What Are False Awakenings and How to Handle Them?
Sleep & Dreams
Updated:
October 10, 2022

What Are False Awakenings and How to Handle Them?

Do you ever wake up over and over again just to keep realizing you are still actually asleep? There is a term for that! You may have experienced a false awakening!

Interesting sleep phenomena

If you have ever gotten out of bed and prepared to start your day only to wake up and find that you were dreaming, you are not alone.  These experiences are called false awakenings, and they often occur when an individual is in between sleep stages. Many people can relate to having experienced a false awakening, although there is little research on the phenomenon. A false awakening is a convincing dream state in which the dreamer believes they have woken up and started their day when in reality they are still asleep.

False awakenings can be nested or looping, which is a confusing period of back-to-back false awakenings, sometimes even up to 10 times or more without knowing which time they are actually awake.  False awakenings are very realistic, and sometimes confusing because of how closely they resemble waking life.  

Common dreamed activities during false awakenings include:

Waking up and getting ready for the day.

Waking up in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom or kitchen, then returning to bed.

Exploring or wandering around the dream environment.

Thinking about a dream you just had before the false awakening, in the belief that you are now awake.

Are false awakenings and sleep paralysis related?

Sleep paralysis and false awakenings are similar states that fall between sleep and wakefulness, in which a person looks asleep. A person experiencing sleep paralysis is mentally awake, however, while a person experiencing a false awakening wrongly believes they have just woken up, although they are still dreaming. You can overcome false awakenings by becoming lucid and realizing it is still a dream. In order to do this, you must have the habit of performing a reality check every time you wake up. That way if you wake up to a false awakening, the reality check will allow you to realize that you are actually still asleep. 

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