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Nested Dreams Within Dreams

Howard is a regular lucid dreamer. He likes finding ways to increase his lucid episodes and enjoy the dream world.

Find out what they mean as well as the cause, prevention, induction, and what they're like.

Find out what they mean as well as the cause, prevention, induction, and what they're like.

Have you ever woken up and started your day—got dressed and headed for the bathroom or kitchen—only to wake up again?

Confused, you lie there for a while, trying to figure out what happened. It felt so real, but here you are still in bed.

Still feeling a bit unsettled, but relieved that's all over, you swing your legs out of bed and stand up, ready to get the day going . . . and then you wake up again.

Having a single false awakening is disorienting enough, but having several in a row is downright baffling. What's going on?

All About Nested Dreams

In this article, we'll take a look at nested dream:

  • meanings,
  • experiences,
  • causes,
  • prevention, and
  • induction.
Just because you're getting breakfast ready doesn't mean you're awake.

Just because you're getting breakfast ready doesn't mean you're awake.

What Do Dreams About Waking Up Mean?

First, be aware that the possible meanings of a false awakening aren't scientific. These are the traditionally accepted interpretations of this type of dream. Whether you accept any of these meanings, or believe dreams have any meaning at all, is totally up to you.

The usual interpretation for dreaming about waking up is that you're not paying the proper attention to something in your life. This could mean you're not:

  • using an ability to its full potential,
  • recognizing an opportunity,
  • or handling something that needs to be dealt with.

This traditional interpretation is closely related to familiar expressions about waking up, such as:

  • Wake up and smell the coffee.
  • Wake-up call.
  • Wake up to (something).
  • Open your eyes.
  • An eye-opener.

The dream is figuratively telling you to wake up, open your eyes, and start paying attention! There's something that needs to be tackled or developed further.

What Are Dream Loops Like?

They're usually very ordinary, consisting of whatever you'd normally do upon waking up. Typical activities include getting dressed, showering, eating, and going to the bathroom.

People who have a problem with bed-wetting could find false awakenings problematic. Urinating in your dream can cause you to pee yourself in bed. If this ever happens to you, it's good to be in the habit of reality checking every time you enter a bathroom. In my experience, dream urination has a heightened physical feeling. You could also come to recognize this sensation before it's too late.

Alternately, some double dreams have a more ominous vibe. They can feel like a less intense version of sleep paralysis. You can move and things seem mostly normal, but there's a strange feeling around you. This off-putting sensation can sometimes be a trigger for a lucid dream.

If you find yourself completely wrapped up in the dream experience, as we usually are, nested dreams can be highly confusing and a cause of anxiety. Panic can set in as you feel like you're never going to wake up.

What Causes Dreams Within Dreams?

It's not known what brings on these episodes. They seem to be more likely on nights when the sleeper experiences a lucid dream. It can form the beginning or the end of the lucid dream, or it can happen in a different cycle.

Some people say they have them more often when they're feeling anxious or excited about the next day.

How to Prevent a False Awakening

The simplest way to prevent them is to catch the first one. You'd have to be in the habit of reality checking every time you wake up to achieve this.

The other obvious preventative measure is good sleep hygiene, which involves relaxing before bed, having a consistent pre-bed routine, and having a comfortable and quiet room, among other things. This is a good subject to research if you have any kind of sleep disturbance.

Waking to a slightly threatening atmosphere could mean you're in a dream loop.

Waking to a slightly threatening atmosphere could mean you're in a dream loop.

Is Dreaming About Dreaming Abnormal?

Fortunately, no. Many people report having this type of dream. It's normal to dream of a wide variety of unsettling things, and this seems to just be one of them.

Of course, that's assuming that this type of dream doesn't occur frequently, or that it doesn't have an excessive number of layers. If I had a nested dream with 20 false awakenings, I would start to think something was wrong. If you experience them to an excess, it might be worth getting a professional opinion.

What's the Highest Number of False Awakenings Someone Has Had?

People's claims about this are impossible to confirm. It would be possible to get an experienced lucid dreamer to induce this situation, but that's a bit different.

I've read of people claiming to have more than 10 in a row. The most amount of dreams within dreams I've heard claimed was from Bertrand Russell. In his book Human Knowledge, he says he had about a hundred false awakenings in one session. This was under the influence of an anesthetic, though, so that's also a bit of a different situation.

How to Have a False Awakening

If we could induce nested dreams, we'd be able to transition into lucidity quite easily. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any reliable method of causing a false awakening from a regular dream.

If we're already lucid, though, a false awakening could be triggered as a dream extension technique. As the dream is fading out, we could say, “When I wake up, I'll still be dreaming”. This should be enough to remind us to reality check upon waking up.

This transition could also be used in a lucid dream that takes a bad turn. If things get unpleasant and out of control, spinning while thinking of waking in a dream could work. Keeping your gaze on a fixed point is also effective for breaking up a dream scene. Thinking about waking up while doing this could create a new dream scene.

My Experience With False Awakenings

Mine have been fairly standard. I've had a few where I start my morning routine only to have it restart, and I've had the other type that feel a bit foreboding.

When I was younger I occasionally had the dream urination ones that led to a partial bed-wetting. Now, I recognize that feeling and can avoid them.

My more recent false awakenings have led to lucid dreams because I recognize the problem now when the second one occurs. I'll sometimes catch the ominous ones on the first occurrence. The sort of atmospheric irregularity they have is well set in my mind from my sleep paralysis experiences.

Like some of you, I'd like to have more nested loops because they're an excellent dream sign. But it seems we don't have much say in the matter. However, we can learn to use the ones we get to our advantage.