What Do False Awakening Dreams Mean? Unlocking Your Hidden Sleep Thoughts

When you go to bed each night, there's really no telling what might happen in dreamland. Whether you remember them frequently or not, you have dreams every night — research suggests you spend around two hours dreaming each time you hit the sheets, per Sleep Foundation, and in that time you might experience anything from vivid realistic dreams to dreaming about your teeth falling out.

Another mid-slumber fantasy you might have: dreaming about waking up. If you wake up IRL with a feeling of déjà vu, it could be because you already played out your morning routine in your head while you were still snoozing. These dreams are known as "false awakening dreams," and there are two main types, according to psychologist Dr. Celia Green (via Healthline). In the first type, your false awakening seems like business as usual, where you imagine yourself drinking your a.m. cup of coffee or brushing your teeth. In the second type, though, "waking up" feels upsetting, as if something bad is about to happen.

With either type, you may experience confusion, especially when you actually wake up after the false awakening dream — and that's probably not the way you want to start your day. Here's what these dreams could mean and what to do if you have them.

The meaning behind false awakening dreams

According to experts, false awakening dreams don't have to be a cause for concern, nor do they signal that something bad is about to happen, even if you feel a sense of dread or fear in your dream. Still, the content of your false awakening might contain some hidden messages.

In a 2019 study published in the journal "Dreaming," 62% of participants who experienced false awakening dreams reported that the dreams contained unusual details or events. So while imagining yourself turning off your alarm, brushing your hair, and getting dressed for work might not clue you into your inner psyche, a dream where your alarm clock is broken, your hair falls out when you brush it, and you decide to wear a prom dress to work might.

As Kari Hohne, a dream analyst, shared with Refinery29, "If we block something out of consciousness, it can appear in our dreams." Something awry in a false awakening dream could illuminate a deeper problem eating away at you. This is often the case with recurrent false awakenings. On the other hand, Hohne added that if you rarely have these dreams, something more innocuous, like a schedule change or a big day at work, might be the reason you're "waking up" mid-sleep.

What to do if you dream of waking up

In short, the meanings and symbolism behind false awakenings aren't one-size-fits-all, and what happens in your dreams might differ from someone else's. Keeping a dream journal could help you find patterns in your sleepytime visions that might link up to problems you're facing in real life. And if your false awakenings are more mundane than mysterious, just roll with them – your brain may simply be processing information or preparing for future events.

Besides casting light on your inner thoughts, false awakening dreams might reveal issues with your sleeping habits. According to The Sleep Doctor, people who lack sufficient, high-quality sleep are more likely to dream of waking up. Practicing good sleep hygiene — including following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and de-stressing before turning in for the night — can help you get more peaceful shut-eye.

If your dreams tend to be distressing or have anxiety-provoking themes, consider speaking to a doctor. They might diagnose you with a treatable sleep disorder or another medical condition. If your stress dreams are related to a mental health issue, they may also refer you to a therapist. No matter what's behind your false awakenings, you deserve restful ZZZs.