February 10, 2024

Exploring Lucid Nightmares & The Dangers Of Lucid Dreaming

woman wakened from lucid nightmare

Lucid dreaming sounds awesome the first time you hear about it. Being able to do anything with anyone, anywhere you want, all sounds good in theory but sooner or later you will encounter stories about lucid dreams that went bad. Are these scary lucid dreaming stories just stories or do they have a basis in fact … what are lucid nightmares and do they make lucid dreaming dangerous?

What Is A Lucid Nightmare & Is It Dangerous?

You may have heard stories about scary lucid dreams where the dreamer was wide awake within the dream while they had a terrifying experience.

Some people believe these experiences are not possible or even real for that matter.

Let’s investigate this to see if this is true.

Lucid nightmares are a real phenomenon. Lucid nightmares are uncontrolled lucid dreams where the dreamer is consciously awake within the dream but lacks any real control over it.

Some controlled lucid dreams can also turn into lucid nightmares where the lucid dreamer only has limited control.

Luckily, there are specific techniques that can be used to deal with lucid nightmares effectively.

A lucid nightmare scene

Before we delve deeper into the subject of lucid nightmares, and discover how scary they are and if they are dangerous, you first need to be clear on exactly what a lucid nightmare is.

The proper definition of a lucid nightmare

What exactly is a lucid nightmare and can anyone have one?

A lucid nightmare is a very vivid frightening dream that evokes strong unwanted emotions in the dreamer. It is especially vivid and lifelike.

A lucid nightmare can be a vivid uncontrolled dream.

It can also be a lucid dream that turns into a nightmare at a point where the lucid dreamer loses a lot of control over the dreamworld.

The name lucid nightmare is somewhat misleading.

We know that a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer is completely conscious and in full control of the dreamworld and everything in it. But, this is not what happens in a lucid nightmare.

Most times a lucid nightmare is similar in feel to a lucid dream but that is where the comparison ends.

While a lucid dreamer has full control over everything that happens in their dream, someone experiencing a lucid nightmare usually has no control or only very limited control over what is happening.

Therefore the dreamer is not strictly speaking lucid (in the modern use of the word) in the dream.

The word “lucid” in the term lucid nightmare is merely used to convey the vividness and lifelike experience of the dream in a similar way to the way the word was originally used.

I think it is a shame that the world “lucid” is included in the term lucid nightmare because it is slightly misleading.

Although the original meaning of term lucid dreaming was a description given to any vivid dream, it has changed over the many decades to have a less broad meaning.

English is a living language and words take on new meanings over time (just try to understand the meaning behind the slang words of someone 30 years younger than you and you’ll see what I mean).

Lucid dreaming was a term that was first coined by Frederik Van Eeden to describe any vivid dream, but in modern times the term has evolved to mean vivid, lifelike, controlled dreaming.

A lucid dream is a dream that feels just as real as the everyday waking world feels but without any of its boundaries or limitations.

In other words, a lucid dream feels just as real as real life but you have god-like power of it and everything in it.

While in a lucid dream you have full control over everything, in a lucid nightmare you have either no control at all or very little control.

A lucid nightmare feels just as real as a lucid dream but you are not in total control over it.

The reasons for a lucid nightmare are similar to those for a lucid dream but the dreamer lacks that capacity to take full control over what is happening and thus finds themselves at the mercy of the dream.

This is the exact opposite of what happens in a lucid dream.

Lucid nightmares can be very scary

So we have discovered that lucid nightmares are not exactly the same as lucid dreams.

This is because lucid nightmares are uncontrolled dreams while a normal lucid dream is fully under the dreamer’s control.

But, because a lucid nightmare feels the same as a lucid dream is it scary to have one?

Lucid nightmares are very scary.

In fact, a lucid nightmare can be terrifying because the dream is as vivid and lifelike as a lucid dream but without the control.

The lack of control usually experienced by a lucid dreamer can make things even more frightening.

There is an easy 3 step formula for dealing with lucid nightmares.

Lucid nightmares are not pleasant.

Although lucid dreaming is not scary in and of itself, when a lucid dream turns into a lucid nightmare it can be one of the most frightening things a lucid dreamer ever experiences.

A lucid nightmare is scary because the dreamer has no, or limited, control over what is happening and many times will even find it difficult to control their own movements.

But, you should not be scared to lucid dream simply because of lucid nightmares.

Learning advanced techniques from an effective course is easiest way to eliminate lucid nightmares.

Woman having a nightmare

Using a dream course can also be a very effective way to learn what your subconscious mind is trying to tell you, or attempting to deal with, through the nightmare.

However, although lucid nightmares are often just very vivid dreams, some lucid nightmares do evolve from lucid dreams.

If you are one of those extremely rare individuals (1% of all lucid dreamers) who regularly experiences lucid nightmares there is good news.

I give very specific and detailed information later in this article for changing a lucid nightmare back into a normal lucid dream.

If you are an experienced lucid dreamer you will have no trouble implementing the simple 3 step formula for turning a lucid nightmare into a normal lucid dream.

