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. I had the first ‘dream within a dream’ last night that I can ever remember having.

    You should know a little about me. I’m a woman in my mid-50’s who was hit in a car accident almost a year ago, and suffered a concussion which is still greatly impacting my life. I have memory issues, a lot of pain, whiplash, etc. I don’t know if this has any impact on my dreams, but it could be a factor since I have terrible sleeping issues due to the concussion. It’s so hard for me to stay asleep, and doctors can’t seem to fix that. I never had issues in my life before the accident.

    We live in the country, and have an assortment of wildlife, and I’ve had closer encounters with bears than I care to, on several occasions. Last night before going to bed around midnight, my dogs started going crazy; warning barks, very distinctive. I didn’t see anything out there, but who knows. It’s winter so the bears aren’t very active at this time of year – black bears don’t truly hibernate, and we see them year ’round. I’ve had numerous bear nightmares before, after a friend had his house broken into three times by a bear. the bear tore a hole in his roof and entered the house. it did this three times, the third time he shot and killed it inside his house. our neighbor was attacked unprovoked once while setting up a tree stand to hunt, the bear was in no danger, it was merely aggressive. he dropped the bear with a crossbow at four yards – as the bear was launched at him in an attack. Then a woman nearby was attacked on her front porch, her small dog went after the bear after it was tearing her legs up, and the bear ran away. so I know about the potential for what they can do, and they’ve tried a couple of times to break into our home (no success). So you can say I have a valid reason for my feelings regarding bears.

    so last night the dogs went off, but settled down. I suppose in the back of my mind, I was concerned about the bears, but didn’t worry about it too much. my ‘main dream’ was that I was living somewhere I never have before, in a townhouse in the middle of a city. somewhere there are no bears. I went to bed in my dream, and dreamt that bears were trying to break into the townhouse….trying to get in the windows, push on the doors, etc. they were also brown bears, not black. something we don’t have here. I woke up from my false dream, with a great relief that it wasn’t real, that it was only a dream. then I heard a noise in my ‘main dream’ and went to go see what it was, and it was a small brown bear trying to get in, and it’s much larger mother was coming at me. at that point, I woke up.

    It seemed so real, my heart was racing when I woke up, and my head was hurting again. the last thing I need. Is there any way to stop these types of dreams? I’ve tried thinking pleasant happy thoughts before going to bed, watching a happy movie, reading a happy book. but every now and then these nightmares pop up. I’m thinking that perhaps whatever happened before I went to bed (with the dogs) triggered it.

  2. I had a dream within a dream. The dream was there was this crazy woman laughing and shouting words phrases I can’t understand behind a wall then “I woke up” hearing a woman shouting outside our house and realized I’m still dreaming and forced myself to wake up.

  3. I am a lucid dreamer, usually able to control my dreams. I sometimes experience a double dream, though they are difficult to recall. Last night I had a dream within a dream and I’m down my recollection now so I can recall before it slips away.

    In my dream within a dream, I dreamt that a close friend by the name of Virginia (not true name) had died the day before and in my deeper dream that I had connected with her spirit. We laughed and cried together about our experiences in life, all memories which were in fact real. When I had to say goodbye to her I woke up to what I felt was a very real experience of being awake. I told my wife Chelsea (also not true name) of the dream and she smiled and comforted me.

    My day continued and all I could think of was how I couldn’t believe my friend was gone and how I felt like an ass for not calling Virginia’s husband, one of my closest friends (I was their best man) to express my condolences on his loss. It wasn’t until I realized some inconsistencies in this level – (like why was I speaking to a CEO of a company with whom I had not worked in years) that alerted me to the fact that something was off. I then in this level of dreaming proceeded to look for proof that my friend actually died.

    I started doubting my dream-within-a-dream and the “reality” I was presently experiencing as my dream became more lucid. Unfortunately I can’t recall more than this, but after waking up completely, the first thing I did was to check in on my friend Virginia just to make sure I heard back (she’s fine).

