Dream Within a Dream – False Awakening Dream Meaning


“I had a dream within my dream last night!” Having a dream within a dream is an interesting way for your subconscious or unconscious mind to relay certain information to you, or represent something to you the dreamer.  If you go to sleep in your dream and have a dream, it might be a way for your subconscious to change the time-frame or context of the original dream.  It may harken back to a previous situation or a glimpse of a later situation within the original dream.

Another explanation could be to bring added detail to a certain aspect of the original dream, that your subconscious mind wants attention to be brought to.  It should be noted what you dream about within your dream since it could be your inner mind trying to show you something important.

“Well, dreams, they feel real while we’re in them right? Its only when we wake up then we realize that something was actually strange.” – Inception

Besides that, a dream within a dream could be a way for your mind to show you different scenarios or ‘what if’ situations that you would not otherwise think of.  It is a way to expand on ideas that the dreamer would normally consider outside of rational thought.  The dream within a dream might also be an actual diversion from what was happening in the original dream, this may relate directly to the dreamer’s real life, as representing a real life diversion tactic.


A Dream Within a Dream Can Feel Real

By bringing attention to it in this way, you should act on it and resolve it.  Another explanation might be that when you start to dream within your original dream, you are separating yourself from something from before.  This can also have a real life reflection in that it may indicate that you tend to compartmentalize your life, seeing things as separate when perhaps you should not.

Dream Within a DreamBy having a dream within a dream it might also be a mechanism for your subconscious or unconscious mind to protect you from waking up and showing you a hidden but vital issue that you need to confront and recognize.  A dream within a dream can also be considered a false awakening, in that you ‘wake up’ from your dream and proceed to have a semi-lucid dream.

You may not know that you are still dreaming until you wake up for real and the semi-lucid dream may seem so real that you may not even recognize that it was a dream and instead believe it to have happened.  It may not be until later that you realize that it was, in fact, a dream.

Some believe that false awakenings are metaphors for the human condition. The think what you dream about in your dream represents that which makes humans, human.  Since it is your subconscious or unconscious mind running the show, it delves deeper in human understanding and reasoning.

To have a dream within a dream is to undergo a shift in perception and your reality of a situation.  An interesting cinematic example would be the movie Inception, which deals directly with dreaming and explores the ideas of dreaming with a dream.

Note* If you have had a dream related to this dream symbol or would like to add something that is related to this topic please leave a comment below. Comments are a great way to interact with others who are dreaming about similar topics.


About Author

Stephen is a self confessed dream junkie that loves all things dream related. He is a writer for Dream Stop and has been working in the field of dreams for the past decade. He believes that the YOU are the only person who can truly understand the meaning of your dreams. You have to look inside your inner thoughts to find the hidden truths in your dream. These interpretations are for entertainment purposes only. Stephen's interpretations should be considered an opinion, not professional advice.


  1. Chantelle Southall on

    I’ve always had living nightmares from when I was a toddler but from the age of 11 rather than waking up and seeing my dream still as real play out in front of my eyes it became submissive so I would still be asleep and just act out by crying or screaming in reality waking myself up and ending the dream until this week for some reason I started with my living nightmares again where I woke up and saw a giant centipede crawling across my ceiling so I hid under the blanket lol and when I popped back out it had gone but for the first time last night I had a dream within a dream within a dream so I dreamt someone was trying to break into my home so I tried to shake my husband awake quietly as I was scared but he wouldn’t wake then I woke up thinking oh god it was a dream (as it felt so real) to then hearing something downstairs only this time I started slapping him gently round the face to try and get him to wake up and when he wouldn’t I started panicking and coming to tears only to wake up for real in my bed again thinking my god i was still dreaming as I couldn’t believe it wasnt reality again to actually hearing something downstairs actually not being able to wake my husband up to finding the courage to go down and check all the doors were locked and windows I was so scared because I couldn’t figure out whether I was still asleep or acctually awake by the third time of waking up

  2. I have just had a dream in a dream in a dream in a dream in a dream basically I had 5 dreams but I woke up from each one still in a dream anyone explain this?

  3. I had a dream last night and it was so scary. In my dream, I was lying in my bed and woke up because something – next to me- tried to kill me. I felt something very tight on my neck, and like something tried to suck the life out of my body. I heard a voice as well from beside me, it’s like the growl of evil. I tried to fight, but I was paralyzed, I tried harder and harder and my right arm slap this something very hard. I woke up right after.

    I don’t think is a dream of avoiding something in my wakeful life.

