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Awake or Still Dreaming?

Did you ever wake up and start your daily routine, only to wake up again and realize you never did any of it? Some people can experience this more than one time in a row.

Nested dreams or false awakening are also referred to as a dream within a dream. These are well-documented throughout the ages, in art, in books and plays, and poetry.

Nested Dreams

The term nested dreams come from the Russian dolls, who are all nested together. The dolls, like the dreams, keep occurring until they are finally gone. Also, as the nesting dolls, they become smaller, the false awakenings become less.

While people have often remarked they have experienced several of these in a row, they are more commonly found to happen from one to three times.

What Do Nested Dreams Mean?

Mostly, it seems that that is up to the dreamer to interpret. It’s not really clearly known what these dreams mean, but people often feel like it’s based around a bit of anxiety.

Often, people think they have been neglecting some part of their life.

Their work, their talent, their family.  It may be that our subconscious is telling us what we are missing. Or, at least, that something is.

It’s also not uncommon for people to have more than one. It can be very confusing for people to keep waking up and starting their day, only to have to go through it all again.

Why Do Nested Dreams Happen?

False awakenings may occur with the person with fragmented dreams and sleep.  It is possible for the brain to be in various states of consciousness or sleep at the same time.

It has been suggested that false awakenings come from the part of the brain that is responsible for consciousness and may be activated while the part that allows us vivid dreams is also engaged.

They can be brought on by:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Stress
  • Medication
  • Outside noises
  • Twitching limbs

There may be other causes, depending on the individual and their own lives.

Types of Nested Dreams

There can be a great deal of confusion with nested dreams. People feel they come from anxiety and that they continue to wake up without waking up only adds to that.

There are two main types of nested dreams.

The first nested dream is known by our mundane activities of waking: getting up, taking a shower, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and leaving for work or school. Usually, the dreamer realizes something is off and can actually wake up from this.

The second type of false awakenings is often described as unpleasant, with more anxiety or ominous feeling. These may come with hallucinations or images of foreboding people or monsters. These are more likely to be considered nightmares and cause fear and anxiety.

Often, while in the state of nested dreams, people also have problems trying to work machines or basic devices.
They may be trying to phone someone and can’t make it work, running away from someone, and trying to tell someone something.

They also report that things change while they are in the process of doing something, a simple task. Like giving someone an item, like a glass, then the glass turns into something else. These new images may be the cause of the false awakenings, perhaps the things we are not seeing.

These dreams can be frightening, disorienting, and upsetting for people. The eerie feeling can stay with the person all day and cause them not to function properly.

Side Effects of Nested Dreams

False awakenings or nested reams can cause some discomfort but pose no real harm. Side effects can be mild, like
simply not getting the right amount of sleep or not feeling rested due to the anxiety these can cause.

You may have a strange feeling all day, as you recall how it felt to be awake yet not awake. It can be disconcerting
for people. People can be crabby or jumpy, as these can sometimes come with bad images and feelings.

You may be tired all day, and just out of sorts, due to the uncomfortable way you finally woke up. It’s like being tricked by your own mind and not being able to shake the strange feeling.

Sleep Paralysis

Most of us have had dreams where you can’t move, speak, or scream. Being scared in your sleep,  while you’re falling asleep, there is a sensation of falling or fear of something unknown upon waking up.

Trying to run away, to move, or to scream and not being unable to is what sleep paralysis is. If it happens when
you’re waking up, it’s called hypnopompic or post-dormital sleep paralysis, and if it happens when you’re falling asleep, it’s called hypnagogic or pre-dormital sleep paralysis.

It is the inability to move or speak. Often, the dreamer feels pressure on their chest or the throat rendering them unable to breathe, as well. It can also include a shadowy figure in the room, where the dreamer isn’t quite aware of whether they are real or not.

Prevention of Nested Dreams

While there isn’t a surefire cure for nested dreams, you can take some preventive measures to keep them from occurring.


Try meditating before bed.  It will help your mind relax and focus on happier, calmer things in your life.

Avoid Stimulants

Caffeine, pills, or alcohol can cause you to have bad dreams, fitful sleep, and even bad dreams. They impair the REM sleep you need to feel rested and allow your brain to function properly.

Regular Exercise

Even a walk around the block in the evening can help calm you down and clear your mind. Regular exercise can help
you sleep better and tire yourself out so you can sleep more soundly.

Have a Routine

Having a regular routine, bedtime, and waking up time keep your life regular, too. If you go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time, your mind and body are allowed to heal and function better.

Get Rid of Gadgets

Take the gadgets out of your room. If the false awakening is caused by anxiety, the phone or tablet pinging all night will not help you any. It may be adding to your worries and robbing you of precious sleep.

People also engage in giving themselves regular reality checks. When they do it while they are awake, this process can train your brain to do it while you are sleeping. Something like holding your nose and still being able to breathe or pushing your index finger
through your arm.

So when you have a dream within a dream, you can make yourself do a reality check and very often, wake yourself up.  This should be something that you obviously can not do while you are awake and do the same thing all the time. That way, your mind has its own go-to tool for your reality check when you need it.

It can be very frightening for people when these nested dreams happen, and many turn to stimulants for
sleeping through them to avoid having them again.

Dream Within a Dream

Nested dreams can happen to anyone, and the effects are varying. It can be very disorienting for people who are not used to it happening. If you can, try to remember what was happening in the false awakening.

The ones that are frightening are often out subconscious trying to tell us something that we need to hear. Record these images, if you remember and see if there is a pattern forming.

It can also be connected to lucid dreaming, where we know what is happening is a dream, and we are aware of our state, that of sleeping yet aware of it. With lucid dreaming, we can train our minds to take control of situations we are not comfortable in, like being chased or items changing into something else.

If nesting dreams are a frequent occurrence with you and they are bothersome, practice the methods of trying to take control of the situation. If you challenge yourself with reality checks, you may find it easier to get out of the uncomfortable situations or false
sense that comes with nested dreams.

It isn’t fully established why these happen, but if they happen a lot, try writing down what you can remember of the nested dream. Look for patterns and things that are out of place.

This can be a clear indication of what is troubling you or where you need to look in your life for change and finding peace. They may happen when you are also excited about the day ahead.

A new job or a new school can be exciting, but it can also bring anxiety and fear, as well. Monitoring your false awakening dreams can point out things that may be out of place or something bothering your subconscious you are not even aware of.

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