  4. I had a dream(s) earlier, it was a dream inside a dream inside another dream and once more and another (i know it seems very, very impossible but im just recalling on what i saw)! Okay, ill try the best i can to explain it. Dream 1. I was at a school, seen alot of new people, saw a few of my current friends also one of my current teachers. I was a very rich dude in this, very pretty girls, i can do what i want, i was the center of attention. The school i was in was for people who are interested in being a highschool dropout? (That made no sense) i then woke up from this in dream 2. Dream 2: i was a tall, white, skinny guy, but i was with a chick who was my supposed girlfriend. She said to me “Who was that guy you were walking with?” I asked “what guy? I came over here with just myself”. She then explained this guy to be a big, long haired, emo dude. With this info, i just pushed the thought away and forgot all about it. Dream 3: I was at a party, everyone was getting drunk and high. I just got done having sex with some girl (i know her in real life…) in one of the upstairs bedrooms, i went downstairs to find something to eat that wasnt drug related, i eventually found a protein bar and sat down on a couch. One of my friends sitting down was experiencing an ego death and suddenly jerked up to find me sitting right beside him. He said, “hey bro, you are just worthless and no-one wants you around. You arent even passing highschool, no wonder why your girlfriend finally left you after two years” and that ticked me off, (as in real life, i do have very short tempers plus everything he said wa true) i grabbed a knife and started to stab him, id say over 30 times. He never did anything about it…he just…died obviously, no one noticed as they were using drugs, too much a human can handle. I realized what i was doing and stopped. I fainted right then and there. Dream 4: New house, i knew i was in a dream, ran to my mom laying on the couch saying repeatedly,”Im in a dream! Im in a dream mom help me”! She just nudged me off. In the corner of my eye there was unusual glimpses of what seemed to be clothes flapping around in the kitchen. I panicked, i kept crying to my mom to help me but she wasnt there somehow. I closed my eyes and drifted off. Dream 5 (last one): im in my own house now. I wake up in broad daylight, my cats are sleeping, a calm day. Next thing i know, i see a dude with long dark hair, big, and looking emo walk in through my front door. I never realized what was going on since i was still waking up. The guy walked into my moms room and i think he was brushing his teeth. I get up, start heading to my room, dude passes me and i suddenly realize that this is the same dude my supposed girlfriend was explaining about in dream 2. I get scared and run onto my bed, cover myself with blankets and hear a loud Clicking sound and also hear big,hard footsteps coming towards me. Feel hands reaching to my neck and strangle me. This is when i actually wake up in my real world. Strangest thing is, i hear a few footsteps that exit my room. Im still scared straight because that does not seem right at all. Now it seems impossible to have five dreams fit into one but thats just what i experienced 40 minutes ago. If any of you have time, can you please explain to me what this means. I am just confused out of my mind right now.

    • Do you have the answer ? I just also had a dream(s). 4 dreams actually and i can’t remember exactly my dream was. But the last dream before i woke up is i can’t open my mouth. My tongue are glued within my lips and then i’m awake. Can you please e-mail me if you have the answer because i’m kinda scared with the dream(s). Thank you for sharing

  5. I often have this 2 level lucid dreams (i mean, like in the movie inception) and as the time goes by, it gets deeper,wierder, more lucid., (so after several weeks ) i have experience multiple 3 level dreams…. So i decided to bought a dream catcher after i got my first 2 4 levels dreams, it happen to me in short notice of time i couldnt get a hold of it (not in a bad way though) ….. I dont know if its pyschological and shit but i after i bought the dream catcher, i havent dreamt another dream yet so do i have to take it out? Or just leave it like that?
    It would be much appreciated if you would comment

  6. I met someone in my dream. He was with his friends (a girl and another boy). I told him that I was dreaming, and that he was a part of my ‘dream world’. It took a few seconds for him to believe me, but when he did, he wrote his name on a piece of paper, after which he jumped out of the window, telling me that he hadn’t been born yet. I caught his hand just in time, and struggled to hold onto him- but I woke up suddenly, feeling super confused. I tried to find him using that piece of paper…But to no avail. I was in the middle of an important political conference, when I thought it would be best to tell the President and everyone gathered there about my situation. As I recounted my story, a girl seated in the audience stood up and said that she was the girl I had spoken about. I felt elated, and we walked back home together. But I was utterly dejected- coz neither of us knew where he was. I remember trying my best to memorize his name… fearful of forgetting it. Then I woke up, realizing I had had a dream within a dream. Is it really strange that I miss him, even though I was with him only for a few seconds in a dream? He was funny, sarcastic and witty. Gentle and cool in an unassuming way. All I remember is that his first name is Scott, and his second rhymes with Bucket. Which leaves me with more than a million potential candidates. Does it sound totally inane, that I believe that he truly exists in this world? Funny how terrible I feel that I didn’t tell him my name….Hoping that he would search for me, just as I am searching for him…

    • I think I understand why you would miss him and believe he’s real. I’ve heard (which, I give no credit to this, I’ve simply heard it in the past years) that we cannot possibly dream of someone who doesn’t exist. I once dreamt that there was a man chasing me at my elementary school , and I was terrified. For a week, I was obsessed with looking for this guy. Two months later, I saw him at Wal-Mart. Maybe it was your subconscious reminding you that you saw the boy in real life somewhere, and you liked how he looked or would be good friends with him?

  7. I just woke up from a weird dream. In my dream I was screaming trying to get to my step dad and tell him I was stuck in my dream. But every time I’d scream I couldn’t get to him and I’d end up back in my room on the floor screaming trying to get to him again. Then finally I realized the screaming would make me not get to my step dad and I stopped screaming and finally got to him (still in my dream) and while I was telling him about it I finally woke up for real.

  8. I just woke up because of dreamt of my father (who is alive and seemingly well). I woke up, inside of my dream, and went to the living to offer him ice cream. He suggest a few places an we came to an agreement. I went back to my room to put clothes on because I suddenly realized that I was naked. I pondered if I was that way in front of my father, but he would’ve said something about it. While trying to find some clothes to throw on, I laid down and went back to sleep (again, inside of my dream). Back in the original dream, I found myself under a tree in a yard and I was also naked, but it seemed almost acceptable. Shortly after, I actually woke up.

