dreaming away
February 10, 2012 1:02 PM   Subscribe

is it possible to stay locked in or stuck in a dream & never wake up?

I often have very vivid (& sometimes lucid) dreams and have wondered if it was possible to have that dream be my new reality. there is an episode of.Buffy that hints at this, but that's all the references I have.

could this happen? has it happened? would everything go dark or even more surreal because your brain eventually runs out of material?
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes. It's happening to you right now.

Anybody who dies in their sleep never wakes up and some of them likely were dreaming at the time or before. People in comas supposedly dream as well, and some of them never wake up.

I can't imagine anyone could run out of material un such an uninhibited state of mind.
posted by michaelh at 1:05 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it glib to just answer, "No."?

I mean, there would have to be an underlying physiological reason for not waking up... like a coma. But I don't think coma patients dream-- see this previous AskMe answer.
posted by supercres at 1:06 PM on February 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Previously: Do comatose patients dream?
posted by griphus at 1:07 PM on February 10, 2012


Also, regarding the Buffy episode, I believe the doctors stated that she was hallucinating, which happens while one is awake.
posted by griphus at 1:14 PM on February 10, 2012


Consider watching Waking Life if this subject interests you.
posted by utsutsu at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Seconding Waking Life.
posted by holdkris99 at 1:20 PM on February 10, 2012


This is one of those questions that has a science-based answer which is pretty much "no" and also a philosophical answer dealing with perception and the nature of dreaming versus hallucinations. If you're interested in the science part of it, here are a few articles that might be a good read

- Corollary Discharge, Hallucinations, and Dreaming
- The Dreaming Brain/Mind: A Role in Understanding Complex Mental Disorders?

Both of them talk a little bit about the differences between dreaming and hallucinations [whether they're generated from purely mental stimulus or from external stimulus, and this is debated] and what is actually going on in the brain to make this happen. While there are things that happen to people [see the "coma" discussion] that are similar to dreaming without waking up, those things all have different realities as far as brain activity than dreaming does.
posted by jessamyn at 1:22 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is sort of the "what happens when you die" question because if people never come back, they can never tell us about it so we will never know.

I am confident that the episode of Buffy to which you refer was intended to fuck with the viewer and not as any sort of reference to a real medical occurrence.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:22 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's sleep paralysis, too.
posted by empath at 1:33 PM on February 10, 2012


well sure, you could die in your sleep, but would you register it? or would you still be in a magical chocolate shop being served by a bunny (or whatever your dream was)?
posted by divabat at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2012


You will like PKD.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:35 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Is there an afterlife, and if so, what is it like?", which is what you're asking in your most recent update, is beyond our pay grade here at askmefi.
posted by brainmouse at 1:36 PM on February 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


I once had one continuous dream over the course of a week. I'd wake up, go about my life, then go back to sleep the following night and be back in the dream. I'm not sure if this is what you're talking about, or if it's relevant in any way?
posted by Sara C. at 1:37 PM on February 10, 2012


If it happens that you are in a dream right now, then all these answers are also coming from within the dream, and thus are unlikely to be helpful.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:39 PM on February 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


would everything go dark or even more surreal because your brain eventually runs out of material?

I think more likely the body would run out of material, and then you'd wake up, hungry and thirsty.
posted by Rash at 1:40 PM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


While you're in the dream, it basically IS your reality, is it not? I've realized I was dreaming a few times - probably fewer than five - and each time, the dream went sort of berserk until I woke up because the rules changed. I remember once saying to myself "Hang on. This isn't real. It's just a dream. Well, neat, let's see if I can fly!" And as I lifted off the ground, I woke up.

There's no way to answer the question of "What happens if you die while dreaming" (I mean actually physically dying before waking up, not dying in the dream) because it implies knowing what happens after you die.
posted by 2oh1 at 1:41 PM on February 10, 2012




well sure, you could die in your sleep, but would you register it? or would you still be in a magical chocolate shop being served by a bunny (or whatever your dream was)?

Your brain activity would stop eventually, and there would be nothing. Before that, it might be like this.
posted by empath at 1:43 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't this essentially the discussed danger in Inception? Dreams within dreams within dreams, with the risk that you'll think you've woken up when you haven't, or vice versa. Like Buffy, this example was also meant to fuck with your head.
posted by nicebookrack at 2:00 PM on February 10, 2012


well sure, you could die in your sleep, but would you register it?

