False awakenings are a curious phenomenon for lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers alike.
They are essentially ultra vivid dreams in which you are convinced you have woken up in physical reality. They are most likely to happen when you are excited about a big day ahead - and if you're a lucid dreamer.
Self-awareness determines how consciously "in tune" you are with your current reality. Lucid dreamers aim to be highly self-aware while awake and while dreaming, for the greatest frequency of lucid dreams. But the modern world is so distracting, most people are not very self-aware at all.
And this comes into play in the paradox of a false awakening. The dream of awakening is highly vivid, suggesting a high level of self-awareness (for a dream, at least). Yet many false awakenings go unrecognized; assumed to be waking reality, there is absolutely no awareness that it's all a dream.
A false awakening may involve getting up, having breakfast, getting dressed, heading out for work... all the things you do every day on autopilot. It can all appear all too real and solid to warrant questioning its authenticity. Indeed, you will only appreciate how real a false awakening is when it happens to you - it reveals the remarkable capacity of the human brain to emulate reality.
Eventually, you will start doing a more complex task in your dream that draws on part of the conscious brain that is still asleep. Maybe you look in the bathroom mirror, or attempt to read a signpost on your way to work. This exposes the illusory nature of the dream and BAM! You wake up.
Or perhaps not.
Some people report having multiple false awakenings in succession, doing the same things over and over, never knowing when they have truly woken up. They keep unconsciously rebooting the waking dream scenario... As uncanny as it sounds, if you have just had one false waking experience, you are much more likely to have another. The conditions are already ripe.
I've never had multiple false awakenings (as far as I can remember). So when they do occur, I rather enjoy them. Sometimes my false awakenings drag on for several minutes then I abruptly wake up; other times I realize I'm dreaming and become lucid. They most often happen when I am sleeping in a different place, or am excited or anxious about the events of the next day.
In one false awakening, I had the fortune of doing a reality check early on and tried to push my hand through the glass window of my bedroom. Yet my reality was so vivid, my brain refused to accept the possibility of it passing through. Instead, my hand bounced off the glass realistically.
I was dumbstruck. Being unable to rationalize what was happening, I clumsily explored my house, knowing that something was wrong but unable to define it. I was stuck in a limbo-like dream world.
Eventually I went into the kitchen and found my partner cooking a roast dinner at 7am. Logic bomb! I instantly became lucid and flew away.
Galantamine also has a reputation for inducing bizarre false awakening scenarios.
I recall one time I took this supplement and I woke at 3am to hear my mum outside my window calling me. Even though I knew she couldn't be out there, it took me over a minute of listening to her to rationalise this because she sounded so real!
1. Reality Check on Waking - Perform a reality check when you wake up every day. This is will be your best chance of recognizing a false awakening as soon as it begins.
2. Use Your Alarm Clock - Whenever you look at the time, ask yourself "Am I dreaming?" Numbers and letters are notoriously hard to read in dreams because the language centers of the brain are largely shut down. So numbers or words are prone to changing or turning into unreadable symbols after a few seconds. Your alarm clock will expose this.
3. Look At Your Reflection - Since the first thing people do in the morning is go to the bathroom, this is an ideal reality check. Allow yourself a few seconds to examine your face, check that the reflection of the room is normal, and see if you can push your hand into the mirror itself.
4. Leave Notes For Yourself - Written reminders placed around the house (like door handles, light switches and banisters) will prompt you to do a reality check and reveal if you are dreaming. Be sure to acknowledge them every morning - don't ignore them.
5. Check During Breakfast - False awakenings can involve eating breakfast so the moment you taste food or drink in the morning, do a reality check. If you are dreaming, you will suddenly be able to taste the food you are eating with more intensity, which is a wonderful wake-up call.
As a lucid dreamer, you invite more false awakenings into your dreams. This is a great opportunity to have more guided dreams, so seize the moment you wake up and ask yourself: "Am I dreaming now?"False awakenings can be hard to spot but with practice you will become better at recognizing that curious feeling that something is not right with the world...
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