    • I had a sort of similar one where i had been stabbed in the neck and was very short of breathe then i woke up to knocking and my brothers voice at the door i tried to tell him to come in but i realized i couldnt so i started trying to yell and kick my door but physically i couldnt after a second or two i could yell a tiny bit, and then a tiny bit more until eventually i woke up. Would love a reply off someone who might know somethong because this frightened the life out of me

  4. I Recently stopped smoking cannabis to try and live a little healthier. My plan is to begin ingesting it instead of smoking it but I’m working on that. Either way, over the past two weeks the intensity of my dreams has increased dramatically. My entire life I have had the most intense dreams, but they would all take place in the same environments/worlds (around 7-9 diff ones) and will normally consist of people who are around in my day to day events. Over the past two weeks that all has changed. My dreams are now shifting to places that I have never been while in dream state and the people involved are not the people who are normally in my dreams ( dead loved ones, complete strangers, family members who I never see). Last night, though, I had my first experience of a dream inside of a dream. I thought the concept was ridiculous but now that I have experienced it, it seems so very possible. I’m my dream I was on a vacation with an assortment of family including someone very dear to me who passed away 2 years ago who I have never dreamed about. We were on an island that seems to be poverty stricken. The details are a little fuzzy, but essentially, we went jet skiing, and when we got back to our little village of shacks, I laid down to rest because I was exhausted. When I woke up, the environment was the exact same, but the entire island was covered in snow and it was snowing. My family and friends were no where to be found. I walked the entire island and no one was to be found. I kept walking while immense fear was starting to creep over. The last place I walked to was a mini storage looking place. A faint light down a row of units attracted me to it and as I walked closer I noticed an old woman unloading stuff from a car into a storage unit. She was acting like nothing was wrong. She smiled and I remember in a panic asking her what was going on and where was everybody. She spoke but i can’t remember her words. It was right around the time that I walked up to her that I woke up. I was back inside my little hut. I walked outside and my fam and friends were all just getting back from some sort of trip. They said they tried to wake me up, but I wouldn’t budge. They new the jet skis wore me out so they just let me rest while they went to restaurant in the small town to eat. I remember asking my love one who passed away “where did all the snow go? Wasn’t it snowing yesterday?” He laughed and said “you must have been dreaming. It never snowed here”. Before I had time to think a girl i never have seen before, grabbed my hand, and we went for a ride through the village they just got back from. I felt a mutual attraction, like she was a girlfriend or something, and the feeling of love washed the dream I had away. While driving in the village talking to her, I woke up. Really woke up. After about an hour I started to piece together that I had the snow dream inside the tropical dream. Like I said, I’ve always had the most vivid dreams and also have a history of yelling in my sleep (though not very common) , but this dream inside of a dream has really blown my mind and am trying to understand all the hidden meaning. I have a feeling that this will happen again since my dreams have started to increase in intensity each night that goes by. I know this is just a comment section, but this all just happens about an hour ago so I guess this Is my way of talking myself through this situation that I have never experienced before. (Note: I have never been able to control my dreams. Many friends and family know of the intensity of my dreams and everyone always says i should try and control my dreams, but I have never been able to tell myself while dreaming that I am dreaming. I always “believe” my dreams when they are happening. Not once have i been able to realize my dreams are dreams while dreaming.)

    • Hey, I have a question. Now what happens if you wake up continuously in the dream like you having glimpses of say about few seconds then I wake up again to another glimpse and another glimpse and it’s a non stop glimpses in that one same dream all these glimpses are happening. Like for me when I had my dream there were I’d say about 6 different glimpses of me being at 6 different places each time and 6 different things happening those moments?
      It felt like I was trapped within the dream, because for me I know if I’m dreaming or not and this time I knew I was in a dream and I was trying to wake myself up from the dream, but I couldn’t and as I said everytime I did wake in my dream it lead me to a different place and I kept trying to wake up and wake up, but everytime I did it lead me to a different place 6 times and 6 different things happening those times I woke up. Sorry if I couldn’t explain properly, but that is just what I experienced. I knew I was in a dream, but I couldn’t wake myself up and each time I did it was still a dream, this happened 6 times in that one dream.

  5. I often experience a dream within a dream. Everything feels so real. I have experienced strange dreams and those were so real that I can explain each and every detail of them. I can also easily explain details of the dreams which I might have observed years back.

  6. Its crazy ive been having these dreams of dreams with a dream so consistent lately most like because of leaving school and people I truly miss and hold so many feeling for but its fading away like my dreams are saying and im just figuring things out as im writing this but in the dream I was dreaming of calling my friend and connecting but then disconnecting … Showing me that I get in touch with so called friend but then stopping. I want to add that ive had previously some dreams where I couldn’t do and I was blind or half blind (blurred vision) and I heard strange purple noises. This is just a little of what ive had experienced. Its really surreal . but ive been off and on my medication and I think I’m having a melatonin withdrawal??? Either way I think none of this will stop

