If you have just had a dream within a dream, you might be feeling confused. How is it possible to dream about dreaming and what can it mean? If dreams are a way our subconscious minds deal with events and feelings we have in the waking life, then where do dreams within dreams come from?
Are they still messages from the subconscious or from somewhere more mystical? Could it be a sign of a split personality? Is it a sign that something bad will happen or are there positive interpretations, too?
In this article, we answer all these questions and more. So read on to learn what a dream in a dream can mean.
The Neuroscience of Sleep and Dreams
While it is not necessary to know the science behind dreams, it can help us to understand why dreams in dreams can happen. Here is the science in brief.
There are three basic brain states, which are waking, rapid eye movement (REM), and non-REM sleep. Vivid dreams take place during the REM stage of sleep and restorative sleep during the non-REM state. Sometimes the boundaries between the states are blurred and we are in, what neuroscientists call, a hybrid state.
It is during the hybrid state that we can get uncanny and bizarre experiences, such as sleep paralysis, false awakenings, and lucid dreaming. Sleep paralysis is when the sleeper is awake, but still in the REM state, too, and finds they cannot move their physical body. However, we are more interested in the latter two experiences.
What this means is that we falsely believe we have woken up when we are still dreaming. The brain is transitioning towards an awake state and thinks it has arrived. This can make us feel that we are dreaming inside a dream.
This is also a hybrid of waking and REM states. When part of our prefrontal cortex is activated during the REM state, the dreamer gains some awareness and becomes aware that they are dreaming.
Often when we have lucid dreams, we dream of doing our everyday life activities like waking up, going to the toilet, making breakfast, and so forth. Until we become fully awake and realize our day hasn’t even started yet. Neuroscience has not yet been able to explain why we dream of these activities.
Dream Within a Dream Meaning
Now we understand some of the science behind dreams within dreams or moments when we are partially awake and become aware that we are dreaming. Let’s find out what the subconscious could be telling us.
1. You Need to Pay More Attention
A dream within a dream could be a way your subconscious mind is letting you know there is something in your life that needs more attention. It could be being more mindful when doing day-to-day activities or a specific event.
Which it is, depends on the context of the dream with the dream. If it is about you doing what you would normally do after waking up or throughout the day, then the message is most likely to be more mindful. If your dream in dream focuses on a specific feeling or an event, then that part of your life needs more attention from you.
2. What If…
Have you been struggling with a decision in your real life? If so, then the dream within a dream could be showing you different what-if scenarios. You want to pay close attention to these what-if dreams as they can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings about the decision.
3. You Are Avoiding an Issue
Is there something in your life that you know you should address but don’t want to? It could, for example, be something you are not happy about in your relationship. Or perhaps your friend is doing something you don’t agree with? You don’t want to confront the issue because you are afraid of the consequences.
Your dream within a dream could reflect your avoidance of the issue. It can also be a sign that you need to address it before your feelings overwhelm you and you end up expressing them explosively.
4. You Need to Make Changes in Your Life
A dream inside a dream can be a sign that you are not satisfied with your life. It could be that your work is no longer challenging you or you have realized you would like to do something completely different. Or it could be that you are no longer happy in your relationship.
The dream can be a prompt to do something about it. If you just carry on, then nothing will ever change. Identify what you are not satisfied with and address it. Work-wise, ask for a promotion or start a side hustle in an area that interests you. In a relationship, talk to your partner and try to figure out together what is missing from your relationship.
5. You Compartmentalize Your Life
When you dream of yourself dreaming, it can be a sign that you are seeing things as separate when they are not. You are compartmentalizing aspects of your life when you should be looking at everything as a whole.
It may be a sign that you need to do some introspection. Why do you feel the need to compartmentalize your life? Are you perhaps showing a different side of yourself depending on the situation and people you are with? While it is fine and normal to behave differently with friends and at work, you always need to be your authentic self.
6. You Are Presented With a Solution
Even though it might not always seem that there is any relationship between the dream and the dream within it, if you look closely, there may be a connection. An example of such a connection is having a problem in the first dream and the dream within shows you the solution.
The first dream could be a reflection of a real-life problem you have been battling with. You might have been feeling frustrated because you haven’t been able to figure out a solution. The second dream is a suggestion from your subconscious about how to solve it. Often it can be a solution that has not crossed your mind at all in your waking life.
7. You Need to Look at Things From a Different Perspective
Sometimes the two dreams can show us the same thing that has been on our minds but from different perspectives. This is a sign that the awake-you needs to do the same. It is likely a sign that your current approach is not working and you need to try something else.
8. You Feel Anxious About a Future Event
Being late for school or a job interview, saying something stupid to a potential employer, turning up at an important event in your pajamas. These are all common dreams within a dream and they are normal.
When there is something important happening in your life, it is common to have dreams where we miss it or blow it by saying or doing something we shouldn’t. These dreams are nothing to worry about. They reflect our waking emotions and anxiety. Usually, the feeling that follows is relief when we wake up and realize we haven’t blown it.
9. Your Troubles Will Not Last Forever
If you have been going through a challenging time at work, in your relationship, or financially, the dream within a dream can be a reminder that your troubles will not last forever even if you cannot see an end to them in your waking life.
The dream is telling you to persevere. Someday you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.
10. You Need to Accept Yourself
A dream where you are dreaming can be a sign that you fear reality because you are not happy with yourself. That you haven’t fully accepted yourself and you still have some growing to do. You have insecurities about yourself and you are unsure of your feelings and aspirations.
The dream within a dream is a message that you need to work on self-acceptance. Journaling or meditating can help. However, if you feel there are bigger reasons why you cannot accept yourself, you can consider speaking to a therapist.
Dreams within dreams can be powerful metaphors for issues we face in our daily life. Sometimes we can approach difficult topics that we avoid in real life in the dream world. The sleeping brain is more receptive to messages from the subconscious than the waking brain.
While dreams within dreams can be unsettling and confusing, they are not anything you should worry about and are quite common. The interpretation of dreams is always personal to the dreamer, and only you can know what the message is. The key is to not ignore the message but to act as your subconscious guides you.
Hopefully, this article has addressed all your questions about a dream in a dream. If there is anything else you would like to know, write your questions in the comments section.