Tales from Hypnagogia

a term for the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep, characterized by dreamlike auditory, visual, or tactile sensations when half-awake.

One morning many years ago I woke up early and went to check the time on my phone, but I was instead surprised & intrigued to see six strange words on the screen: “I need to talk to Gentor.”

What on earth? It made no sense at all. I didn’t know anyone or anything called Gentor and I certainly didn’t want to speak to him/her/it. Eventually I summoned a vague memory of mentally procuring this random sentence out of nowhere as I was trying to fall asleep the previous night. In a semi-slumberous frame of mind, I must have woken and keyed the words onto my phone as a note.

Over the following few weeks I did some research and found this was caused by a phenomenon known as the hypnagogic state. This is the watery, dreamlike state of consciousness your mind turns to as you are in the process of falling asleep or waking up. If the conditions are just right during this transitional phase between wakefulness and slumber, you may experience brief hallucinations in the form of images, shapes, colours, sounds, physical sensations, or in my case, random words & phrases. From personal experience, these sensory perceptions are not usually as poignant or lifelike as those experienced during an actual dream; instead I find they present themselves in very short bursts and are often more easily memorable.

Anyway, recently I’ve noticed these hypnagogic words have been coming to me two or three times a week, so over the past two months I’ve written down every one that my mind has graced me with! Most nights as I go to bed, I close my eyes, begin to drift off, and then all of a sudden out of nowhere I’ll be hit by this short, ludicrous, extremely random statement or question that makes barely any sense at all, sometimes even including completely made-up words that have no meaning whatsoever. I wake up and write it down as soon as this happens – and now, for your enoyment, transcribed below is this unpredictable and peculiar insight into my subconscious night-time mentality:

I first had a chicken when I was twelve.

They get all desperate to find out.

You don’t want to suit me up to be a bear?

In the process of renewing and travelling, did you go travelling?

Red guppy beach steps.

Were you a better king for Jack Thompson?

It might just be a soaked up point of water but he’s not ready to justify his actions.

Just put it with my pride and strike the wall.

Broad beans and bomb shells don’t do what they do.

There’s enough memory in this biscuit to keep the silly climber alive.

I have olive oil, but how can a product which is a mild apleasiastic help you? I can’t keep my finger on the zero.

Elevation can’t stand the personal justice of our bleeding yacht.

I love the shadow that they want.

After three nights on the same row, everyone was asking them: why did they move the traffic?

We don’t want you stoppers running into sand, come on, leave it!

What are your secrets, what did you say to them twice?

Draw the line on the strawberry glace pot.

Slipping out junk and the Rockerfeller’s procedure.

The story is of Sarssche.

Turning into a rabbit bagoon egg.

Café Piara D’ombardo.

One noodle he met her and nobody fetched her.

Heritage farm listed like a Chinese letter rip.

Quickly, you’re up the tree.

We had a faisty elephant come in to see us at number two.

There are the shortly’s, these are the nowhere else.

Don’t give coffee a break as you did at the Mandatee.

Nothing represents an actor more than a box of charred bananas.

Err….. crazy hey?! Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve experienced anything like this yourself. I’m off to bed now to compose more tales from hypnagogia…


Since this post was published, there is now a Twitter account called @HypnagogicTales, as well as a web site dedicated entirely to these crazy phrases at hypnagogia.com.au – please follow & visit!


  1. Love it! I get these too, I’m just too damn lazy to write them down. I had my first hypnagogic hallucination the other night- pretty stars [apparently they are known as ‘phosphenes’] and just two nights ago I had an ‘out of person’ experience where I forgot who I was and thought I was someone else! Pretty crazy. Do you ever have lucid dreams? I used to have them more often, but lately I’ve been lucidfree. Sure, that’s a word.

  2. That’s awesome how you had a visual hypnagogic experience! I did read about the phosphenes but I can’t quite imagine what they’d “look” like. Ooh I’ve probably had a maximum of two lucid dreams before in my life, and both times I remember waking up from a dream first, then going back to sleep, getting into the dream again, and then being able to control what happens. I love the human mind 😀 And according to Google there are eight other places on the web that make use of the word Lucidfree!

