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Can lucid dreams be scary?

What are lucid dreams?

Lucid dreaming is when you are aware that you are dreaming during the dream. Most dreams happen during REM sleep, the stage of sleep when your brain is most active and dreams are most vivid. In a normal dream, you lack control and awareness that you are dreaming. But in a lucid dream, you realize that you are dreaming, giving you some control over the dream content and enabling you to actively participate in your dreams. Roughly half of people have experienced lucid dreaming at least once in their lives. With practice, some people can learn to lucid dream regularly.

Can you control lucid dreams?

Yes, being aware that you are dreaming enables you to exert some control over your lucid dreams. Lucid dreamers can influence the actions of dream characters, actively participate in the dream plot, and affect the dream environment. However, lucid dreaming mastery takes time and practice. Novices may only have partial control, while experienced lucid dreamers report being able to control their dreams with varying degrees of success. The level of control depends on the lucid dreamer’s abilities and the stability of the lucid dream state.

Why do some lucid dreams turn scary?

Lucid nightmares are distressing, frightening lucid dreams. There are a few reasons why lucid dreams can become scary:

Losing lucidity

Some lucid dreamers lose control and slip into an unwanted nightmare. As awareness that you are dreaming fades, fear and anxiety take over the dreamscape. This loss of lucidity turns the dream lucid.

Facing subconscious fears

Confronting subconscious fears sometimes manifests as threatening dream characters or scary situations. Lucid dreaming provides access to the subconscious mind and suppressed emotions.

Testing dream limits

Lucid dreamers experiment with exerting control in whimsical ways. Testing the limits of a lucid dream can conjure up frightening dream content.

Negative expectations

If you worry about having a lucid nightmare, those negative expectations impact the dream environment. Apprehension and fear of what could happen may invite frightening dream characters and scenario.

Can you wake yourself up from a lucid nightmare?

Yes, you can wake yourself up out of a lucid nightmare since you know you are dreaming. Lucid dreamers use different techniques to intentionally wake themselves up, including:

Opening your eyes

Focus intensely on opening your real physical eyes to rouse yourself from the dreamscape.

Moving your body

Make dream actions mimic movements that would wake you in bed, like flailing your arms. The correspondence between dreamed actions and real body movements triggers waking up.

Shouting out loud

Yell or scream at the top of your lungs while dreaming to shock yourself awake.

Falling backward

In the dream, let yourself fall backward. The sensation elicits the sensation of falling in bed, jolting you awake.

How can you stop lucid nightmares?

Lucid dreamers use the following techniques to prevent nightmares and maintain a peaceful dreamscape:

Stay grounded in the present

Bring your awareness fully into the present moment. Remind yourself that you are dreaming whenever scary content appears.

Face the nightmare

Don’t run away. Move toward fearful characters or situations. They often transform when you confront them.

Change your behavior

Acting kind, brave, playful, or confident influences the dreamscape and characters.

Transform surroundings

Visualize and intend a new positive setting. The dreamscape often morphs in reaction to your thoughts and expectations.

Summon friendly characters

Call on trusted people, spirit guides, or fictional heroes to assist you in the dreamspace. Their presence brings courage and dissipates fear.

Use verbal commands

Direct dream characters and situations with affirmative statements like “Stay calm” or “Let there be peace.”

Practice meditation

Cultivating awareness, focus, and emotional positivity while awake carries over into lucid dreaming. Regular meditation helps maintain tranquility during lucid nightmares.

What triggers lucid nightmares?

Certain triggers provoke frightening lucid dream content, including:

Fear of losing control

The anxiety of losing awareness or control in a lucid dream can inadvertently manifest nightmare scenarios.


Daily stress and anxiety bleeding into the subconscious mind can evoke threatening symbols and situations in lucid dreams.


Unresolved trauma may surface in the dreamspace as terrifying lucid nightmares. They provide opportunities to heal and gain closure by facing your fears.

Sleep paralysis

The REM state of sleep paralysis during hypnagogic hallucinations or upon awakening can generate fearful dream imagery.

Night terrors

For reasons not fully understood, some children experience lucid night terrors with horrific dream content. Thankfully, they tend to resolve by adulthood.

Are lucid nightmares common?

Lucid nightmares are relatively rare compared to typical vivid dreams. Estimates vary, but research suggests between 26% to 50% of lucid dreamers have experienced a lucid nightmare at some point. The likelihood depends on the individual’s subconscious fears, stress levels, and degree of lucid dreaming proficiency. Untrained lucid dreamers tend to report higher instances of accidentally slipping into frightening lucid nightmares. With greater skill, lucid dreamers can minimize unwelcome nightmarish content.

Can lucid nightmares cause harm?

Lucid nightmares may cause temporary distress during the dream due to their frighteningly vivid nature. However, they are not likely to cause any long term psychological harm. If anything, overcoming lucid nightmares can strengthen emotional resilience. Recurring nightmares linked to underlying trauma or anxiety may warrant seeking counseling. But in general, lucid nightmares are not considered dangerous or an adverse symptom needing treatment. Many lucid dreamers even come to embrace them as opportunities to confront fears and empower themselves.


While lucid dreaming provides exciting possibilities, some people worry about inviting nightmares by becoming aware within the dream. But with care and practice, lucid dreamers can minimize unpleasant dreams and even overcome nightmares by directly facing the dark shadows of their subconscious. Ultimately, scary lucid dreams offer opportunities for self-discovery and personal growth by exploring the deeper regions of our psyche.