Can Lucid Dreams Kill You?
Everything enjoyable seems to be bad for us. Junk food is going to kill us, so why not lucid dreams, too?
We're going to take a look at whether there's a chance of dying from a dream, whether lucid or regular. We'll consider:
- Whether there's evidence that healthy people have died from dreaming.
- Where this fear might have come from.
- Whether a dream can put you in a coma.
- The consequences of dying in a dream
If you're sure you aren't dreaming right now, keep reading.
Can You Die in Real Life From a Lucid Dream?
There's never been any evidence of otherwise healthy people dying because of a dream. Does this mean it's impossible to die while dreaming? No. Obviously, we can't know for certain because the people who have first hand knowledge are uncommunicative.
There's no doubt that people sometimes die in their sleep, in fact, that seems to be everyone's preferred method of egress. It's entirely possible that some of these deaths occurred during a dream. But that's not what we're concerned about.
The worry is that dreams in themselves, or a particular type of dream, can cause death on their own. On this count, it seems we can rest easy. Researchers have never made any connection between lucid or regular dreams leading to death.
When Did We Start Worrying About Dying from a Dream?
In the late 1970's and early 80's, it was noted that an unusually high number of Asian refugees in the United States had died during sleep. The affected group were generally men in their early thirties. The beliefs of the affected populations linked these deaths to nightmares, especially the often frightening experience of being conscious during sleep paralysis.
It was found that these populations had a high incidence of genetic heart problems, and other heart conditions. These fall generally under the category of SANDS (Sudden arrhythmic nocturnal death syndrome) or SUNDS (Sudden unexplained nocturnal death syndrome). One of the more common conditions, Brugada syndrome, can lead to an irregular heart rhythm and sudden death.
Due to the cultural beliefs of these populations, it's possible that the stress of a nightmare or sleep paralysis was the catalyst for heart failure. This is pure speculation, as no study has shown a link between SUNDS deaths and dream content.
It sounds like a reasonable connection to make but, still, the underlying heart conditions would be causing death, not the dreams.
Another possible reason this fear is on our minds is fiction. Most of us are familiar with some story, show or movie where there's a very real possibility of dying in a dream, such as A Nightmare On Elm Street. Or, maybe we read a story like A Death of Armageddon by H. G. Wells, or Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont. After being exposed to this, we naturally wonder if it's based on anything concrete. If we encountered one of these stories as a child, the fear could be that much stronger.
Can Lucid Dreaming Put You in a Coma?
A related concern is whether a dream, lucid or otherwise, could essentially kill us by putting us into a coma. As with dying in a dream, there's no reason to worry about our mind breaking in some way. There are no reports of anyone getting stuck in some kind of mental limbo.
The worst experience I've had was wanting to wake up from a lucid dream (I thought I was late for something) and not being able to right away. Slightly frustrating, but not a mental health scare.
What Happens When You Die in a Lucid Dream?
My experience with dying in lucid dreams most often ends with me waking up right away. Occasionally, after some event that should have caused my death, I'll be lying there in blackness but I'm still conscious (in my dream state). The jolt of a dream death is usually enough to wake me up, but not always. Sometimes it just transitions it into a different scene.
The concept of dying in a dream is actually a bit off. Even if “you” die, it's not really you. It's the dream character that's representing you. Your body is safely lying in bed during this death, and you'll be up and about in no time. That doesn't really qualify as a death. It's simply the end of the illusion your mind has created.
It seems we can relax our minds along with our bodies and go to sleep. There's no chance that a healthy person can die from a dream, and it's not even certain if the stress of a nightmare is a sufficient catalyst to kill someone with a heart condition.
Dreams putting us into mortal danger is the realm of fiction.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm dying to get some sleep.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.