  7. My dream within a dream happened when I was a kid. The world felt so real… I could see everything around me talk and I couldn’t speak through my lips I could only communicate with these beings with my mind. I asked someone who seemed to be a spitting image of me but a nicer version ask me if I wanted to play or go hide and seek. I remember it saying something like “let’s go have some fun follow me” I followed him and we would have fun… too much fun to be real. He would show me other entities that existed within that I never could see or think of and that’s when he told me that “you are asleep and you should wake up” I tried my hardest to get up and I couldn’t so I sat there and pinched my arm in the dream and it felt numb. So the boy who looked like me did something to me and I woke up. I pinched my arm and it was still numb but the reality I was in was still different and it felt very real like I was awake but I was truly not. Finding that I was still sleep the boy noticed I was struggling to wake up and he would tell me to forget about it and come play with him. (We were in my old bedroom 10 years ago) I remember big everything was like we were only 3 feet tall and the world was very big and my room seemed like a whole house. The boy told me after playing that I should really wake up and that you need to keep trying. I struggled very in trying to wake up and he came over to me and said “ok here’s what you do, I’m gonna help you wake up” I remember feeling relieved. He told me to lay down on my back and close my eyes. I closed my eyes in the dream and he said “think about the reality that you desperately want to get to” and I did. I could feel that I was slowly but aggressively fighting to wake up and escape that reality and after he told me to open and close my eyes again I instantly woke up in the reality that we all know. Until this day I see myself as my own protector or guardian. Never have I experienced something so surreal.

  8. Ive been having so many, some a really horrible to the point im fighting to wake up but when i do im still in a dream, today it was things in my life but things were different like the room was a different way around etc, i also have times when im still asleep but i am aware of whats going on around me i.e husband getting up and making a cuppa. Sometimes its real sometimes it didnt happen. I am wondering about going to a dream therapist to make sense of them as it is starting to affect me.

    • Wow last nite was my first time that happened to me .. It felt so real. ..i got scared of it n didn’t wont to go back to sleep..

  9. I had a dream last night that I was in a restaurant and I forgot my jacket that had my wallet in it and when i walked out the restaurant there was this girl I was super close with but she ended up going down the wrong path and started getting into hard drugs and I felt the blame for this and it’s constantly on my mind and ik i couldve done something about it but i havent talked to her in about 6 months and she walked into the restaurant i was in and when i went back to the restaurant to get my jacket she had it and she was waiting outside for me and then she said we need to talk and then she bursted out crying and talked about what’s she’s done and how many bad choices she’s made and she wishes i stayed by her side and right when we hugged i woke up into another dream where everything seemed off and i had had no idea what was going on. Then i woke up again and this time I actually woke up wondering why it felt so real and why i felt like I needed to talk to her to help her but im not sure if i can make myself do that as i feel like its too late to help her.

    • I am sorry as I don’t know what exactly your situation is untill we get into details. But it still might not be too late to help her. If you really feel that you could’ve helped her and still have a heavy heart that you didn’t/couldn’t, you should give it a try. Find out where and how she is, reach out to her, try to tell her that you wanted to help her earlier but you couldn’t for whatever may be the reason. May be you will be able to make a change now. You’ll never know untill you try.
      All the very best.

  10. I dreamed I was at the front door of what I thought was an empty house in a nice neighborhood. It appeared there were several doors on the porch. I looked down at the step into the entryway and saw a pair of black heels left there by the owner and realized someone did live there. I could smell a mustiness in the entryway. Like the smell of a dirt basement. the next thing I dream is that I am waking up in a bed in the house. I feel a panic that I have done this and I slip out of the house as quickly and quietly as I can before I am “caught”.

  11. a lot of times i dream, it is a dream within a dream. but this time it was different. i had a dream within a dream, then i woke up. but when i woke up in the dream, i had sleep paralysis. once i could finally move i tried to go to my parents room. i tried to scream they’re name but no noise came out. i could not open their bathroom door, and when i turned around, somebody was seizing on the ground, but it was neither of my parents. i woke up in real life terrified. this one was so different because usually when i dream within a dream, the reality is a bit off, but this felt so real

  12. I have had many dreams within a dream. I have been 3 to 4 dreams deep. I hate having these dreams. I realize I am in a dream then I panic. I have a hard time getting back and waking up. I am not in control of any of my dreams. People tell me you can control your dreams but I don’t know how.

    • I had a 3 or 4 layer dream last night. Have you learned anything about theses kind of dreams<I am searching the web with no interesting answer.

      • Yes, I’ve been 3-4 dreams deep too. And it was a literal nightmare cos the same thing kept repeating. I was sleeping, and there was some other worldly creature trying to get me, I wake up, and the same thing repeats.
        Weird thing is, when I actually woke up, the reality looked like the dream.
        But nothing happened.
        Except that was the start of my frequent nightmares.

        • This is your subconscious telling you that you need to tackle something in real life that you’ve been putting off for a while. It tries to get you but never gets you. It’s something you think about daily. The dreams won’t stop until you tackle it in real life or come to peace with it

        • Ugh this just happened to me and I blamed it on the heat. I remember screaming that I know this is a dream wake up and I woke up but it was still a dream disguised as reality and it was so intense that I’m fine with waking up even though I only slept for 2 hours

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