How to Tell if You're Dreaming

Three Parts:Checking AppearancesTesting YourselfDreaming vs. Reality

Knowing that you're dreaming can be important, especially in the grip of an intense dream. You might want to check your dream state when seeking to lucid dream, to wanting to know if you're awake or dreaming after receiving a shock, or having been in an accident. Sometimes our dreams can feel more real than our life when we’re awake -- but you can learn to determine when you’re asleep and when you’re awake.

Part 1
Checking Appearances

  1. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 1
    Check whether you're dreaming when you're awake. Although this may seem counterintuitive, lucid dream advocates suggest that it is important to test during the day whether or not you're dreaming.[1] The reason for doing this is that if you get into a habit of checking in waking life, this checking habit will cross over into your dream life.
    • By deliberately checking during waking hours, you can create a particular habit for your mind to try out one or more of the following reality checks: reading a piece of paper when wondering if you're dreaming, trying to move objects, or checking a clock. When the habit is tried out in a dream, and fails to perform "normally", then its failure lets you know that you're dreaming.
    • If you are really awake, then you might want to consider why you're worried about whether or not you're dreaming. For example, have you taken drugs or have you been poisoned? Are you an accident victim? Are you hallucinating? Might you be suffering from concussion or some other injury?If you are injured or out of your depth mentally or emotionally, either call for medical assistance or signal to somebody to help you as best you can.
  2. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 3
    Perform a series of what are known as "reality check tests". If you are dreaming, things won't be as they seem normally. Reality checks form a regular part of lucid dreaming and are a means by which you can be actively more involved in your lucid dreaming. Some lucid dreamers like to perform reality checks during the waking hours because it increases the opportunities for lucid dreaming.[2]
  3. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 4
    Check your environment. Appearances can be very deceiving in the dream world, where distortions are common and even the norm. If the dream is set in your home or another place where you spend time, look at common objects. Does anything look different than how you last remember seeing it? For example, is there a window where a painting is supposed to be? These are clear signs of dreaming.
  4. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 7
    Consider the other people around you. If you're talking to people who have been dead for years, then that's a sure sign that you're dreaming. Why you're talking to them is a whole other area for dream interpretation, but the fact that they're there, casual as, means you're dreaming.[3]
    • Are you schmoozing up with your enemies like they're your best friends? Definitely you're dreaming!
    • Does your grandfather suddenly have extraordinary super powers or your sibling has started being nice to you?
    • If you're in familiar surroundings, can you recognize the people around you or are they all complete strangers?
  5. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 4Bullet2
    Look at yourself. Notice your hands, feet, legs, etc. Are they the usual shape? Do you have the right amount of digits? Is any part of your body disfigured? Does your hair color and length appear like it should, or has it changed length, texture and color? Try to find a mirror. What does your reflection look like in the mirror? In a dream state, you probably won't look like the real you. The reflection will often be blurry or distorted.[4]

Part 2
Testing Yourself

  1. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 5
    Test your strength and abilities. Clearly, if you can fly or lift extremely heavy objects, you're not awake. Keep in mind, however, that a lucid dreaming state can be a good way to practice actual physical actions that can help you in the real world. Some health care professionals use it to help people recovering from injuries envision their bodies recovering. The following abilities, however, are symptomatic of dreams. Test your abilities as follows:[5]
    • Try to levitate or float. If you can, you're in a dream state.
    • Can you speak normally? If your voice is extremely croaky or not coming from your mouth at all, you're more than likely dreaming.
    • Try jumping on the spot. Can you jump over the moon, or maintain a jump for an abnormally long period of time? Or did you jump straight up and then land on Earth with a thud?
    • Are you able to shift objects across a room or area without going near them?
    • Can you switch appliances and lights on and off with thoughts alone? In addition, note that the level of light will rarely change as a result of flipping a switch in a dream state. Be aware that not every lucid dreaming advocate believes that this is a reliable test - for some dreamers, nothing changes when a light is switched on and off.
    • Can you make objects appear before you just by wishing?
  2. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 6
    Check everyday occurrences. A good test of whether or not you're dreaming is if your usual waking habits distort or are inconsistent with what is normally done. For example, if you usually turn the key once to unlock a door but your dream has you turning it three times despite the fact that this would not be possible in waking life, then you have a sign that you're dreaming.
  3. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 8Bullet1
    Do a reading test. Test this while awake. Read the paper, look away, then come back to it again and read it. Hopefully the text has stayed the same! The point of this is to reinforce this as an action for your mind whether or not it is dreaming. In dreams, reading is difficult as the words become distorted. Try looking away from the text and then looking back again; if it's a dream, there is a high likelihood that the text will have morphed into something else.
    • Keep something to read next to your bed. If you have just finished a lucid dream, it's possible that you're still dreaming. If not, and you're actually awake, you can read the text next to the bed.[6]
    • Look at a digital watch or clock. This is a variant on the text distortion - again, if the digital numbers blur, change, or make no sense, then you're probably dreaming.[7]
    • Check complex patterns, another variant of text and clocks.[8] Look at patterns, such as brickwork, floor paving, or soft furnishing designs. Do the patterns remain the same or do they change?

Part 3
Dreaming vs. Reality

  1. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 2
    Know the common dream signs. There are some very typical, shared experience dream signs that indicate you're dreaming rather than sitting wide awake. These dreams often tap into our unconscious fears, and almost all of us have had a version of these dreams at some point in our lives. Scientists have realized, however, that we do have a lot of control over our dreams, and can use techniques to guide ourselves away from dreams we’d rather not have.[9]
    • Think of whatever you want to dream about before bed.
    • Let an image come into your mind that you associate with whatever it is you want to dream about.
    • Hold that image in your mind as you are falling asleep.
  2. Image titled Tell if You're Dreaming Step 2Bullet1
    Be aware of common dreams with physical components. The physical sensation dreams are very common and can feel as if you’re actually flying, falling, or running. These dreams also commonly jolt you out of your dream as you startle yourself out of sleeping. Some of the most common of these kinds of dreams are:[10]
    • Flying unaided.
    • Falling, but never quite reaching an end (although, a sudden jolt in a fall can be enough to awaken you properly).
    • Having a monster, dangerous person, or strange creature run after you or attack you.
    • Paralysis - something terrible this way comes but you just sit or stand there because you cannot move.
    • A fuzziness; not being able to see clearly, often accompanied by an inability to completely control your thoughts and actions.
    • Missing body parts, with lost teeth being very common in dreams.
  3. 3
    Ask yourself if you’re having a typical nervousness dream. These are often about not having done something, being naked or otherwise unprepared, and sometimes are linked to events in your own life about which you might be nervous. Some of these dreams include:[11]
    • Being lost in a familiar place.
    • Being naked in public (walking into the city centre, sitting on a bus, sitting in class, etc.).
    • Normally reliable mechanical devices failing to work as normal, especially if you need to get away from something.
    • Taking a test when you don't know the answers. Taking a test naked when you don't know the answers!
    • The toilet dream. This can be a bad one if you're thinking you are awake as you sit on an imaginary toilet and wet the bed in reality. And no, this isn't just for kids!

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Dreams