Can Lucid Dreams Kill You?

By: Laurie L. Dove

If you die in your dream, will you die in real life?
If you die in your dream, will you die in real life?
Pery Burge/Getty Images

It's the middle of the night, and you're dreaming. As you fly like a superhero, you can feel your cape trailing in the wind, see the landscape below and even decide when to land. That's because this is no ordinary dream. Unlike the fragmented and confusing dreams you normally have, this time your mind is fully aware that you are dreaming. You may even be able to control your actions in the dream.

When you're asleep and dreaming, yet become aware that you're having a dream, that's lucid dreaming. This type of dream occurs when the brain slips into a zone between deep REM sleep and wakefulness.

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During a lucid dream, events can feel quite real. Let's say, for example, you dream you're driving a car along an undulating road. You crest a hill and start your downward trajectory, tap the brakes and realize they don't work. The car picks up speed and careens out of control. You fight to keep it on the road, pumping the brakes to no avail. You know you're going to die, and, indeed, you do. Your demise is a sudden, fiery impact. But if you die in your dream, will you die in real life?

The answer, thank goodness, is no. At least, we think it's no. The truth is, if someone were to die as the result of a lucid dream, we'd have no way of knowing. That person couldn't tell us about their dream experiences, after all, because he or she would be dead.

There could be some mental benefits to losing your life in a dream, though. To begin with, if you remember having a dream — even if it was a bad or scary dream — you'll at least know why you're feeling unsettled during your waking hours that follow. That's better than a doomed feeling plaguing you all day, giving you a vague sense that you're waiting for the other shoe to drop, when, in fact, you simply died in a dream you don't remember. Some lucid-dreaming experts contend that learning to accept death in your dreams will help you accept death in real life. You'll no longer dread or fear it; death will simply come for you.

A study of college students found that lucid dreams were seven times more likely to make nightmares more tolerable. And, if participants realized they were dreaming during a nightmare, they felt comforted about 60 percent of the time, which could go a long way when you face death in your dreams.

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Lucid Dreams FAQ

What is lucid dreaming?
Lucid dreams occur when you're asleep and dreaming, but you know that you're dreaming. You may even be able to control what unfolds. This type of dream occurs when the brain slips into a zone between deep REM sleep and wakefulness.
Is lucid dreaming scary?
During a lucid dream, events can feel quite real. So while it can be fun, it can also be quite scary depending on what you're dreaming about. It can also be scary when you try to wake yourself from the dream, but can't.
Can you die in a lucid dream?
Yes, but if you die in your dream, you won't die in real life. Interestingly, some lucid-dreaming experts believe that learning to accept death in your dreams actually helps you accept it in real life.
Why do lucid dreams happen?
There is still much that is unknown about lucid dreams. However, researchers have seen that the prefrontal cortex activity levels of a person who is engaged in lucid dreaming are comparable to levels when they are awake. Additionally, most lucid dreaming takes place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the fourth and final stage of sleep.
It is safe to lucid dream?
There's a lot of debate over whether inducing lucid dreams is beneficial or harmful. Some people report experiencing wish fulfillment, overcoming fears, and healing during lucid dreaming. Some researchers believe that this type of dreaming blurs the lines between dreaming and reality, which can have negative implications for one's long-term mental health. It's also potentially disruptive to sleep, which can lead to a poorer quality of sleep.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Alexander, Jamie. "If You Die Inside a Lucid Dream Will You Wake Up?" (June 15, 2015) http://lucidability.com/can-you-die-from-lucid-dreaming/
  • Lucidity Institute. "Can Lucid Dreaming Be Dangerous?" (June 15, 2015) http://lucidity.com/LucidDreamingFAQ2.html#harmful
  • WebMD. "Facts About Dreaming." (June 15, 2015) http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/dreaming-overview

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