Why do we always wake up at the climax of our dreams, even when it is an alarm that wakes us?

Why do we always wake up at the climax of our dreams, even when it is an alarm that wakes us?

I know that it probably has something to do with the fact that our dreams didn't really end at the same time our alarm clock rang, our brains just make us think so for some reason.

There are two possibilities. One is that we do tend to wake up more at the climax of dreams, and that somehow our dreams can sync up with external input like an alarm clock so that the climax of the dream occurs at the same time as the alarm going off. The second is that this doesn't actually happen; the alarm is just as likely to go off at the climax of the dream as it is at any other point.

If the second situation is true, then why do you end up feeling like you always wake up at the climax of the dream? One explanation is confirmation bias. This is an established bias of human memory, in which we selectively remember events that confirm our ideas, and neglect the events that disconfirm them. In this situation, you have the idea that you always wake up at the climax of dreams, so your memory is biased towards times where you actually did wake up at the climax of dreams. However, there are likely many times where you woke up not during the climax of the dream, but these are less memorable because they don't fit your expected pattern.

I'd reckon this can be due to the chance of you remembering the dream when you wake up. When your dream was mundane (i.e. emotionless), you probably have no reason to remember it - when awake. (see The neuropsychology of REM sleep dreaming for more on the noradrenergic and serotonergic influences on sleeping)

While sleeping, only small time-periods (usually 90 minutes) you're actually dreaming, which can result in short of (speculating) time-gaps between periods of the dream. When you were dreaming of something climatically, you can (just as well) leave your dream state, without you noticing it (Waking up properly: is there a role of thermoregulation in sleep inertia. So when the alarm bells ring, you think you were just in a climaxical (word?) dream, while in real life the clock went on.

I must say, this sounds like an interesting research question, although it might be hard to test, because you need the right kinds of dreams (perhaps TMS can provoke them during sleep). Since dreaming happens during REM sleep, we should are able to tell whether you dreaming (regardless of whether or not you will remember later), based on your brain waves (or using EOG).

Finally, since dreams are pretty familiar to us, they are just as mysterious, so one might think of loads of reasons for it (Dreaming and the brain: from phenomenology to neurophysiology, or, or)… Worth while thinking of it

From my personal interest and research into dreaming over 12 years, I ask you to consider that the climax of a dream may actually be caused by the alarm ringing.

There has been long standing hypothesis that real life content gets incorporated into one's dreams. This phenomenon is rather unpredictable, and an example would be seeing lightning strikes in a dream in response to real life light flashes.

From personal experiences - I've frequently been puzzled by waking up a second or so ahead of perceived alarm going off. I hypothesize that this perception is false, and the alarm has been going off for some time before I awoke. Due to the high intensity of an alarm, I hypothesize that the awakening process somehow influences the intensity of dream imagery.

Regarding the confirmation bias - it can also play a part in your question. Once again, from anecdotal evidence, there are many occasions where the dream just fades into blackness and a person slowly gains the sensation of laying in bed (no alarm).

Causes of Vivid Morning Dreams

Sanja Jelic, MD is board-certified in pulmonary disease, sleep medicine, critical care medicine, and internal medicine. She is an assistant professor and attending physician at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, NY .

You may recall morning dreams more often—and more vividly—than other dreams. That's due to the stages of sleep and how they relate to dreaming.

The vivid nature of morning dreams and how "real" they sometimes feel make some people wonder if these dreams are more likely to come true, or if they're related to deja vu. Experts believe this phenomenon is related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages that occur towards morning combined with your brain playing a trick on you.

Yes, women orgasm in their sleep. Science explains why.

I am fast asleep when I begin to have a sex dream that feels unusually real. The dream progresses, and suddenly, I feel a rush of pleasure throughout my body. I wake up and think, I orgasmed in my sleep! Did I orgasm in my sleep? Is that even possible?

Turns out—yes, yes, and yes. Sleep orgasms are completely real. "There’s an actual physical orgasm,” said Madeleine Castellanos, a psychiatrist and sex therapist practicing in New York City. “Most people, when they wake up, will remember having an erotic dream," she said. Yet while men will have physical evidence of an orgasm (yes, male sleep orgasms are better known as "wet dreams"), women will have only the memory.

Which is why, for women, sleep orgasms can be confusing. There’s no proof they happen, so many women wonder: Was it just a dream, or did my body really climax? As Castellanos explained to Fusion, despite our bodies being in a "paralyzed" state during rapid eye movement (or REM) sleep—when sleep orgasms are most likely to occur—the brain is technically still on and can feel an orgasm.

