Jump to content

False awakening

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A false awakening is a vivid and convincing dream about awakening from sleep, while the dreamer in reality continues to sleep. After a false awakening, subjects often dream they are performing their daily morning routine such as showering or eating breakfast. False awakenings, mainly those in which one dreams that they have awoken from a sleep that featured dreams, take on aspects of a double dream or a dream within a dream. A classic example in fiction is the double false awakening of the protagonist in Gogol's Portrait (1835).

Studies have shown that false awakening is closely related to lucid dreaming that often transforms into one another.  The only differentiating feature between them is that the dreamer has a logical understanding of the dream in a lucid dream, while not in a false awakening.[1]

Once one realizes they are falsely awakened, they either wake up or start a lucid dream.[1]




A false awakening may occur following a dream or following a lucid dream (one in which the dreamer has been aware of dreaming). Particularly, if the false awakening follows a lucid dream, the false awakening may turn into a "pre-lucid dream",[2] that is, one in which the dreamer may start to wonder if they are really awake and may or may not come to the correct conclusion. In a study by Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett, 2,000 dreams from 200 subjects were examined and it was found that false awakenings and lucidity were significantly more likely to occur within the same dream or within different dreams of the same night. False awakenings often preceded lucidity as a cue, but they could also follow the realization of lucidity, often losing it in the process.[3]

False awakenings loops


Because the mind still dreams after a false awakening, there may be more than one false awakening in a single dream. Subjects may dream they wake up, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and so on; suddenly awake again in bed (still in a dream), begin morning rituals again, awaken again, and so forth. The philosopher Bertrand Russell claimed to have experienced "about a hundred" false awakenings in succession while coming around from a general anesthetic.[4]

Protoconscious world


Giorgio Buzzi suggests that FAs may indicate the occasional re-appearing of a vestigial (or anyway anomalous) REM sleep in the context of disturbed or hyper-aroused sleep (lucid dreaming, sleep paralysis, or situations of high anticipation). This peculiar form of REM sleep permits the replay of unaltered experiential memories, thus providing a unique opportunity to study how waking experiences interact with the hypothesized predictive model of the world. In particular, it could permit to catch a glimpse of the protoconscious world without the distorting effect of ordinary REM sleep.[5]

In accordance with the proposed hypothesis, a high prevalence of FAs could be expected in children, whose "REM sleep machinery" might be less developed.[5]

Gibson's hypothesis


Gibson's dream protoconsciousness theory states that false awakening is shaped on some fixed patterns depicting real activities, especially the day to day routine. False awakening is often associated with highly realistic environmental details of the familiar events like the day to day activities or autobiographic and episodic moments.[5]



Realism and non-realism


Certain aspects of life may be dramatized or out of place in false awakenings. Things may seem wrong: details, like the painting on a wall, not being able to talk or difficulty reading (reportedly, reading in lucid dreams is often difficult or impossible).[6] A common theme in false awakenings is visiting the bathroom, upon which the dreamer will see that their reflection in the mirror is distorted (which can be an opportunity for lucidity, but usually resulting in wakefulness).



Celia Green suggested a distinction should be made between two types of false awakening:[2]

Type 1


Type 1 is the more common, in which the dreamer seems to wake up, but not necessarily in realistic surroundings, that is, not in their own bedroom. A pre-lucid dream may ensue. More commonly, dreamers will believe they have awakened, and then either genuinely wake up in their own bed or "fall back asleep" in the dream.

A common false awakening is a "late for work" scenario. A person may "wake up" in a typical room, with most things looking normal, and realize they overslept and missed the start time at work or school. Clocks, if found in the dream, will show time indicating that fact. The resulting panic is often strong enough to truly awaken the dreamer (much like from a nightmare).

Another common Type 1 example of false awakening can result in bedwetting. In this scenario the dreamer has had a false awakening and while in the state of dream has performed all the traditional behaviors that precede urinating – arising from bed, walking to the bathroom, and sitting down on the toilet or walking up to a urinal. The dreamer may then urinate and suddenly wake up to find they have wet themselves.

Type 2


The type 2 false awakening seems to be considerably less common. Green characterized it as follows:

The subject appears to wake up in a realistic manner but to an atmosphere of suspense. ... The dreamer's surroundings may at first appear normal, and they may gradually become aware of something uncanny in the atmosphere, and perhaps of unwanted [unusual] sounds and movements, or they may "awake" immediately to a "stressed" and "stormy" atmosphere. In either case, the end result would appear to be characterized by feelings of suspense, excitement or apprehension.[7]

Charles McCreery draws attention to the similarity between this description and the description by the German psychopathologist Karl Jaspers (1923) of the so-called "primary delusionary experience" (a general feeling that precedes more specific delusory belief).[8] Jaspers wrote:

