It turns out that fighter pilots accelerated to speeds that induce loss of consciousness can wake up through these same layers of light, bodily sensation, and no thought that I described in I Never Sleep. That kind of surprises me. Perhaps losing consciousness is simply losing consciousness and it doesn’t matter if that is precipitated by gravity draining blood from the brain or simply laying your head upon a pillow at night. Curiously, when the thinking brain falls behind and can supply no reason for the body’s sensations, the fighter pilot researches say that the brain then makes up a reason. I first heard this explanation of brain playing tricks on you from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He said the relaxation deep in meditation will start the body normalizing. Sensations, feelings arise for no external reason. Maharishi explained that we then experience “a mood on an abstract basis.” He went on to explain the mind cannot stand this lack of decent reason and so ascribes the sensation to some memory close at hand. “Ah, my friend is coming for a visit.”
Here’s RadioLab’s description of this research.