Stress Dreams: Why Do We Have Them ― and How to Stop?

Contributors: Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM and Alexa Kane, PsyD.

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There are a lot of areas of sleep that science and medicine can understand and explain. But dreams are an entirely different territory, as the question ‘why we dream’ remains largely unanswered.

Vivid and frequent dreaming is often left open to interpretation through things like dream dictionaries and discussing with friends. Did that dream about your ex-boss really mean you have pent-up guilt and anxiety about your last job? Frequently having stress or anxiety-ridden dreams is usually a red flag for real life stress and the role it’s playing on your body. If you’re constantly waking up panicking in a cold sweat over a dream, it’s time to get your thoughts and stress in order.

Stress: we all have it, but it doesn’t have to control us

Stress is an emotional, physical or mental tension that results from something that’s outside of us.

Some of the bigger stressors or stressful life events include moving to a new place, changing roles at school or work, relationship issues or losing a family member. Stress can cause sleep difficulties, including insomnia, by making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. This impacts the quality of rest. Stress can also cause hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.

Being stressed is associated with poor sleep in general, and may trigger more frequent dreams. So it’s not uncommon to experience a distressing dream prior to a big event like a job interview, taking an exam or an important appointment.

And although there’s limited research about controlling the content of dreams, anxiety dreams can generally be a result of increased stress during our day-to-day lives. Daily stress can also increase the frequency of these dreams.

The good news? You have a great deal of control over your stress. If you learn to better manage stress in your life, you’ll likely decrease anxiety-ridden dreams and improve your sleep.

Here are four simple strategies to help your mind and body relax before turning in for the night:

  • Spend time winding down before bed: This can be thought of as a “buffer zone,” which is a period of time to allow the activating processes in the brain to wind down and allow your sleep system to take over. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to start about an hour before bedtime. During this time, engage in relaxing activities that you enjoy like reading or listening to music.
  • Schedule “worry time”: If you’re finding it difficult to control your worrying prior to bedtime, scheduling a specific time when you’re allowed to worry may help. Find a time that’s convenient for you and write down your concerns. Limit the time to a specific amount and stick to it by planning something to do afterward. For example, you can plan 15 minutes in the evening, before your favorite TV show.
  • Think of your bedroom as a place just for sleep, sex and pleasant activities: Try to limit the time you spend in bed worrying or being anxious. If you find yourself lying awake in bed stressed out, leave the bedroom and spend time in another room until you feel sleepy.
  • Practice relaxation techniques: There are other ways to relax while getting ready for bed, such as breathing exercises, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation movements. (You can even check out free apps that help guide you through these exercises.) These techniques can be some of the most critical aspects of stress management and you can use them close to bedtime or throughout your day.

When you wake up panicking at 3 a.m.

We’ve all been there – a nightmare or stress dream causes you to wake up. The next thing you know you’re lying there overthinking your finances and everything you have to do the next day.

When this happens, what can you do to get back to sleep?

  • Stop watching the clock: Counting the minutes will only heighten your distress. Turn your alarm clock around and don’t pick up your phone.
  • Try to relax your body: Use a relaxation strategy that helped prior to bed to relax your body and mind.
  • Get out of bed: If you can’t fall back to sleep after a stressful dream, then try getting out of bed to help decrease the frustration. Don’t spend time in bed hopelessly trying to get back to sleep or interpreting your dream. (If your dream caused you anxiety, you may find yourself attempting to interpret it. But this can further increase the worry. This process will result in your brain associating your bed with stress and not sleeping well.) Once you leave your bed, find an activity that is uninteresting or boring. When you start to get drowsy, go back to bed.

Since dreams obviously aren’t measurable, there’s no real answer to what meaning they hold in our day-to-day life. But we do know that we generally have control over daily stress, which can trigger weird or anxiety-clad dreams. Learning to control the crazy and manage your stress is your best defense to help you sleep peacefully.


The Large Intestine is responsible for elimination. It works with the Lungs to cleanse the body of food waste, toxins, excess hormones, and even our emotions. It energetically represents the ability to “let go” and release the need to control. A lot of people normally wake up between these hours, but if that is abnormal for your sleep patterns, consider the Large Intestine’s meaning which might lend some insight.


