The saying, “pinch me, I must be dreaming,” is a bit of a misconception because it assumes we don’t feel pain in our dream state and that isn’t true. There are many people who have reported feeling pain in their dreams or nightmares. If you are one of them, you may want to learn more about feeling pain in dreams.
Can You Really Feel Pain in Your Dreams?
According to scientific research, psychologists will tell you that people can definitely feel pain while in a dream state. Whether it is small like a paper cut or big like getting your foot ran over by a truck, the pain can be all too real even when you are asleep.
According to the studies, there are two types of pain: the phantom and the real. They may make up for fifty percent of everyone’s dreams. “Real” pain is like what happens when your arm falls asleep because of how you are laying. In fact, researchers performed a study where blood pressure cuffs were placed on people’s arms to restrict circulation while they were experiencing REM sleep. These participants reported feeling pain in dreams, whether from a painful dance, a situation where their arm was stuck, or fighting the cuff itself.
What is more uncommon and fascinating is phantom pain: when your brain makes, and plays out the entire scene within the dream, it may pull from memories or from something you’ve seen or read. There are some who will wake from a dream and describe a torture scene or fight scene where the pain is excruciating and unbearable. The pain is gone when the participant wakes because there was no source for physical pain in the real world.
Why Do You Feel Pain in Dreams?
The question is still not fully understood. It is believed that those who experience pain while they are awake are more likely to have painful dream experiences. Some other possibilities include:
- Real life sensations such as pins and needles from a limb falling asleep or a leg cramp, get placed in your dream state as a dog bite or a new tattoo.
- If the pain gets transferred to waking reality, it’s time to take notice. This may be a symptom of problems such as sleep apnea, where your sleep stage transitions are jagged, causing trouble.
- There are some painful dream experiences that may be metaphoric as well, such as resistance to something. In a lucid dream, you can face this pain and wonder why this is happening.
Some People’s Experience of Feeling Pain in Dreams
I really don’t know if others have experienced this, but in some of my dreams I have felt pain. It was an unusual, reoccurring dream that felt like more than a dream. In this dream, there was a snake chasing me and I usually love snakes. I have even owned several pet snakes and don’t have any fear of them. To keep from getting bitten, I would grab the snake with both hands by the neck. It was always too strong and sometimes it would bite my hand. It hurt and even hurt after I woke up. I got sick of fighting it off and one time threw it down, stomped on it and it disintegrated. I quitted having the dream after that.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve had weird dreams and nightmares, and the experience of feeling pain in dreams. It wasn’t the same pain as if I was awake, but it was pain. I got stabbed in my dream, a bunch of times; it felt a bit like when your hand falls asleep, but way worse. When I awoke, none of my limbs were asleep. It was a weird feeling and scared me to get hurt in my dreams.