  3. Very pleased to find your blog. It just turned up while I was looking for more info on ‘Heartbreak Science’ I haven’t found your piece about that yet, but have come across your bit on hypnogogic imagery, words etc. I did my thesis on dreams years ago, & in the process discovered hypnogogia. Since then, I have noticed many hypnagogic ‘dreams’, and strange hypnogogic sentences. I too, never write them down, (except some hypno dreamlets) mostly because I don’t want to interrupt my getting off to sleep.
    With regards to lucid dreaming, I discovered this too, whilst doing the thesis. I go through phases of having many of them, other times I have none. I remember one lucid dream, where I was very thirsty, realising I was dreaming, I put a grcers in the street next to me, & went & bought myself an orange!
    I did this thesis decades ago, but I was very obsessed with the topic. I could wake in the morning & remember every dream of the night.-5 or6.
    One of the most interesting things I found out, was that a tribe on the Malay peninsular, were/(are?) taught to do lucid dreaming, and if they see demons (for eg) punch them in the nose. Also they’re taught to bring something back from their dreams, – an idea, an invention . I read, too, that they are remarkably happy peoples, & have always thought that their dream control must have something to do with this. I only found 1 short paragraph about these people, though I searched for more.
    More recently I discovered, that there is research being done into this field, in U.S.A. Nobody seemed to know much about it then (1970’s). It led me to a less intense, but never the less lifelong search into this area. At the time I had many theories, which I have since forgotten, but I do still believe that there lies the secret to happiness!
    As a chronic non sleeper, I have also discovered one way to overcome insomnia. On your way to sleep, try to remember your previous nights dreams, pretty soon you will be asleep. It works every time, but sometimes I forget to try it. Sometimes even an older dream will do the trick!
    Now I must try & find your piece on Heartbreak Science – which I found remarkably exciting too. When you think about it , you feel emotions around the heart area, not in the mind. It really does make absolute sense. Like your blog & will subscribe.

    1. Hi Lu, thanks so much for your comment, and how fascinating that you wrote a thesis on the subject. I started writing the phrases down just for a bit of fun, because they sounded so random and crazy, but I must say I’ve since developed a very keen interest in sleep and dream-related matters. I’ve just looked up some details on the Malay tribe you mention, the Senoi – *wow* – their approach to the dream state and life in general is incredible. It would be fascinating to be involved in this kind of research. I’m going to try your tip on getting to sleep the next time I suffer from insomnia, I can imagine doing so would trigger a reminder within your body of what it was like to be asleep? I’d actually posted my piece on Heartbreak Science on another blog, but I’ve since added it here; it’s just a couple of paragraphs about how I excited I was to hear about the breakthroughs in the field 🙂 Cheers again for your input, and all the best with your own quest for knowledge!

  4. Hi Dan
    I just discovered this post and read it with fascination and thought I’d post my own little idiosyncracy. It has nothing to do with Hypnagogia but its kind of dream related.
    Quite often when I dream I’m woken by something or other and remain awake for quite a while, but I can often talk myself into returning to the same dream.
    Another thing I do is to tell myself what images to ‘see’ during that half wake/sleep time and sort of create my own dreams. I like to choose where people go and what they do. It doesn’t happen all the time but quite often. I’ve become more aware of it in the past few months.
    Weird or what?

  5. Me too Barb, It’s all pretty interesting, isn’t it? One of those theories I had when doing my thesis, – was what people are beginning to say now, i.e. that we create our own reality! Back then saying such a thing would’ve got you chucked in the loony bin. So I didn’t say it aloud. It still strikes me as being a whacky idea, – the idea that life is like a holograph, however that was the conclusion I came to back then, though always wondering why people don’t choose to create a paradise for themselves! I think the dream control stuff
    has some important role in all this and in a way you were practising dream control. What I can tell you is that the more obsessed you get, the better you’ll get at it.
    Thanks Dan for the info on The Senoi. I did reply, but it looks as though it didn’t get to you. I’ve searched for so long for that info, but could never find anything and you came up with it just like that!

  6. Really interesting post! I’ve been hearing hypnogogic words and sentences all my life – but like you, never wrote them down until recently!

    I was wondering, what voice do you here these in? Your own or other people’s?

    Also – I’ve experienced hearing these random incoherrent sentences whilst awake, usually while doing some passive activity that doesn’t require too much attention – Its called daytime parahypnogogia, have you ever experienced something similar?

    1. Thanks for your comment Kate, it’s great to hear from others who experience similar phenomena! I had a peek at your Tumblr and was impressed with your live hypnagogic blogging post – that’s a great idea. I don’t really recall it happening to me while I’ve been awake… it may have happened once or twice in the past as I’ve been in a semi-conscious/daydreaming state, but most of the time I get the phrases as I’m about to fall asleep or just as I’m about to wake up in the morning. They’re nearly always in my own voice and they’re quite rhythmic too, I often hear them with a stress on a certain stress syllable or as part of a catchy rhyme which helps imprint them into my memory. If you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow me & say hi at @HypnagogicTales – I post new phrases there every day or two 🙂

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