’s not a problem, but on some days I get rushes of feelings and images, which are hard to grasp, which cause me to feel like I’m in a lucid alternate reality, as if life has become a movie with strange new feelings to accompany it. These rushes of feelings, faint echoing voices, and faint images in the mind’s eye fade quickly. Really, it’s just like the hypnagogia I experience when falling asleep, it just happens when awake, and moreso when passive.
I will say, on the days I experience daytime parahypnagogia extremely, I do feel as if I may lose touch with reality. I do my best to focus, so I don’t become lost in the intrusive noise, and after some time it fades, and I feel more alert and stable.
I experienced this yesterday. I drive a truck for work and my present work schedule has me working 7 nights then 7 days, switching every single week. My sleep/wake cycle has suffered for it, and was perscribed modafinil (wakefulness enhancer) 200mg as needed for the days that I’m trying to adjust from night to day and vica-versa. I was sleeping at 11am when I got a call for a job that involved driving for 12 hours, 6 each way. I took half a pill that morning (had I not been called I would’ve still been sleeping), then, knowing that I hadn’t gotten enough sleep, took a whole one about 3 1/2 hours later as I was settling into the drive, becoming slightly somnolent. When it happened I was paying attention, focusing on the traffic in front of me. Then it was as if a dream imposed itself on me. I still saw what I was actually looking at, but it was like a spontaneous hypnagogic dream-thought was illustrated to me quasi-visually. I say quasi because it was like I was seeing this dream-idea, only it took the shape of what I was actually looking at. What was odd was that I was aware of it as it was happening, not like usual where I would only notice after. I recognised it, and consciously, purposely returned to normal consciousness. I attribute this to the modafinil. Without it I think it might have been ordinary micro sleep where I only realize it after.
Here is a link which might be helpful for people:
Click to access Fragmented%20Sleep,%20Fragmented%20Mind.pdf
I was surfing around the net trying to find explanation to these strange
experiences which bring dreams to my daily life every now and then.
On my case I usually remember nightmares which is not very pleasent
experience. I have also NREM parasomnia which related to
Thank you for the link. After I read the article I will share my observations.
I’ve been experiencing the same thing for a few years now. At first it was twice a month, but now it’s more like once a month. I slip into a dreamlike state, where I’m straddling two worlds – inner and outer. I’m always awake, alert, doing something. It most commonly happens in the morning, when I’m cooking. It’s happened at a stop light when I was driving, but not when I’ve been actively driving yet. I’m pretty functional when it happens, can see ok and respond to other people. I’ve had brain scans and a sleep deprived MRI, but nothing showed up there. I usually experience a bout of diarrhea instantly afterwards. It doesn’t seem to be related to stress, diet or sleep. I used to have night terrors, where I would ‘wake’ and see people or things in the room. The instant I switched the light on I was fine. I could clear obstacles in the room with speed and agility to get to the light switch. Sometimes I’d smell things associated with the dream too – like mold or dirt. The night events stopped when thew daytime ones took over. I’m not scared of them any more, but I would like to find out more about them, and would be willing to be part of a study.
I have experienced abou 5 or 6 episodes of DPH. Each time it’s as if I have access to many familiar dreams. It strikes me as almost a remembering of forgotten experiences. It’s as though I have become aware of several parallel states of reality going on at the same time. It is not unpleasant but unnerving as I seem to have to “work” to snap out of it. Afterwards I am frustrated with an inability to remember the “dreams.” One time after the episode I could feel myself falling back into it momentarily off and on as the day moved on. I experienced an episode once as I was sitting reading on my back porch. Another time I was with my elderly mother in a restaurant. I was not tired or stressed. There seems to be no comomon denominator as to what would cause this to happen.
TODAY- I discovered what this is. Many years ago I experienced this several times. I was much younger and it was in a time of stress, as I was deciding on which of two women I should continue my path with. I chalked it up to stress as it really hasn’t happened much at all since. Maybe once or twice since back then. Today- I had a good one while sitting at work.
I associated it today for the first time as “like a dream”. It never really dawned on me that these were like those weird, vivid thoughts that you have right as you’re falling asleep.. today, I tied it together.I have been looking at various sites all day because I am finally seeing similar stories. FINALLY!
My previous way of describing this was to say I had “random thoughts” that enter my head and just as fast as they come in, they escape and I cannot remember exactly what they were. I reported this to a doctor back in the day and he immediately jumped to: “thoughts, like, suicide?” Uhh- no, not even close.
I will add to the description= generally during, or right as these episodes end- I smelled a strong chemical smell in my nose. I have even on at least one occasion- FELT as if a chemical was released in my brain. A sudden liquid feeling rush, dripping through the core of my brain and a super strong chemical smell. This had me searching for stroke symptoms for years- and nothing related to that made any sense.
I have been having these somewhat regularly since this post! Had one in the shower this morning, and then one while at my desk. They seem slightly different now.. I don’t know how to describe why, but it seems as if they’re less intense.. it’s an interesting little trip.. not bad, not concerning at this point. Sure would like to know what exactly it is.
