Dream Within a Dream – False Awakening Dream Meaning

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“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.

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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.

167 Comments

  1. I felt a dream inside dream. But not one I woke up 10 times and again found out it is a dream only. So in my dream I knew it is a dream bout I could not scape it and also it happened multiple times. Also a few first time I thought it was real I went to college and told my friends I discovered the secret of dream but it was also a dream. I am also scare because creatures in my dream were not human they wet human like but I felt them demons. Shape shift invincible and just like some actors to force me believe the world is real. I called God name, which in our culture should remoc3 demons. First I could not finish ths sentence but then I did bit nothing happens. Some of them were sitting below a pope tree. I am not sure why but I felt apple may kill them but it could not. Even my parents were in my dreams and all of them were fake. I even pinched my self and I felt pain bit it was still a dream. I am not sure even to be wake up now. I am scared badly.

    • Rachel Lees on

      I had a very similar dream myself. I thought it was real
      Because my dream Was that I woke up and my son (who’s 14) Was a little boy again and scared of the dark. So told him he could lay next to me and sleep,
      Well then he climbed out of bed and said goodbye. I then stepped out of bed and noticed I stepped in something wet on the carpet. I reached down and it was urine I could actually smell it so I went to my bathroom to get a towel and then was some evil thing standing where the urine was it didn’t have a face. It was black and scared me. I yelled at it to leave and it ran but I had the hardest time yelling I had no energy. I sat down on the edge of my bed and there was another one in my doorway!! It felt so real!! This one had shirt on. It was waving its arms at me! Mocking me I tried to yell but I couldn’t! I tried to scream but nothing came out! Very slow everything was I had no energy to even move buy just sit there trying to tel it it get out over and over until my husband woke me up!!
      I’m so freaked out right now! I am not going back to sleep
      It was evil

    • Shivam Modi on

      I happened with me also… I almost 6-7 Times felt that I was awoke but that all was fake… I was in a situation where I was not able to differentiate BTW reality and myth

    • Is had a dream and in it I had a prophetic dream the O went back in my first dream to find out what happened in my 2nd dream as predicted started to happen in my 1st dream.

  2. Susan Wajand on

    I had a very weird dream of being in someones house that i felt i knew though i didn’t going through different rooms finding things of mine and gathering them together in which then turned into some huge hotel complex. I left with my Mother who i haven’t spoken to for many years we are leaving and walk past a huge crowd outside of people watching something down below. A man sitting in the crowd has a basket of kittens and says hello to us and as we keep walking i notice my Mother has 4 of them kittens in a box which i found odd or couldn’t recall her taking them from him. I then notice i have left something behind and decide to go back to retrieve it which my mother is annoyed by and i then become lost in this hotel complex which has many levels and i become so lost like in a maze. I’m becoming more lost going up and down through stairways and different areas of the hotel and ask the staff i come across for help only getting lost more and i’m becoming extremely anxious and so physically tired worrying about how long i have been gone.I then fall asleep on a mattress on the floor and start to dream of being back in the original house without realising how i fell asleep and asked what happened or how long i have been asleep and a man who was next to me tells me don’t worry it was only 20 min. I’m shocked that i fell asleep and keep going only finding myself becoming more tired and exhausted as if going around in circles as i cant find a way out of the hotel complex to get back to her which i know she is waiting and will be angry when i do return as hours had passed.

  3. It really frightening to read other renditions of the dream-within-a-dream scenario…actually it is even more disheartening to hear no one really knows how to stop them. I have been having the same, but mine are so vivid and familiar I have actually woke up and expected to see the person or be wherever I was in the dream. I cry, scream, and have full conversations with other people I haven’t spoke to in several years (many of them have passed away) that I wake up crying, bewildered, and end up recalling the loss of that person over and over again. It’s difficult and hellish to relive the pain over and over again.

    The dream-within-a-dream factor just started happening and it is wreaking havoc on my husband’s sleep (mine too, of course) since I wake him with my crying and screaming two to three times a night. If there are ideas out there to help alleviate these horrid nightmares, I would appreciate it!

