Why Am I Hearing Voices at Night?

Causes and When to See a Doctor

Hearing voices or sounds that aren’t there, also referred to as auditory hallucinations, can be scary and confusing, especially at night. You might not realize right away that they are happening inside your head, and not everyone will hear the same kinds of voices.

While it is a symptom of certain mental health conditions, other more common reasons that might be causing someone to hear voices are medical conditions such as narcolepsy, infections, lack of sleep, recent bereavement, and fever.

This article will discuss auditory and sleep hallucinations in children and adults, the types of voices people hear, why these hallucinations occur, and how conditions that cause them may be treated.

Reasons You Might Hear Voices at Night

Verywell / Jessica Olah

What Are Auditory Hallucinations?

Auditory hallucinations involve hearing noises that have no physical source. This may involve hearing a voice speak to you, and could be positive, negative, or neutral. While some people hear voices that direct them to do something, that is not the experience for everyone.

Auditory hallucinations can also involve experiencing a distorted sound. Sounds can be anything from footsteps to music or tapping.

Sleep Hallucinations 

Some people experience hallucinations just as they’re falling asleep (called hypnagogic hallucinations) or just as they start to wake up (hypnopompic hallucinations). These are thought to occur due to your brain being partly in a dreaming state and in themselves are nothing to worry about.

Normally, sleep hallucinations are visual, but they can also be auditory. If you are hearing a voice or voices, they will usually be saying something brief, such as your name. You might also see strange things or misinterpret things you can see. These experiences usually stop as soon as you are fully awake.

Sleep hallucinations are particularly common in people with narcolepsy and are also associated with insufficient sleep or insomnia. However, they can occur in people without narcolepsy or another disorder. 

In Children

Hallucinations can sometimes occur in children who are ill with a fever. Contact your child’s healthcare professional if they have a temperature above 100.4 F and you think they are hallucinating. 

In Adults 65 and Up

Older people who are ill may also experience hallucinations, which may start before other signs that the person is unwell. Illnesses that might cause hallucinations include chest infections and urinary tract infections.

Types of Voices People Hear

The types of voices that people hear during auditory hallucinations at night will often depend on their cause. These include hearing:

  • The voice of a loved one
  • A bully’s voice
  • Voices that are supportive and helpful
  • Voices calling your name when no one is around
  • Voices that are constant inside your head 
  • Other persons’ thoughts
  • Voices that command you to attempt dangerous things or to control your behavior
  • Voices that direct you to do inappropriate things
  • Two or more voices arguing or fighting inside your head

Why Do I Hear Voices?

There are many reasons that you might hear voices. Remember, while it is a symptom of some mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, there are more common causes of auditory hallucinations. 

Common Reasons

Common reasons for hearing voices at night include:

  • Lack of sleep: Problems with sleep can cause you to hear voices or have other sensory experiences.
  • Hunger: Being very hungry or not having eaten much recently may cause auditory hallucinations. 
  • Physical illness: Having a high temperature and being delirious may cause hallucinations.
  • Bereavement: It is not uncommon for those who have recently lost someone very close to hear them talking or feel them close by. Some people find this experience comforting.
  • Spiritual experiences: For some, this may be a special experience that helps make sense of life, whereas for others, it may be an unpleasant, evil voice.

Associated Conditions 

Hearing voices at night may occur in these conditions and situations:

  • Substance use: You may hear or see things after taking drugs inappropriately.
  • Side effects to prescription drugs: Some prescribed drugs may cause auditory hallucinations, as can withdrawal from coming off some prescription medications.
  • Stress: Feeling very stressed, anxious, or worried can cause you to hear voices.
  • Abuse or bullying: Hearing the voice of someone who abused or bullied you, being unkind or threatening, ordering you to harm yourself, or do things that you know are wrong can occur following these experiences.
  • Traumatic experiences: Hearing voices as a result of traumatic experiences can be associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and with dissociative disorders.
  • Mental health problems: Some mental health problems have auditory hallucinations as a symptom. These include psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or severe depression.

Therapy and Medication

The type of treatment recommended for hallucinations will depend on the kind of hallucination you’re experiencing, the underlying cause, and your overall health. In general, it’s likely that your doctor will recommend a multidisciplinary approach, meaning a combination of treatments.

Common treatments are:

  • Medication: Antipsychotic medications can sometimes be effective at treating types of hallucinations, either by getting rid of them altogether, reducing their frequency, or producing a calming effect that makes them less disturbing.
  • Therapy: Certain types of psychotherapy—sometimes referred to as “talk therapy”—can be helpful for patients experiencing hallucinations. A trained psychotherapist uses a range of techniques and strategies to help you navigate the condition.

Self-Care

You should also seek support from trusted friends and family members during hallucination episodes.

Lifestyle or behavioral changes, such as getting more sleep, drinking less alcohol, and exercising regularly, might also be suggested. These can help to decrease anxiety and stress, and will support you through your recovery.

Summary

Hearing voices at night is not uncommon. While it can be a sign of a mental health condition such as schizophrenia, it is also seen when sleep is disrupted, after stress or trauma, or with certain medications or medical conditions. You should see a doctor if you are bothered by voices at night so you can be diagnosed and treated.

A Word From Verywell

If you are hearing voices at night, it’s understandable that you may be very worried you have schizophrenia or another mental health disorder. But this is not certain—hearing voices doesn’t necessarily mean you have a mental illness.

If you hear voices regularly, speak to your general practitioner. You may be scared or embarrassed, but this is the best step you can take. They can help you get effective treatment and support.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does hearing voices mean I have schizophrenia? 

No. While auditory hallucinations are one symptom of schizophrenia, there are other, more common reasons why someone would hear voices. In an epidemiological study, only a quarter of those reporting hallucinatory experiences met the diagnostic criteria for a psychotic disorder, meaning the cause for the majority of people was something else.

How do I stop the voices at night? 

If you are bothered by hearing voices at night, the most important step is to speak to your healthcare professional. They can determine the cause of the hallucinations and help you get effective treatment.

How common are auditory hallucinations? 

Studies have estimated that between 5% and 28% of the general population may hear voices at some point in their lives.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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