Have you ever experienced, whether as a normal dreamer or a lucid dreamer, finding yourself in a normal everyday situation (getting up, showering, getting dressed, having breakfast, and heading out to work or school) only for you to find yourself back in bed after you thought your day had already started? Only to find out after waking up “for real” that you still actually haven’t?
This is what’s called a false awakening, a phenomenon that can happen to normal and lucid dreamers, where the dream changes into the dreamer waking up but is actually still asleep and dreaming. This episode can happen multiple times when it does, leading to confusion and amusement at best, and terror at worst, feeling like you’re trapped in a time loop. And it is almost difficult to know when it happens because the dream is so vivid, it is virtually identical to reality itself.
Why does this happen?
While there are a number of reasons why false awakenings happen, many experts have come to the conclusion that the most commonly happens when the dreamer is anxious or highly excited about the following day. It is the mind’s way of simulating what would actually happen when the dreamer wakes up on the big day, with many believing it is to prepare them and make sure they are reminded what to do and how to do it.
For example, if you’re stressed about a job interview you’ve been wanting for a long time, you might dream about it the night before and be subjected to multiple false awakening episodes before finally waking up for real. The same can be said about a wedding day, big vacation, or purchase (which is common for kids and will often be when they first experience their false awakenings) or even a sporting event, leading dreamers to believe they’ve “predicted” who would win!
Escaping false awakenings
This is where things get a little complicated. As mentioned earlier, false awakenings are very difficult to recognize due to the vivid nature of the dream blurring the lines between what’s in the mind and what’s real. Oftentimes the false awakening episode is so close to the dreamer’s real-life routine, that they won’t even do anything different that could potentially make them escape the episode. With these tips, however, it can be managed and over time, it will become easier and easier, even leading to more lucid dreaming!
1.) Reality checks – the most common way to try and escape false awakenings is the reality check. This is when the dreamer tries to find out if “everything is in order” so they can see if they are dreaming or not. But this doesn’t always work, especially since, as mentioned above, the dream is so vivid and close to reality that it is hard to spot incongruities. But it still works, especially when you go about your routine and see that you now live in a 30 bedroom house as opposed to your 1 room apartment when you open the door to take a bath. Things like that can jar you and wake you up.
2.) Read, Write, Remember – This method is quite effective as it uses the brain itself to try and jar you from your false awakening. In a dream, it is very hard to write, read, or even just recognize words and numbers, as well as remember details from your life that involve words and numbers, as the parts of the brain that are involved in those processes are still shut down due to being asleep. So, to help escape your false awakening, add tasks that involve these in your daily routine: check your clock every morning, read a passage in a book or your phone, remember your home address, or your own phone number. If you find yourself able to do these easy when you wake up, then you’re truly awake. But if you can’t even see what time it is or remember your own phone number, you’re still asleep and in a false awakening!
3.) Go with your gut – As simple as this sounds, people often miss it. If you wake up one morning and begin to have doubt, asking yourself “am I dreaming?” then you probably are. If you feel like something is off or amiss, even without doing a reality check or a memory check, then you probably are still dreaming. So trust your gut!
Once your mind recognizes any of these flags, it will usually make you escape the false awakening by waking you up, or by readying you to take control to turn that false awakening into the start of a lucid dream, which we will tackle in a future blog post soon!
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