"Zooming-in" illusion - I can't be the only one?

Does anybody else experience the following weird, very strong, sensation? (It’s happened to me occasionally (two or three times a year) throughout my life, but whenever I mention it to anybody else they look at me as if I’m mad. And I haven’t been able to find any reference to it elsewhere)

I’m lying in bed, in semi-darkness, trying to get to sleep. I become aware that I seem to be able to visually ‘zoom in’ - I can look at an object on the other side of the room, say twelve feet away, and inspect it in minute detail, it really feels like the object is only inches from my face. I can best describe it as feeling as if the room itself has been reduced to one third of its normal size - everything in the room seems huge, and very close, the walls seem very close. Or it’s as if I have binoculars fixed to my eyes… it’s hard to describe. The effect dissipates if I turn the lights on, or get up and walk around.

I’m hoping that somebody will say something like “oh yeah, that’s the Zweigel darkness illusion, a well-known phenomenon”, or at least “hey, I get that, too!” I’d stress that this is not some faint effect that I can conjure up whenever I feel like it - it seems to come out of the blue every few months, and is very powerful, in fact slightly disturbing.

you’ll be happy to know that I know exactly what you’re refering to…
you’re lying in bed, it’s usually late, and all of a sudden, the room feels smaller… it seems as though you should be able to touch the wall opposite the bed, just by reaching out, but it’s actually about 8 feet away…
I get a slightly claustraphobic feeling when that happens to me…
mind you it hasn’t happened in quite a while… don’t think it’s happened since I got married, at least… (4 1/2 years)

I have no idea what causes it, but it creeps me out when it does…

<slight off-topic>
Then sometimes, there’s that feeling I get, sometimes, mostly when I’m almost asleep… this is the closest I can come to describing this feeling that has only been exemplified in a dream a couple times… like this huge wheel, with small spikes all over it, is ever so slowly rolling towards me (like about a foot every 10-15 seconds), but I know I have no way of escaping, and it’s coming closer… the sheer terror…
when I get that feeling, while in bed, I keep remembering that dream…

it’s wierd, bu I find that for me, these two ‘manifestations’ are somewhat related…

please don’t send the guys in white to come get me…


Me too. It’s scary.

Sometimes, when I’m in the hazy netherwold between sleep and wakefulness, I’ll have my eyes closed and yet “see” the room all around me. That is, I’m completely cognizant of the fact that my eyes are closed, and yet I can turn my head this way and that and the “view” changes. Turn to the left: Mrs. Rastahomie’s dresser with the TV on top. Turn to the right: the bedroom door, the fan in the corner, etc.


Jesus, I thought I was the only one. It’s extremely unpleasant when it does happen. It’s exactly like the hallucinations I experienced when I was a little kid suffering from a bad fever. I’d look at objects across the room and they’d suddenly appear as if they were inches from my face. Extremely creepy and claustrophobic.

I always thought they were “fever flashbacks,” similar to the acid flashbacks some people experience years after they take LSD.

Maybe. But if this many people experience this, it has a name, a diagnosis, probably a support group.

Let’s leave it here to see what facts develop.

um, ok. Well, being the usual weirdo of the group, I have the opposite problem. I zoom out. Instead of things looking closer, if I focus on something long enough, or in the right frame of mind, they seem farther away than they are. Still as clear as their true distance, just farther away. Noticed this when i was a kid. The effect was especially pronounced in church, when I had to stare at the pastor or deal with my parents wrath. As I looked and listened (well, sorta listened), his head would become smaller and smaller. At the same time, i’d develop a sort of tunnel vision.

All in all, this probably helps me focus on speakers more than I normally would, as it’s kind of fun to see them “zoom” away. Nowadays I can do it at will, and even now, as I think about it, the monitor is slowly backing away. (Except for when I glance back at the keyboard, then it moves back a little.)

Anyways, thought I’d throw that pointless bit of info in. :slight_smile:

Glenoled! shit, I get the same thing as you with the wheel with spikes on but its a giant ball and its red, with some sort of pattern on it, a bit like the sole of a shoe, rolling towards me. The feeling of pure terror is horrible. Haven’t had it for ages though.

Ive never had the zooming in thing, but I do get this wierd thing thats really difficult to describe. I think it happens when im under a lot of stress just a that moment, and sounds change. Everything slows down slightly, and somehow sounds angry. Maybe im just insane like the rest of you.