I had this exact experience last night and it was unsettling to say the least. I was cooking alone and started to have only what I can only describe as dream imagery infringe on me while I was what I thought to be wide awake. The crazy thing is it would only last a second or two because I was continuing to cook/cut/sprinkle, but it was causing me confusion when I would be fully lucid again. The dream material was fleeting and I knew that I had dreamed, but could not completely recall what the imagery was after a few seconds. My daughter was nearby and anytime she would come into the kitchen and would talk to me I was fully lucid and then when I went back to cooking it would start happening again. It was freaking me out so much that I was then having trouble concentrating due to building anxiety. I was fine during dinner when I was sitting there with the family (well except that I was highly worried about what had just happened to me and had little appetite). Later that night while I was reading to my son it was happening again, I was reading to him, but sort of dreaming up parts of the book in memory after reading a page. Of course the dream up page made no sense and I would have to actively focus on the actual page content again. It was really unsettling and I had a really hard time going to sleep last night due to anxiety over the experience, so much so that I had to put on a movie. At some point I crashed out to sleep and I seem okay today. Reading these articles and the accompanying comments made me feel much better. The only thing I could figure last night, was that I was actually starting to fall asleep over and over again while cooking and then while reading, but wasn’t aware that I was falling asleep. I am not on any medications, but I do have a history of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
I am a 68 yr old male. Happy long term marriage, children and grandchildren. I started having the above experience maybe 3 months ago and maybe half a dozen times. The thoughts that suddenly come up seem to be linked to recent dreams. I am pretty sure of this but cant be absolutely sure, which I guess makes sense because my dream isn’t documented and I can only rely on my intuition. I find it confusing and get a little anxious about what is happening. One part of me wants to get right inside these thoughts to understand/confirm what they are and if in fact they are linked to recent dreams, but I can’t or don’t want to try and stick with them. It seems safer to let them go and get back to reality.
I am interested if this relates to my age, but I notice that others of all ages experience it?! I do have a little OCD, but it is minor and manageable? I have had some depression and anxiety episodes but these were related to normal life crisis episodes. Not sure if these latter conditions are related?
No one appears to have asked the obvious question………….does this experience lead to anything more sinister? I guess not, but perhaps PSYCHMINDER can advise?!
Very appreciative to find this research and be able to comment.
No, I don’t believe the DPH experience, in itself, leads to anything more serious. My hunch is that this type brief altered state of consciousness is related to other forms of hypnagogia. It is possible that the dream producing areas in the brain contribute to the experience. I wish I had the opportunity to research the phenomenon more extensively to answer some of the really excellent questions posed by readers.
I have had this over the past couple of years, quite frequently, usually sitting at my desk in the afternoon, looking at my computer. I wonder if you have any insight into possible causation. I have a history of grand mal and simple partial seizures (completely under control for over 20 years) and am a caregiver under constant stress.
I did not have the opportunity to research the causation of DPH. We know under which circumstances DPH is likely to occur, but we don’t know why some people have the experience and others don’t. I have always wondered whether there could be a relationship with previous hallucinogenic use. I still have the research data, including hallucinogenic history, if any statistician or researcher would like to analyze. At this point, I am retired from research, but maintain a clinical psychology practice. Thanks for your input.
Thank you, Dr. Gurstelle! No history of hallucinogen use here but it is interesting.
Dr. Gurstelle – I recently posted on the initial link. Now reading that you are retired from the research, is there anyone picking this up and carrying on with your findings and beyond? Has anyone had DPH while “sleeping”? Waking up more fully to realize you are having a reoccurring dream that is triggering some physical reaction like sweating, heart rate increase, nauseousness? Or have you found that this may be something not related directly with DPH? Thanks for the work you have done thus far!
To my knowledge, no one has followed-up on my research, though I have been cited in a number of articles. By definition, DPH is a momentary state of consciousness somewhat similar to what one may experience when falling asleep, except in occurs while awake. Thus it does not appear while sleeping. I guess, if it does, we call it a dream.
Are there any prescription drugs that could trigger such episodes, particularly bupropion, or sertraline?
I don’t know whether any medication increases the likelihood of having a DPH experience. I have conjectured that perhaps prior hallucinogenic drug use (including marijuana) might make a person more prone to DPH, but there is no evidence for that link, one way or the other.
I have had these spells in the past and had no idea what was happening. The first time I had the experience, I was quite concerned because it kept happening for what felt like about 20 minutes. I began to wonder if it would go away. I remember, I was preparing dinner, doing repetitive tasks like chopping. I have felt it occasionally since. Today it happened after exercise. I decided to research it. Knowing now that other people have experienced it, that there is a name for it, is reassuring. Some of the descriptions that others have used are very accurate. I think one person said it as if she is in multiple levels of consciousness at once. That rang very true.
I have no mental health disorders or brain diseases that I know of. I meditate daily so maybe I’m a bit more aware of my thoughts than others, but I don’t see how this is related. I am not sleep deprived or sleepy.
Thank you for your research and writing on this subject.
Been having these more Frequently. Two super strong ones last night before bed. I woke up to two EMT’s in my bedroom and a frantic wife.
Apparently I was convulsing and incoherent for quite some time. She explains that the EMT’s were there for a long time, I was up and moving around. I have zero recollection of this. My first memory is of the EMT’s standing over my bed. I got up and went with them.
Been in the hospital all night… they’re sayin seizures.
I doubt the DPH and seizures are related to each other. Glad you are okay. I postulate DPH to be a form of hypnagogia, which normally occurs at sleep onset.
I have been instructed to follow up with a neurologist.. I’ll add more as I have it.
Yes please do. And best wishes.