  9. So this just happened to me and god I woke up panicking, I’ve never had a dream like this before nor have I lucid dreamt. The dream within the dream I was at school this was two years ago I think? And things were different, people moving, different/new teachers, I thought it was real for a second. Then my tooth feel out, I could taste blood and everything, I was panicking. Then I suddenly knew that I was dreaming so I tried to wake myself up..but I couldn’t, my body just wouldn’t move then I “wake up” and I didn’t know I just woke up into another dream. First thing I did was check my mouth to see if everything was alright, it seemed fine so I got out of bed to tell my parents about how awful my dream was, I walk out of my room and then my tooth just randomly falls out, I panic. I have a huge huge panic attack and tell my mom and dad about everything. I couldn’t stop crying? But I could control what I did which I could never do in a dream before so I thought it was so so real. Then I actually wake up and wow, I obviously checked my tooth and panicked a little.

  10. Wallace Evans on

    so this is actually a nightmare i just had in which at first i was dreaming about an apartment that my family had recently rented in which it soon became a case of home invasion by serpentine aggressors as well as an attempt at murder on a lady i don’t know by an unknown assailant . in this dream i saw her murder weapon and the cobra in cinematic detail. now this is where it gets tricky . as i don’t actually wake up instead it’s 3 months later and we’re all standing in the exact same apartment and we’re talking about how lucky we were to get it . after a while things calm down and i stare out the window. it’s raining in the courtyard and there’s an uneasiness about me. i shrug it off and decide to relax….some more time passes . i’m making food in the kitchen when i see the first copperhead. (I have a fear of venomous snakes) i begin to calmly scan the area and the more i do the more of them i see i walk around the entire apartment taking notice where they are . they’re not aggressive not yet. as i begin to come back to the kitchen one strikes my dog (the only familiar face in this dream) after that i quickly bolt up stares to find the unnamed woman from my family and her assailant to tell her we needed to leave ,and that the lady was here to kill her she denied this so i to her hand and revealed the knife , and then proceeded to throw her off the bed . i then threw her king cobra of too which promptly struck her . i told her to call animal control there are snakes i the house about eight that i counted. from the wall i hear the landlord saying he’s calling them i then hear the conversation . as he’s talking I order the lady to grab everyone and evacuate the building. as they leave me and the landlord go to check out the snakes which have gone back to their hidey holes as we walk through the hallway into some big room just before the kitchen we find my dog i pick her up and carry her outside .
    we make a sweep again and discover two more snakes hiding in the benches . the snakes are unique and resemble bullwhips with bright green scales and horizontal bands. just as we begin to move to another area animal control shows up . me and the landlord step back and exchange words. landlord: “man this is crazy huh?” me: ” yeah ,but would you believe me if i told you i dreamt about this three months ago?”
    Landlord: “you’re joking? i’m glad you did saved everybody” the dream fades out and i wake up sweating profusely .

  11. In my dream I was sitting in my longue, and I heard thunder outside. I look up and see a black cloud and a tornado forming. I try run but when I run I dont move or I cant move fast. The tornado hits my house and I have glass pierced all through my body. I cant feel any pain, but I can see the damage done. Then I am rushed to hospital and I am lying on the bed, when all of a sudden I fall asleep. In my dream within a dream, it turned into a nightmare and I couldnt wake myself up. In my nightmare I had everything I fear come at me at once, but I just couldnt wake myself. At this point I am still asleep (not in my dream but irl.) I manage to tear the nightmare apart by forcing my body to sit up. I wake up from the nightmare and I realise I am dreaming again. The weird thing is I was in this realm, (if you have seen Lovely Bones movie, I was stuck where she was stuck after her death) and I was in control of whatever. It was peaceful and I was aware of everything. I eventually woke up from the lucid dream and had a really sore headache, which I dont know how I got

  12. So I had a dream within a dream last night, but I realized that the dream inside the dream /was/ a dream, so I started to have a lucid dream within the fake dream. I woke up for real, then went back to sleep. Then I realized I was dreaming again, so I had another lucid dream. And I did the same again once more. Does this mean anything?

  13. In my dream last night my grandfather, who’s been passed on now for about 18 years, came to see me in my dream. In my dream no one else could see him but me. He came to tell me some important info and wanted me to write it all down on paper. 3 important things but he said it would take a while to write it all down. He also said that my grandmother has 6 weeks to live so there was some things that needed to be dealt with within that time frame before she passes. Long story short, I never go to finish writing it all, and I ended up dreaming within the dream. This was the strange part because it had NOTHING to do with what the other dream was. I was dreaming about singing and dancing horses LOL. They were and country band. One horse was singing and the rest were all dancing together, sorta like a line dance sidestepping and still on all four legs. It was so funny that I laughed out within my sleep of that dream. Thats all else I can remember.

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