You might have wondered at some point in your life whether or not you were dreaming. In some situations, reality may become difficult to distinguish from imagination, especially in very vivid dreams or in altered mental states.
The tips that we are going to describe in this article can be very helpful if you ever find yourself in such circumstances. These methods of detecting whether we are awake or asleep are called “reality tests”.
When are reality tests useful?
In general, the difficulty of distinguishing between dreams and reality is not very common. However, anyone can raise this question if they are in a very stressful situation, such as when traumatic or very strange events occur, Or under the effects of the use of drugs and other psychoactive substances.
Injuries and bruises also make it easier for feelings of unreality to appear. For example, a loss of contact with reality can occur after a car accident that causes a traumatic brain injury.
In childhood, confusion is more likely to occur around this question, because familiarity with the perception of reality is lower. Something similar happens with psychotic disorders, which can cause vivid hallucinations that are difficult to distinguish from dream experiences.
On the other hand, people who try to have lucid dreams and to control them can be immersed in realistic dreams, especially in false wake up loops which can be very anxious. Onironautes can benefit from reality tests in particular which we will describe below.
How do you know if this is the case?
When used as a tool to control lucid dreams, reality tests are performed in real life until they become a habit, so that they appear naturally during sleep; it makes the person they dream of realize the first step in managing the dream life.
Similar strategies can be useful in case of reality and dream confusion for one of the reasons we saw in the previous section. You will also be interested in these reality tests if you just want to learn more about the “rules” of the dream world. The effectiveness of each test may vary depending on the person.
1. Ask yourself if you are dreaming
Although it seems obvious, in dreams, asking yourself if you are dreaming is a key step in detecting it. The effectiveness of other reality tests increases if we ask ourselves this question while performing them. This advice is less applicable in the case where the confusion is not due to the practice of lucid dreams, realistic nightmares, etc.
2. Observe your surroundings
When you are unsure whether you are awake or dreaming, look around and look for typical signs of dreams, especially inconsistencies in the environment. For example, it may make you realize that you are in a place you have never been or that the people accompanying you are already dead or are fictional characters.
A useful sign for people with vision problems is to check if you can see perfectly even without needing glasses. Sometimes this effect can be confusing due to the feeling of haze inherent in the dream world of many people.
3. Look at your hands and face
In dreams, the image we see of ourselves tends to be distorted. Looking at yourself and touching your hands is a particularly useful method of checking this: if you have more than five fingers or if you can cross the palm of your hand with one finger, you will probably be dreaming.
Looking at yourself in a mirror is another effective reality test; you may notice that you are wearing an unrecognizable haircut, that your reflection does not match your self-image or does not hold steady, or that you are different from actual age.
4. Breathe with your nose covered
This reality test is less well known than others that we have included in the list, but it is one of the most effective. In dreams, we can almost always breathe even though our noses are covered, if we are in water, or if other circumstances should prevent us from breathing properly.
5. Compare with everyday life
Check if your actions are in line with those you only do on a daily basis and if the environment responds as you expect to your interaction with it. Do you wear clothes adapted to the context in which you find yourself? Do you remember how you got here? Does this situation usually occur in your daily life? Are the switches working properly?
6. Try to read or watch a clock
In dreams when we read a text we look away and look at it again, the most common is that it has changed, the letters are floating or they are distorted. The same goes for watches, which can also help us if we assess the possibility that the time they are indicating is correct.
7. Check if you have “powers”
The dream world can be adjusted at will; obviously, real life doesn’t work out of the world itself. Try to levitate, move objects with your mind, Teleport to another location, summon a summons in the palm of your hand, or summon an imaginary person or creature. If you get it, enjoy your powers, at least until you wake up.