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 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, or one 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 reality is in truth 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. Things may seem wrong. Details, like viewing a painting on a wall, not being able to talk or difficulty reading are often difficult or impossible. In some experiences, the subject’s senses are heightened, or changed.
Another more realistic type of false awakening, is a continuum. In a continuum, the subject will fall asleep in real life, but in the dream following, the brain will simulate the subject still awake.