A false awakening is an event in which someone dreams they have awoken from sleep. This illusion of having awakened is very convincing to the person. After a false awakening, people will often dream of performing daily morning rituals, believing they have truly awakened. A dream in which a false awakening takes place is sometimes colloquially referred to as a double dream, or a dream within a dream.
It may occur either following an ordinary dream or following a lucid dream, one in which the dreamer has been aware of dreaming. Particularly if the false awakening follows a lucid dream, the false awakening may turn into a pre-lucid dream, in which the dreamer may start to wonder if they are really awake and may or may not come to the correct conclusion.
A false awakening has significance to the simulation hypothesis which states that what we perceive as true reality is in fact an illusion as evidenced by our minds’ inability to distinguish between reality and dreams. Therefore, advocates of the simulation hypothesis argue that the probability of our true reality being a simulated reality is affected by the prevalence of false awakenings.
Certain aspects of life may be dramatized or out of place in false awakenings. Details like being able to see a painting on a wall, not being able to talk or difficulty reading are common. In some experiences, the human senses are heightened or changed. For instance, one may be able to see things in greater detail, or lesser detail, or one may feel an intense burst of fear and anxiety, or possibly pleasure.
Because the dreamer is still dreaming after a false awakening, it is possible for there to be more than one false awakening in a single dream. Often, dreamers will seem to have awakened, begin eating breakfast, brushing teeth, and so on and then find themselves back in bed, begin daily morning rituals, believe that they have awakened again, and so forth. The French psychologist Yves Delage reported an experience of his own of this kind, in which he experienced four successive false awakenings. The philosopher Bertrand Russell claimed to have experienced about a hundred false awakenings in succession while coming round from a general anaesthetic.