Balanced: Releasing, Ability to Express Emotions (including crying), Flexibility Imbalanced: Rigidity, Stubbornness, Controlling, Inability to Let Go


Constipation, IBS, Diarrhea, Colitis, Hemorrhoids, Diverticulitis, Bloating, Food Allergies, Chronic Fatigue

Because the Large Intestine is closely related to the Lungs in Chinese Medicine, waking at this time can also mean there are buried feelings of grief or sadness, or also a need for control. Look to your diet and hydration if there are bowel irregularities during these hours or in general.


Drink more water (general recommendation is half of you body weight in ounces a day), regular exercise, get natural fiber from vegetables and dark leafy greens, avoid many cold-raw foods and cold drinks which can constrict intestines + slow gastric motility, eat more warm + cooked foods


What are you holding onto? Are you allowing yourself to let go and make room for the new in your life? What are your expectations of others? Can you allow people to be themselves or a situation to unfold without trying to control an outcome?

Ask a Doctor: Why Do I Have Disturbing Dreams Right Before I Wake Up?

About 8 percent of people 15 to 44 reported experiencing these, a Stanford University study found.

You feel like you&rsquore still asleep during these episodes, but you&rsquore actually in the transitional time between sleep and wakefulness.

Because you&rsquore not actually asleep when they occur, these &ldquodreams&rdquo aren&rsquot dreams at all&mdashthat&rsquos why they&rsquore officially referred to as hallucinations.

Your brain is in a semi-awake/semi-asleep state: Part of it is still in rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep&mdashthe deep stage of sleep where our brain is more active, allowing for intense dreams.

As you begin to rouse, the dream-like imagery of REM sleep intrudes into your waking state. This causes you to experience the hallucinations.

Hypnopompic hallucinations can be visual (you &ldquosee&rdquo a scene or situation in your mind), auditory (you think you hear something, like a knock on the door or someone calling your name), or tactile (you feel like something is touching you, such as a spider crawling over your skin).

You can experience this in regular dreams when you are sleeping, too. But because these hallucinations seem so vivid, they can seem especially disturbing and frightening.

While anyone can experience hypnopompic hallucinations, they are more common in people who spend more time in REM sleep.

This can be due to sleep deprivation, certain medications like tricyclic antidepressants, or even sleep disorders like narcolepsy.

Many people experience vivid hypnopompic hallucinations along with the sleep paralysis&mdasha condition in which you&rsquore fully conscious, but unable to speak or move upon waking&mdashwhich can make the experience even scarier. Sleep paralysis affects up to 5 percent of the population.

You can try to cut down on the hypnopompic hallucination episodes by reducing your risk factors for them&mdashnamely, sleep deprivation. That means maintaining a more regular sleep cycle and making sure to sleep a solid 7 to 8 hours each night.

Not all hypnopompic hallucinations need to be treated by a professional.

But in my practice, those that occur frequently&mdashsay, 3 or 4 times a week&mdashand are distressing enough to impair the person&rsquos sleep quality or daytime function should be evaluated and managed.

If your hypnopompic hallucinations are hitting that benchmark&mdashespecially if you feel really sleepy during the day&mdashyou should make an appointment with your doctor.

In those cases, they may be signaling a more serious condition, like narcolepsy.

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea, also known as obstructive sleep apnoea, “is a relatively common condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, interrupting normal breathing,” as the NHS describes, which “may lead to regularly interrupted sleep”. This condition can be caused by several factors, including a narrow airway, nasal congestion, smoking, alcohol, and being overweight according to the NHS. While sleep apnoea can often be one of the main reasons for waking up pretty early in your sleep, conditions like insomnia can also be the reason for interrupted sleep.

Causes of Vivid Morning Dreams

Sanja Jelic, MD is board-certified in pulmonary disease, sleep medicine, critical care medicine, and internal medicine. She is an assistant professor and attending physician at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, NY .

You may recall morning dreams more often—and more vividly—than other dreams. That's due to the stages of sleep and how they relate to dreaming.

The vivid nature of morning dreams and how "real" they sometimes feel make some people wonder if these dreams are more likely to come true, or if they're related to deja vu. Experts believe this phenomenon is related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep stages that occur towards morning combined with your brain playing a trick on you.

It isn’t easy to wake up early each and every single morning. But with science proving that it provides so many positive results, it can’t be all bad. As a matter of fact, it may completely transform your everyday life. While not everyone is able to wake up early, if you can, it’s certainly worth giving a try. With a little effort and some routine changes, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying these incredible, scientifically-proven benefits of waking up early. Hypnagogia, The State Between Sleep And Wakefulness, Is Key To Creativity

We're all familiar with the two basic states of consciousness: sleep and wakefulness. But what about what happens in between those states?