Wild Hypothesis:

I take it from

that this only happens in the dark? Totally guessing, now, but the rods (night vision) are less concentrated in the center of the retina than the cones (day vision) and are more concentrated in a “halo” around the outer part of the visual field; this is why stars are often easier to see “out of the corner of your eye” at night, rods being far more sensitive than cones. SO. During normal day vision, the closer you view something the more it fills your visual field and stimulates the cones that are in this halo area. Now at night, the rods in this part of your visual area make it the more active part of your retina, sending signals to the brain - which misinterprets this as being closer to the object than you really are, creating an optical illusion. Sound plausible?

Nice to know that lots of others experiance this sort of stuff.

Instead of the wheel that glenoled visioned, i get a feeling of lines on my back, like im lying on these wires all parralel to each other, and i am moving at FAST speed towards the end of the dark room, and i look to the left, and i see other people doing the same thing.

When i woke up from this i could still feel the lines digging into my back, as if i was getting burnt from the friction.

And i find that with my eyes, if i look at something for long enough, the outside colors (around the primary object im looking at) change to wild, wacky colors, greens, bright purples and so on.

Thats my part of the IMHO


I’ve also experienced the “zooming out”… I’ll be half-asleep with my face inches from the wall, and it’ll seem like I’m looking at the wall from across the room. Then I suddenly notice that it’s right next to me.

Hasn’t happened for years, but I used to get this strange impression that the mattress was curling up around me, sort of like a giant burrito, and that I was flying around the room inside it. Got to where I kind of liked it.

When I was an adolescent I used to get the impression that various parts of my body were distorting enormously (no, not THAT part, I mean parts that didn’t include such performances in their natural functioning). Somewhat like the body deformation effects used in the movie “Altered States”, and not terribly pleasant.

If you want to research this stuff, you might poke around under “hypnagogic” and “hypnopompic” experiences. You’ll have to sift through a lot of claptrap, and you might also want to look under “sleep paralysis”.

Funny, I’ve had the opposite happen before. Very seldomly, I feel like the wall accross the room is really far away. I feel like a kid in a big world, but I soon as I get out of bed it goes away.

I had the zooming out as well, years ago.

Also something from years ago but still happens, usually at night, I can stare at the walls or ceiling and they start spinning around…I get this very dizzy feeling just lying there, and I can sort of turn it off and on at will. Very strange…

I sometimes get a strange sensation of being taller. I am awake and walking and my head feels higher than usual. (about 6 to 10 inches higher) My feet seem farthur away and sometimes my arms feel longer. I just have this sort of streached out feeling. It dosen’t hurt. I never did acid and I only did pot like three times. I don’t drink that much either any way these episodes are never when I am under the influence of anything.

I also get the zooming out and zooming in sensation in bed sometimes but I just chalk that up to being tired.

Apologies if I should have posted this to IMHO, I don’t really get how you classify things round here. Anyway, thanks for the replies.

APB9999, I think you’re right - it’s something to do with rods vs. cones, it does only happen in very low light. My theory is that it’s due to a temporary increase in blood pressure, because it’s always accompanied by what I can only describe as “thick tongue” - you feel like your tongue has swelled up (‘swollen up’? never quite sure), indeed your whole jaw feels a bit tense. Actually, that’s how I know when it’s starting - my tongue feels thick. I don’t think it’s anything to do with sleep, I’m always wide awake when it happens.

Imation, if you stare at something for long enough, then if you look away, you’ll see a negative of that image. For example, stare at a picture of the american flag, then look at a blank, white surface, and you’ll see the flag in yellow, green, and black.

The image burns itself into your retina, so that when you look away, you can see the lack of color. Hence the greens and purples. It’s more intense if you look at bight objects like lamps and such.

I had the zooming out effect myself when I was young - I freaked out but it was difficult to explain to my parents… Didn’t happen recently and if I remember correctly, it also only happened at night.

I had these sorts of optical illusions while lying in bed when I was very young, like 8. Sometimes I would feel like I was lying on the ceiling and the floor was zooming away from me. It stopped and I remember it as something that probably had to do with learning about visual perception as I grew up.
Dr. Salk, the neurologist, in the book “An Anthropologist on Mars”, talked about how it took normal people to the age of thirteen or fourteen to learn how to use their eyesight. (I read this a couple of years ago and I’m not exactly sure of the details.) It was in a chapter on blind people who had had their sight restored. Someone who doesn’t know how to use their eyesight is barraged with so much visual data they can’t cope with it. Symptoms are ducking when a bird flies over or memorizing a route to walk so you don’t have to look for roadmarks.
I would be quite concerned if I experienced one of these distortions as an adult, but I’ve had a very active outdoor life. If any of you experience this as an adult I would suggest getting away from the computer screen and out of the house more often, to feed and exercise your eyes.