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In a dream state when asleep, it is the opposite.

The images appear before me and proceed of their own will despite me. I cannot change, modify or interrupt them. I am the victim of my unconscious and also my illusion because I believe I am in reality and not in my dream.

Waking Dream: Young. Undocumented. Future unknown. by Theo Rigby — Kickstarter

A waking dream starts as a day dream and very quickly develops into a dream. Comfortably lying down on a couch, the patient narrates his dream to me while I sit beside him noting it down. This narrative constitutes a waking dream scenario which over weeks and months, develops into a series of linked scenarios to finally become a work that is original, comparable to a novel, a poem or a series of paintings. The patient has become creative. Moreover, with my help, he has understood his problems which he has just explored and he is finally able to free himself of his traumas, complexes, fantasies, negative processes, unconscious repetitions…Waking dream analysis is therefore, shorter, more active and more universal than an ordinary psychoanalysis.

Dream world (plot device)

It is also richer because images are already present, before words and language come in. Unexpectedly though, the hypnagogic intrusions were preceded not by sudden bursts of complex brain activity, like sparks in a fading candle, but by sudden changes to a more orderly brain state. Noreika is working on the hypothesis that when we enter sleep, the brain steadily dismantles the models and concepts we use to interpret the world, leading to moments of experience unconstrained by our usual mental filters.

This is intuitively appealing and would fit with one of the most curious aspects of the hypnagogic experience: Our thoughts can stray towards tumbling horses, zips and violins but they also can seem completely unremarkable, and indeed, entirely reasonable, until we are jolted from our reverie.

Only at this point do they seem odd or out-of-context.


The difficulty that people have detecting the strangeness of these experiences prompted psychologists Clemens and Jana Speth, both at the University of Dundee, to examine reports of hypnagogic intrusions. Similarly, by comparing the hypnagogic state to REM dreaming, a study by the same researchers confirmed the long-noted observation that while dreams often feel fully immersive, hypnagogia tends to be experienced as if we were passive observers—with the hallucinatory thoughts and images occurring as a projection on our existing sense of reality.


Admittedly, studies from this new wave of interest in hypnagogia are small and still tentative but they reflect a growing trend towards understanding sleep not just as a state of rest and consolidation, but also as a scientific tool for observing the components of consciousness as they are stripped away for entry into slumber. Francesca Siclari , a sleep and consciousness researcher at the University Hospital of Lausanne, in Switzerland, also hopes this new wave of interest will result in more practical benefits.

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But there is a more whimsical aspect to this work. Sleep researchers across the world are now dedicated to recording some of the most ephemeral moments of human weirdness, which are often lost to memory after the drama and haze of dream and sleep.

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