In the borderlands between wakefulness and rest is a strange and fascinating state of consciousness characterized by dream-like visions and strange sensory occurrences. Psychologists call this stage "hypnagogia," but centuries before they created a term for it, artists were using the hypnagogic state to tap into some of their best ideas.

Surrealist artist Salvador Dali called hypnagogia "the slumber with a key," and he used it as creative inspiration for many of his imaginative paintings.

"You must resolve the problem of ‘sleeping without sleeping,’ which is the essence of the dialectics of the dream, since it is a repose which walks in equilibrium on the taut and invisible wire which separates sleeping from waking," Dali wrote in the book 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship.

Mary Shelley, too, said she got the inspiration for Frankenstein from a "waking dream" in the wee hours of the morning, writing, "I saw with eyes shut, but acute mental vision," according to The Guardian.

During this state, the mind is "fluid and hyperassociative," giving rise to images that can "express layers of memories and sensations," dream researcher Michelle Carr explained in a Psychology Today blog.

Similar to REM sleep -- the state of deep sleep when our dreams occur -- the mind is cycling through thoughts, ideas, memories and emotions, making free and often distant associations between diverse concepts. But unlike REM, during hypnagogia you're conscious enough to be at least partially aware of what's going on.

"There can be fragments of rapid eye movement sleep occurring in a non-REM state when the individual is not yet fully asleep," Dr. Milena Pavlova, a neurologist studying sleep and circadian disorder at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told The Huffington Post.

There's a good chance you've experienced hypnagogia before, even though you may not have known exactly what was going on. Little research has been conducted on hypnagogia, but here's a look at what we know about its mysterious workings.

Between Sleeping And Waking

The term hypnagogia comes from the Greek words for "sleep" and "guide," suggesting the period of being led into slumber.

In this state, which lasts a few minutes at most, you're essentially in limbo between two states of consciousness. You experience some elements of sleep mixed with some aspects of wakefulness, explains Pavlova.

"You wind up in the state somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, and you experience some phenomena of sleep while you are still able to be awake and remember them," she told The Huffington Post.

What's going on in the brain to create this trippy state of consciousness? Scientists have observed the presence of both alpha brain waves -- which are the dominant brain wave mode when we are conscious but relaxed, for instance when daydreaming or meditating -- and theta brain waves, which are associated with restorative sleep, during hypnagogia. Typically, these brain waves occur only separately, and it may be the unique combination that gives rise to unusual visions and sensations.

The state is also marked by reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is involved in planning, decision-making and social behavior.

In some ways, hypnagogia is the best of both worlds. You get the free flow of ideas and associations that occurs during REM sleep -- when the brain reviews and processes memories, thoughts and feelings -- but you're still awake enough to be somewhat conscious of what's going on.

For this reason, some artists have found hypnagogia to be a rich source of ideas and inspiration.

Vivid Visions

Hypnagogia is trippy, and can give rise to some bizarre visual and perceptual hallucinations. It's common for people to experience dream-like visions, sounds, flashes of color, insights, sensations and barely formed thoughts.

“Typically, there is a lot of visual imagery,” Deirdre Barrett , a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School, told ScienceLine. ”Sometimes static images, sometimes short-moving segments and occasionally longer narratives more like REM sleep dreams. Sounds also accompany this state sometimes.”

When these images are too vivid or disturbing, however, they can be indications of something more serious -- a sleep disorder called hypnagogic hallucinations. These types of highly realistic visions are also common in narcolepsy.

"That means seeing things that are not there upon falling asleep," Pavlova said. "That's the disordered function of this."

What's happening is that the switches in your brain are turning from wakefulness to sleep, but haven't fully synchronized.

"Part of your brain is still in the waking world and part of it is not, and so you see this that are not there," she explains. "It's very similar to the dreaming stages of sleep."

For those without sleep disorders, hypnagogia can be used to generate creative insights, as it provides a clear path to the subconscious, intuitive mind that is the source of "aha!" moments that arise seemingly out of nowhere when the rational mind is occupied elsewhere.

“Hypnagogia is the shortest path for communication from our subconscious," Sirley Marques Bonham, a consciousness researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, told ScienceLine. "Your subconscious mind might send you solutions through imagery or other sensations.”

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