No, because when you're dreaming you're outside of your body and thus not connected to its functions. If you die in you're sleep, you remain stuck in dream land, but since your brain dreams in order to organize recent information, you'd either be stuck in a feedback loop, since there is no new information or the electrical activity would cease, because there would be no knew input to store/organize. No one is sure which, but one day you'll find out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:02 PM on February 10, 2012


Wittgenstein (Zettel):

"A man can pretend to be unconscious; but conscious? What would it be like for someone to tell me with complete seriousness that he (really) did not know whether he was dreaming or awake?--- Is the following situation possible: Someone says "I believe I am now dreaming"; he actually wakes up soon afterwards, remembers that utterance in his dream and says "So I was right!" --- This narrative can surely only signify: Someone dreamt that he had said he was dreaming. Imagine an unconscious man (anesthetized, say) were to say "I am conscious" -- should we say "He ought to know?" And if someone talked in his sleep and said "I am asleep"-- should we say "He's quite right?" Is someone speaking untruth if he says to me "I am not conscious?" (And truth if he says it while unconscious? And suppose a parrot says "I don't understand a word," or a gramophone: "I am only a machine"?)
posted by mattbucher at 2:03 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been stuck in recursive thinking-that-I've-woken-up-but-haven't dreams that have gone for hundreds of loops. I certainly started to get terrified that I would never wake up.
posted by Joe Chip at 3:01 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the answer is yes, you can dream indefinitely but not wake up, but almost certainly not continuously, and the dream episodes would probably not be connected enough to be considered a single dream, though this last would hard to investigate.

There was a study published in 2001 looking at REM activity in patients at a "major rehabilitation hospital" who were in a vegetative state, with the aim of finding whether or not the amount of REM could be used to predict which patients would wake up over some period of time. The answer was no, REM activity had no predictive value, but all patients displayed it, including the ones who did not wake up.

The ones who didn't wake up might meet the criterion of being locked in a dream state forever.
posted by jamjam at 3:17 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


wondered if it was possible to have that dream be my new reality.

At some point in answering this question, you trip over physiology and psychology and head straight into PhilosophyLand, where there are no hard and fast answers.

As Morpheus says, if you're talking about things you see and touch, then "reality" is merely electrical signals interpreted by the brain. Well, when you're dreaming, there are electrical signals being interpreted. For all intents and purposes, then, a dream is reality. At least according to the "electrical signals" interpretation of reality.

Now take it a step further -- how do you tell time in a dream? There are no clocks (and if you're Salvador Dali, they're melting). And everyone has experienced a completely lucid dream that seems to take hours, only when you wake up, you find you've been napping for just a few minutes.

So, who's to say your dream isn't a "new reality" in that it seems to be playing out over hours, days, months, etc.? Hmmm?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm being chased by three men in black suits and dark sunglasses. There is no spoon.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:23 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]




I'm not quite sure the brain could run out of material.. I think that a lot of dreams perpetuate themselves [sort of like a running plot-line] and there are plenty of people who can have the same dream multiple times a night.

I imagine that it's very possible for some people to take elements from their dreams to heart and those elements become part of their reality.. only if that information is never corrected. For example, let's say you have a dream dreaming that there's a restaurant on a particular road in a town you've visited a handful of time. Likely, you won't ever bring that restaurant up in conversation, so no one can correct you. That dream can easily become part of your memory so that you truly believe that restaurant exists. So, in that case, a dream could become part of your reality.
posted by oxfordcomma at 7:57 PM on February 10, 2012


I'm not quite sure the brain could run out of material

Well, if you do, you could always forget you ever saw anything and start "fresh" with the old material.

In fact, who's to say that isn't constantly happening every night? How many dreams do you actually remember upon waking -- one in three? One in ten? Yet you're in REM for hours every night, so clearly something is happening...

Again, we're in PhilosophyLand.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:15 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have dreams where I'm searching stuff on google. The results never render, and I go into lucid dreaming and laugh at my stupid brain trying to search dreamland google.

That doesn't answer your question, but it does, you see, You can't control reality. Your dreams are rendered artifacts taken from reality, so to test consciousness, search something on google.
posted by roboton666 at 10:59 PM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes.

And yes.
posted by Decani at 11:50 AM on February 11, 2012


That reddit post describes what I'm trying to explain. And wow. OMG wow. that's one of my worst fears.
posted by divabat at 3:08 PM on February 11, 2012


« Older Electronic cardiovascular doohickey -- yea or nay?   |   What was this strange phenomenon? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.