Getting Stuck in a Dream: Meaning, Cause, and Explanation

Your dreamscape is a fantastical place where you can live out your fantasies.  Dreams can be comforting, especially dreaming of a loved one who has passed on can fill you with peace or have you in a scary situation such as being chased by a dog in a dream. Getting stuck in a dream can be a thrilling and vivid experience, depending on the dream of course. Let’s discover why you get stuck in a dream, what it means, and how you can prevent it from happening.

Dreams about being trapped can be vivid and frightening, anyone can experience these types of dreams 

Can You Get Stuck in a Dream?

Dreams about being trapped can be vivid and frightening, and unfortunately, most people experience these dreams from time to time. Often, the feeling of being trapped manifests from the content of your dream.

For example, your dream self may be lost, physically bound, or enclosed in a small space. Or, you may find yourself in a lucid dream, in which you're aware that you're dreaming but can't make yourself wake up. Dream loops, also called false awakening loops, are also common. In a dream loop, you dream of waking up from a dream. Dream loops create layers, which can make you feel trapped in a disorienting cycle.

Getting "stuck" or feeling trapped in your dreams often accompanies psychological distress. For example, you may be working through interpersonal problems, working long hours, waiting for test results, or dealing with another situation that causes anxiety. Stressful times can instigate a more animated dreamscape, and dreams about being trapped are among the most common nightmares.

What Is Lucid Dreaming?

In a lucid dream, you have lucidity, meaning you're aware that you're dreaming and the events unfolding around you aren't real. You may also have the ability to make decisions for yourself in the dream and have some degree of control over your surroundings. 

However, lucid dreaming is often tied to false awakening loops or the feeling of being stuck in your subconscious. You may be aware that you're dreaming but can't force yourself to wake up, ending the dream. While some people enjoy the creative, imaginative aspects of lucid dreams, others find them disorienting and distressing. 

What Could Cause You to Get Stuck in a Dream? 

As previously mentioned, dreaming of being trapped or getting stuck in a dream often results from stress and anxiety during your waking hours. But aside from psychological distress and big life changes, the following circumstances can also trigger the feeling of being trapped in a dream.

False Awakening Loop

One way you can get "stuck" in a dream is through a dream loop, also known as a false awakening loop. A dream loop is essentially a dream within a dream (or a dream within a dream within a dream, and so on).

In a dream loop, you dream about "waking up" from another dream. Your dream self may get out of bed and start your, only to then wake up for real. Especially in a dream loop with multiple layers, you can feel trapped and afraid that you'll never escape the dream and wake up for real.

Sleep Paralysis 

Sleep paralysis can be a terrifying experience. Dreams where you can't move but are wide awake (usually while dark figures walk around your bed) is sleep paralysis. It occurs when your REM sleep cycle has not completed but your mind is awake (as described in this sleep cycle calculator), there will be a few seconds of delays to the movement signals to your body. Hallucinations typically occur along with sleep paralysis and last just a few seconds.  

Dream Claustrophobia

Lucid dreaming is a wonderful skill that anyone can learn. It means you’ll be able to enter your dreamscape fully conscious, you’ll talk to the characters in your dream and steer the dream where you want it to go. Claustrophobic dreams are when you wake up in the dream but can’t wake up your conscious mind and body. If you have a dream like this, imagine a door to another dreamscape and go through it, although, easier said than done! 

Sleep Deprivation 

Sleep deprivation can cause trapped dreams. Insomnia can make it impossible to sleep at a reasonable hour when you go to bed, you’ll stare at the ceiling all night, finally succumbing to exhaustion an hour or two before you’re due to get up. When your alarm goes off, you’re in such a deep sleep that you may not wake up from the alarm. The sounds that surround you as you sleep can impact your dream themes and make you feel stuck in a dream.  

What Does it Mean to Be Stuck in a Dream?

Dreams about being trapped are a culmination of your emotions about current events in your life and your fears for the future. You’re feeling trapped physically or emotionally, and your subconscious mind is attempting drills to help you get unstuck. 

Bonus: How to Wake Yourself Up From a Dream 

Always remember that you are in complete control of your dream space, it’s your mind, it’s your consciousness, it’s up to you. While your waking life is filled with situations that you have no control over, your dreams are a place where you are the boss. Waking up within a dream is possible by learning lucid dreaming techniques. Becoming aware that you’re dreaming gives you complete control of the dream content. 

If you want to wake up from a dream:

  • Fall asleep in the dream
  • Tell yourself to blink
  • Look for something to read in the dream
  • Try and talk to one of the characters in your dream 
  • Try and taste or smell something in the dream


What Is a Dream Loop?

A dream loop may sound like something from the Twilight Zone, but it's actually a common occurrence. It means you have dreamed that you have woken up in your room and started your day, completely unaware that you are actually dreaming. You wake up again, but this time is for real.

How to Deal With Waking Up During a Dream

Learning how to lucid dream with techniques such as reality testing where you essentially meditate during the day, setting intentions for your dreams, and keeping a dream journal. While you’re dreaming, try and read something in the dream, smell or taste something, or talk to a character in your dream, these actions could help wake you up. 

Can You Be Trapped in a Dream?

Recurring dreams tend to occur around times of stress. In your waking hours, if you are constantly worried about the future or a particular situation, you may have the same dream over and over. Solutions to problems can be found in dreams, keep a dream journal to help you decipher your dreams.  

Can You Get Stuck in a Lucid Dream? 

Lucid dreaming can be learned by anyone and puts you in total control of your dreamscape. While recurring dreams and disorienting dream loops are common during lucid dreams, it is not possible to get actually get stuck. Keep a dream journal on your bedside table and write your dreams down as soon as you wake up. This will help you gain control of your dreams.  

What Does it Mean to Dream of Someone Trying to Wake you Up?

What does it mean when you dream about someone trying to wake you up?Dreaming of someone trying to wake you up could mean you’re looking for a way out of a situation. You may be hoping that someone will come and help you. If you’ve woken up in your dream it can be a prelude to lucid dreaming, a state of dreaming where you’re in control.  


Getting trapped in a house dream or dreaming of being trapped in someone else’s body typically occurs during times of extreme stress. It may sound simplistic that when you’re feeling stuck in real life, you will dream of being physically trapped. But, your dreams are a way to alert you to solutions to your waking issues. 

While you may not have direct control of your dreams, focusing on self care and improving your overall mental health can help combat nightmares. To deal with dreams of being trapped, find ways to manage your daily stress. And remember, there's absolutely no shame in seeking professional help for mental health concerns. 

What practical changes can you make to sleep better, manage stress, and hopefully decrease the frequency of bad dreams? Morning meditation is a great way to start your day on the right note. Eating a healthy diet, drinking lots of water, and enjoying fresh air every day are some simple ways of managing stress. Reach out to loved ones for help if things are getting on top of you, a problem shared is a problem halved and your friends and family will be only too glad to help.   

For the best nights of restful sleep, shop Nolah's natural latex mattress or hybrid mattress now.