  4. I just had one of these today, my original dream was a family gathering which was usual but in a house I’d never been in. Most of them left to go to the store and I said okay I’m gonna nap and I laid down right on the floor and tried to sleep. Immediately I was in another dream, I was outside on balcony but instead of the top floor I was on the bottom floor where the top of the railing was eye level with people walking by. The balcony had blinds like the inside if the sliding doors and a tall heavy set lady came up and was peeking through so I walked over to her and said “is there a reason why your looking through my blinds” she played it off as nothing but we stood there arguing and in a split second she dissapeared and reappeared in the corner of my balcony facing the wall. I was freaked out! Now I’m pretty good at knowing I’m dreaming so trying to lucid dream I pushed her away across the street it took a few tries but I did it. She immediately was right back in front of the railing and said “that was rude !” I tried to do it again but I just couldn’t so I screamed “what are you doing here ! ” she responded with I’m getting my.kids and all of a sudden two younger kids were beside her both holding one of her hands, she said I’m waiting on the bus so I said okay and the we waited for a few minutes no talking nothing. The bus comes down the street and I walk inside getting ready to close the door watching her. When the bus shows up the one bleak street light starts flickering and the bus lights go completely off and she says “I’m not getting on that bus!” The driver says “cmon let’s go!” It was creepy you could only see the silhouette of him and a few heads in the seats. So I close the door and go to lock it and he hand slide inside before I can. I start punching it and close the wooden door(it wasnt a sliding door anymore it was a normal door like that was my porch) and again her hand is there. I bite her finger and remember the feeling against my teeth and she finally lets go and pulls back she starts punching on the door , I can feel it cracking and then the whole door shakes and moves from the hinges with her slamming against it. She puts a hole right in the middle and I see her hands. Now when she was pounding I already thought I need to wake up, and tried listening to see if any of my family was back yet from shopping and I couldn’t hear anything. And in that moment I remember wait I am sleeping in my bed and did my trick to wake up from these situations. I rolled my eyes back into my head. Normally I wake up immediately. This time I went through these pipes I guess. The first one was purple and blue and was straight up then I came to a bronze gold yellow one which showed a face and I made a right and then a left going up again and then at the end of that tunnel is when i opened my eyes . No dream had ever felt so real and been such an adventure

  5. I just woke from a dream within a dream the first being a reflection of a potential outcome of the first dream I didn’t realize this until I was out of the 2nd layer of dreaming that when I woke up into my first layer of dream I was living the same exact setting except I had time to prevent what happened in my dream within dream not to happen but that’s just what it felt like to me. Long story short the first dream is about I not who ran away from his home and I puronally knew him, one day he ran into his dad after running away and his dad swore to find and kill everybody who was associated with him missing and I was one of them but when he killed me he stuck a knife through my stomach and I felt every ounce of pain from it and he made sure of it then I woke up crying and running to my moms room and telling her about it. I showed her my stomach and it was red and had a scratch. I realized I was in that same exact setting that the 2nd layer dream took place and what worse is that the person who killed me and the boy I knew were both in that dream. The man who killed me would scratch me or pinch me if I ever passed him by and looked at me with so much evil. I knew o could’nt associate myself with that boy that ran away even if we were friends. What cannthis all mean?

  6. It’s strange to see everyone having dreams more on the nighmare side . I had a very pleasant dream experience , waking in my dream thinking I had dreamt of new love interest, (unknown) who said they were interested in me, and had many upstanding qualities … waking inside the dream to ask myself( as it felt extremely real ) …is this just a dream or is there really someone “good ” out there ?? woke up fully this morning and understood this dream inside a dream was just a dream, and it made me smile … For the record , my history of choosing partners has been kinda dismal ..lol but the past couple years has been spent on working on myself , unrecognized ptsd . Life has been amazing great lately , so this was a lovely experience.

  7. I am 69 yrs old and have had these dream within dreams for years. Each time I somehow realize I’m dreaming and try to call out for someone to wake me. I will scream and scream but no one can actually hear me. Sometimes I will call out and wake up only to discover within a few seconds that I am still dreaming. I scream and panic again because all I want to do is wake up. This same senerio can happen several times within one dream. The last one I had today was so scary that I knew my heart was pounding. I got my eye lids open but my eyes wouldn’t adjust to seeing my surroundings. I had to will my eyes to see. I realized I was in my own bed and jumped out to fully awake. It took hours for me to realize that I WAS actually awake and not still dreaming. How can I make this either go away or what’s the secret to waking up?

    • Dallas Greene on

      Susan I’m a 26 year old male and I have VERY similar experiences. Recently I’ve been getting stuck in my dreams and “waking up” only to realize I’m still asleep and dreaming. I’ve yelled, kicked, mumbled, anything to get my sleeping wife’s attention but she always says I’m quiet as a mouse. I’m currently looking into burning sage tomorrow.

      • I have some similar experiances.. i realised its was a dream.. and everytime i try to wake up.. i wake up in another dream.. i scream as loud as i can.. even actually i can not scream.. my voice didnt came out.. i bite my fingers.. i did everything just to wake up.. its happened lots of time.. n its become worst.. n someone in my dream told me that im crazy bc i screamed n hurting my self n crying.. i just want to wake up.. n when i do wake up in real world.. my body is numb n i felt so tired..exhousted..

  8. 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

  9. 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?

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. 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..

  16. 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.

  17. 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”.

  18. 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

  19. 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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