Patients feel uncanny and that there is something suspicious afoot. Everything gets a new meaning. The environment is somehow different—not to a gross degree—perception is unaltered in itself but there is some change which envelops everything with a subtle, pervasive and strangely uncertain light. ... Something seems in the air which the patient cannot account for, a distrustful, uncomfortable, uncanny tension invades him.[9]

McCreery suggests this phenomenological similarity is not coincidental and results from the idea that both phenomena, the Type 2 false awakening and the primary delusionary experience, are phenomena of sleep.[10] He suggests that the primary delusionary experience, like other phenomena of psychosis such as hallucinations and secondary or specific delusions, represents an intrusion into waking consciousness of processes associated with stage 1 sleep. It is suggested that the reason for these intrusions is that the psychotic subject is in a state of hyper-arousal, a state that can lead to what Ian Oswald called "micro-sleeps" in waking life.[11]

Other researchers doubt that these are clearly distinguished types, as opposed to being points on a subtle spectrum.[12]

Experimental descriptions


The clinical and neurophysiological descriptions of false awakening are rare. One of the notable report by Takeuchi et al,[13] was considered by some experts as case of false awakening. It depicts a hypnagogic hallucination of an unpleasant and fearful feeling of presence in sleeping lab with perception of having risen from the bed. The polysomnography showed abundant trains of alpha rhythm on EEG (sometimes blocked by REMs mixed with slow eye movements and low muscle tone). Conversely, the 2 experiences of FA monitored here were close to regular REM sleep. Even, quantitative analysis clearly shows thetha waves predominantly, suggesting that these 2 experiences being product of a dreaming rather than a fully conscious brain.[14]

The clinical and neurophysiological characteristics of false awakening are:-

  1. One does not feel paralysed.
  2. One feels that the surroundings are familiar.
  3. Frequently associated with anxiety.
  4. The EEG shows low Alpha and beta bands but high delta and theta bands.
  5. The EOG shows the presence of spontaneous REMs.[14]

See also



  1. ^ a b Raduga, Michael; Kuyava, Oleg; Sevcenko, Natalia (November 2020). "Is there a relation among REM sleep dissociated phenomena, like lucid dreaming, sleep paralysis, out-of-body experiences, and false awakening?". Medical Hypotheses. 144: 110169. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2020.110169. ISSN 1532-2777. PMID 32795836.
  2. ^ a b Green, C. (1968). Lucid Dreams. London: Hamish Hamilton.
  3. ^ Barrett, Deirdre. Flying dreams, false awakenings, and lucidity: An empirical study of their relationship. Dreaming: Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams. Vol 1(2) pp. 129–134, Jun 1991.
  4. ^ Russell, B. (1948). Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits. London: Allen and Unwin.
  5. ^ a b c Buzzi, Giorgio (2011). "False awakenings in light of the dream protoconsciousness theory: A study in lucid dreamers" (PDF). International Journal of Dream Research 4 (2): 'pp.'115.
  6. ^ see Green, C., and McCreery, C. (1994). Lucid Dreaming: the Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep. London: Routledge, Ch. 10, for a discussion of this topic
  7. ^ Green, C. (1968). Lucid Dreams. London: Hamish Hamilton, p. 121.
  8. ^ McCreery, C. (1997). "Hallucinations and arousability: pointers to a theory of psychosis". In Claridge, G. (ed.): Schizotypy, Implications for Illness and Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ Jaspers, K. (1923). General Psychopathology (translated by J. Hoenig and M.W. Hamilton). Manchester: Manchester University Press (first published in Germany, 1923, as Allgemeine Psychopathologie), p. 98.
  10. ^ McCreery, C. (2008)."Dreams and psychosis: a new look at an old hypothesis." Psychological Paper No. 2008-1. Oxford: Oxford Forum.[1] Archived 4 February 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Oswald, I. (1962). Sleeping and Waking: physiology and psychology. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  12. ^ Love, D. (2013). Are You Dreaming?: Exploring Lucid Dreams: A Comprehensive Guide. Enchanted Loom. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-9574977-0-2.
  13. ^ Takeuchi, Tomoka; Miyasita, Akio; Inugami, Maki; Sasaki, Yuka; Fukuda, Kazuhiko (1994–2006). "Laboratory-Documented Hallucination during Sleep-Onset Rem Period in a Normal Subject". Perceptual and Motor Skills. 78 (3): 979–985. doi:10.1177/003151259407800355. ISSN 0031-5125. PMID 8084722.
  14. ^ a b Mainieri, Greta; Maranci, Jean-Baptiste; Champetier, Pierre; Leu-Semenescu, Smaranda; Gales, Ana; Dodet, Pauline; Arnulf, Isabelle (1 April 2021). "Are sleep paralysis and false awakenings different from REM sleep and from lucid REM sleep? A spectral EEG analysis". Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 17 (4): 719–727. doi:10.5664/jcsm.9056. ISSN 1550-9389. PMC 8020694. PMID 33283752.