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Flashes of light and sound upon falling asleep

  My husband occasionally experiences odd sensations upon falling asleep.
  My guess is that what he is experiencing are occipital or temporal lobe
  seizures.  He describes a sensation where he is at the point of falling
  asleep, and he suddenly sees flashes of light that he describes as
  "sparks", in addition, there is an auditory sensation of a squeeky grinding
  type noise.  I believe that he also once mentioned having a metallic taste
  in his mouth at that point.  Once this starts, he says that he can wake
  himself up at this point, but that to do so takes considerable effort.
  The occurance of these episodes is increased when he sleeps with his head
  completely alligned with his body, and decreased when he sleeps with his
  head tilted to the right.  These episodes happen only at night, and he can
  sleep in any position for a nap during the day without incident.  He has
  had these symptoms since age 14.  He is age 25 now.  The frequency of this
  occurance has decreased to probably about once monthly, although I don't
  know the original frequency.  We are both graduate students working on
  degree's in physiology, and are therefore rather poor and uninsured.  If
  this situation is quite urgently serious, we will attempt to find an
  excellent neurologist immediately.  However my husband will be employed
  this fall at a community college where we will have HMO type insurance.  
  Am I even on the right track thinking that this is some form of epilepsy?  
  And will waiting, and using HMO doctors most likely be sufficient, or is
  treating this type of condition urgent and specialized?  I would value the
  personal opinion of any responding doctor, and therefore release you from
  any liability should I follow your advice.  Thank you so much for your
  interest and service!
  or should we use our limited resources to consult
Dear Melinda:
It seems that your husband's symptoms are what we call Hypnagogic hallucinations (sleep onset dreams).
These are phenomena that occur usually at sleep onset. At times they are associated with excessive day time sleepiness, sleep paralysis and drop attacks (Cataplexy), making the diagnosis of narcolepsy. I do not know if what you describe as taking time to move is because he can't move or because he is still sleepy.
If he has any one of the other symptoms, therefore the diagnosis of Narcolepsy becomes a possibility.
Considering the possibility of seizures, it can't be ruled out based on what you described. If there is no shaking, loss of consciousness, history of severe head trauma, family history of seizures, history of childhood febrile convulsions, among others, seizures become unlikely but can't be fully ruled out without EEG recordings.
A Neurological consultation may be needed at certain point. Certainly, the consultation becomes urgent if he has loss of consciousness, convulsive movemnets, tongue biting, urine incontinence.
If you have any further questions, please let me know.
Good luck

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