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  • Rob Will

Sleep Deprivation and Hallucination

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations. Many academic studies have shown this. An hour of Yoga with a heavy focus on pranayama (breathing technique) has allowed me to be centered enough to write. Before this? I was hallucinating. It is just past 2 AM and the only sounds I can hear are the whirring of my fan and the soft whimpering of my neighbor. He is terribly schizophrenic and around an hour ago, he woke me up screaming. Screaming out for help, begging angels, running from demons - but of course, there is nowhere to run inside a concrete cage. So he screams and yells, rants and raves, and when this wears him out, he cries and whimpers like a small child or a wounded animal. I never really sleep for more than 30 minutes or an hour at a time. I am used to this (as much as one can be, I suppose) but the violence of the loud screaming that woke me left me rather startled. I jumped up with my heart racing and quickly realized what woke me up, sighed and thought, “Ah, nothing to worry about, just typical everyday INSANITY.” As I went to lay back down, I saw ants crawling out of cracks in the floor, cursed the bothersome little creatures and said to myself, “Well, that is something to worry about. Let me take care of this so I can attempt to get some rest.”

I use soap to plug up the cracks and a little “sweeper” made out of a tablet back to sweep the ants away. (I never kill ants or bugs, I just re-settle them!) I grabbed these things and took the step or two to the front of my cell, where the cracks and ants were. Where, are, huh?? What?? No ants. None. Nowhere. I blinked my eyes a few times and realized that my vision was blurring and I sort of “snapped to” and became conscious of the fact that my vision had been blurring and I felt off balance and slightly dizzy. No ants. They were a hallucination resulting from sleep deprivation that is disturbingly integral part of solitary confinement. Everyone who has spent any prolonged amount of time in solitary has experienced such things. (I have been in extreme super-seg solitary for 15 years). Luckily, I am conscious of the psychodynamics of such minor hallucinatory experiences. They have been known to help drive many insane though. I cannot even count the number of times I have heard schizophrenic guys screaming about non-existent bugs, ants, and other things. And shadows. The shadows can be hell.

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