False awakening and lucid dreams during REM sleep


If you have ever had a dream in which you thought you were awake but were still sleeping, you are very familiar with the concept of false awakening. What is false awakening and what does it mean? How is this related to lucid dreaming? Do false awakenings require treatment?

Find out more about this interesting sleep phenomenon and how it can interact with dreams and nightmares .

Photograph by Paul Mansfield / Getty Images

Types of false awakenings

False awakenings are of two types. Type 1 is characterized by waking daily activities: getting up, showering, dressing, eating breakfast, and going to work. At some point, the dreamer realizes that something is wrong and this can cause a true awakening. which the person admits was just a vivid dream.

Type 2 false arousals are described as less pleasant with a more intense or ominous sensation. They can be associated with hallucinations or ghosts of people or monsters that cause misgivings. These events are more likely to be seen as nightmares and may be associated with anxiety.

Symptoms of false awakening

A false awakening occurs when a person dreams that they are waking up, but in reality they remain asleep. This is a fairly common occurrence. Almost everyone who remembers their dreams experiences them at some point in their lives.

Interestingly, false awakenings can be repeated many times; Like a nesting Russian doll, dreams and false awakenings can overlap each other. As a result, the dreamer believes that they have finally woken up, but they continue to sleep only to falsely wake up again, sometimes multiple times.

False awakenings can be associated with anxiety and confusion about whether you are really asleep or awake. They can also be associated with out-of-body experiences, in which the victim separates from their body and perceives them as an outside observer. This is called dissociation.

Also, false awakenings can be associated with lucid dreams . Lucid dreaming is a phenomenon through which the dreamer is partially aware of the dream state and takes control of the narrative. This can allow for directed dreams, in which you can choose what to do in your dream .


False awakenings can indicate some degree of sleepiness and sleep fragmentation. The brain can be simultaneously in several states of consciousness or sleep.

One can imagine that a false awakening can activate the part of the brain responsible for consciousness, while preserving the part that generates vivid dreams.

Sleep can be fragmented for many reasons, including:

  • Sleep apnea – often associated with snoring, observed pauses in breathing, gasping or choking, teeth grinding, frequent urination at night, or excessive daytime sleepiness.
  • Periodic limb movements during sleep (PLMS)
  • Insomnia : Frequent awakening with difficulty falling asleep.
  • Ambient noise: causes awakening
  • Other reasons

When awareness is more complete, awakening from REM sleep can cause symptoms of sleep paralysis . In addition, intense fragmentation of sleep and wakefulness can often be seen in narcolepsy .

Front facing

Since false awakenings generally occur without any associated physical or mental illness, they are unlikely to represent abnormal pathology. On the contrary, it is a frequent manifestation of dreams that does not require any treatment.

If the content of recurring dreams is frustrating, dream rehearsal therapy can be used, which involves redirecting the dream story to make it less frustrating, often towards an alternate ending that is less nightmare.

If this is found, anxiety treatment may be required. For post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) , medications such as prazosin can be helpful in relieving nightmares. Antidepressants can also be helpful in suppressing REM sleep, and this can reduce the frequency of these false awakenings.

Get the word of drug information

If you have disruptive or destructive dreams, talk to your doctor or a board-certified sleep therapist about some of the options available to help you sleep better. In some cases, the identification of the underlying sleep disorder can lead to a complete resolution of its phenomena. Medication can also be used if other therapy does not eliminate false awakenings and is destructive.

Frequently asked questions

  • Researchers are still investigating the causes, but they may involve a combination of REM sleep and wakefulness. This can happen when your sleep is disturbed by noise or when you feel anxious.

  • A good night's sleep is probably the best way to prevent false awakenings. This is because they usually occur when sleep is interrupted. Check with your doctor if you have frequent trouble falling asleep and sleeping.

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