What Does It Mean When You Physically Feel Things In Your Dreams?

Dreams can be vivid or dim. Usually, the dreamer doesn’t physically feel anything.

They might feel something in a nightmare. Usually, it’s a quick shock or jolt.

Take a dream of falling. The dreamer has the experience of falling, falling, falling, and then BOOM! He or she lands in bed. The dreamer physically feels like they’ve landed at the bottom of a hole (or someplace else).

In a dream, they might be in a knife fight and lose when the knife cuts into their abdomen. They feel all their blood run out, all their intestines, and believe (in the dream) that they’re dying.

They might be running into a house on fire, grab a smoldering beam and feel a burn.

They might be driving along in a car and feel like they’ve been sideswiped by another car.

There are all kinds of physical sensations that are possible in a dream.

What does it mean when your senses are activated in a dream?

The brain usually activates the sense of touch to make its point, but it can activate any of them, especially hearing.

When you feel something or a suggestion of something, your subconscious is trying to emphasize something to make a point. What the point is depends on the context of the rest of the dream.

A misty, hazy message won’t do; it figures. It’s like someone making a sign at work highlighted and in bold caps: “PLEASE FLUSH THE TOILET AFTER YOU USE IT!!!” or “PUT THE TOILET SEAT DOWN AFTER YOU USE IT!!!”

Due to how the central nervous system is constructed, sensations of all kinds are experienced in the brain. This is an easy trick for the brain to manage.

Even if you’ve never grabbed a burning anything in real life, your brain can mimic the feeling by guessing. You presumably have felt the difference between warm, warmer, and cold. It wouldn’t necessarily feel the same way in a dream.

Although it might. Carl Jung postulated ancestral memories that come up in dreams. While you’ve never grabbed a burning beam, others have. Psychologist Carl Jung believed the brain had access to these memories. Others believe that the basis for access to these memories would be along the lines of evolution.

What are hypnagogic hallucinations?

When you perceive an object or a thing without it actually existing, that’s a hallucination.

When someone a hypnagogic hallucination, it’s usually right before they fall asleep. The person often snaps awake, fearful that what they thought they experienced was real. The hallucinations can range from seeing shapes and colors to hearing voices or music.

It’s important to note these hallucinations are not necessarily a sign of mental illness; rather, they are common for those who are sleep-deprived or stressed.

Sometimes the hypnagogic hallucinations are heard. Perhaps it’s a beep, a faucet drip, or a popping noise. Yet sometimes, it actually isn’t a hallucination. One model of smoke detector would emit a beep every 10 minutes or so to let the user know it was time to change the battery. One type of battery-powered wristwatch, too, would emit a chirp every so often when its battery was failing. If you’re storing that wristwatch in a drawer and its battery is running out, you’re going to be hearing that chirp every once in a while. You may end up thinking that it’s in your imagination because you’ve forgotten all about the watch or didn’t know that it did that.

Those aren’t hallucinations, though one might think they are. There’s a reason for the sound.

It’s also possible to experience a hypnopompic hallucination, which is the opposite and occurs when someone wakes up instead of falling asleep.

Far more concerning, hallucinations can happen with drug use, especially methamphetamines or hallucinogens.

Common sensations with drug use are feeling that bugs are crawling all over or many needles poking you or something else unpleasant.

For further reading:

Your guts are an emotional center

Boost your immune system

Having an out-of-the-body experience doesn’t make you special


James Cobb, RN, MSN is the founder of the Dream Recovery System, a site dedicated to improving reader’s health through sleep and dreams. 

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