Lucid nightmares are not as common as you may think

So, you have learned the key difference between a lucid dream and a lucid nightmare. I should also note that lucid dreaming can happen naturally and is much more common than you may imagine. But are lucid nightmares common?

Research into the frequency of lucid nightmares is sparse but at least one study concluded that only 1% of lucid dreamers experience them.

Therefore, lucid nightmares are not common.

It is more common for a lucid dreamer to take control of a nightmare than to experience one.

Although a lucid nightmare can happen to anyone at any time it seems that they are very rare.

With only 1 % of lucid dreamers experiencing lucid nightmares regularly they are far from a common occurrence.

Researchgate posted a study about lucid nightmares in which they found that they are rare and not very common.

However, no one need experience a lucid nightmare.

Even those small group of lucid dreamers who experience lucid nightmares regularly do not need to tolerate them.

As I outline below there is a simple 3 step process that any lucid dreamer can use to take immediate control over a lucid nightmare.

Only 1% of lucid dreamers have lucid nightmares

Lucid dreamers rarely have lucid nightmares.

As I mentioned previously, only 1% of lucid dreamers experience lucid nightmares.


Because the skill of lucid dreaming gives them control over all their dreams, including nightmares.

As I have already covered earlier in this article a lucid nightmare and a lucid dream have very different dream mechanics.

In a lucid nightmare the dreamer is not in control, or only has very limited control, and therefore the dream is not really a lucid dream (at least in terms of what a lucid dream is defined as these days).

The term lucid dream in the 21st Century is commonly used to refer to controlled dreaming.

A lucid nightmare is a term used to mean a vivid nightmare. They are two very different things.

Many lucid dreamers learned the skill of lucid dreaming so they could eliminate the experience of nightmares.

Because a lucid dreamer has full control over the dream they can stop or alter a nightmare anytime they want to.

They can also use the nightmare to teach them things about their own psyche.

However, some lucid nightmares actually started out as lucid dreams.

If you fall into the very tiny percentage of lucid dreamers that are actually fully conscious during a nightmare, but find that you cannot control the dream, you should follow the 3 steps given later in this article.

Before you learn how to use those steps let’s first look at what causes a lucid dream to turn into a lucid nightmare.

Are lucid nightmares dangerous?

We know that nothing bad can happen in a lucid dream, so this should mean that nothing bad can happen to you in a lucid nightmare either.

But many people still wonder if there are hidden dangers involved with learning to lucid dream. Is lucid dreaming dangerous and are lucid nightmare dangerous?

Lucid dreaming is not dangerous. It is the same as normal dreaming except you are consciously aware and control over the dream. 

Likewise, lucid nightmares are not dangerous.

However, they can be very frightening and very upsetting.

The only potential danger a lucid nightmare poses is to your mental and emotional wellbeing upon waking but the effects rarely last very long.

There is a simple 3 step process for dealing with lucid nightmares.

Below are some of the common misconceptions about the dangers associated with lucid dreaming.

These apply equally well to lucid nightmares.

In a lucid dream or a lucid nightmare:

Sometimes a lucid nightmare, (and a lucid dream), can lead to sleep paralysis which is not very pleasant.

Although sleep paralysis may be unpleasant it cannot cause you any physical harm.

Read this article on lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis to learn more about this topic and for ways to effectively stop it from happening to you.

Causes Of Lucid Dreams Turning Into Lucid Nightmares

If you are a regular and experienced lucid dreamer there are a few things that can cause your lucid dream to turn into a lucid nightmare.

5 causes for a lucid dreaming becoming a lucid nightmare:

  1. Allowing fear to overcome you in the dream.
  2. Trying to wake yourself from a scary situation instead of controlling it.
  3. Looking into mirrors.
  4. Thinking about scary stuff.
  5. Staying in a fun scary scene too long.

Allowing fear to overcome you in the dream

By far the most common cause for experiencing a full blown conscious lucid nightmare while in a lucid dream is allowing fear to overtake you in the dream.

As everything you think can become real in a lucid dream, if you think scary things, scary things are likely to happen.

Trying to wake yourself from a scary situation instead of controlling it

Sometimes your subconscious mind will through something at you in a lucid dream to get your attention.

Sometimes this will be something scary.

Rather than trying to waken yourself from the dream you should instead regain control over the dreamworld and assert your authority over the dream.

Either change the dream, move location instantly, change the scary thing or ask it what it represents.

By trying to wake yourself up you are giving your power away to to the dream and giving in to your fear.

This will likely cause you to become more anxious and afraid, especially if you do not wake up immediately.

Looking into mirrors

Mirrors tend to act strangely in lucid dreams as I covered in the article what happens if you look in a mirror in a lucid dream.

Many times when you look into a mirror you will see a distorted image of yourself or even something completely alien or demonic.

woman looking in lucid dream mirror scary

This can make you feel scared, which in turn can fuel additional negative feelings and thoughts which manifest in your dream.

This mirror anomaly is not the case for every lucid dreamer but it is common enough to mention here.

So looking into mirrors is something you should avoid doing, at least in the early days of your lucid dreaming journey.

Thinking about scary stuff while in the dream

Because a lucid dream will fold to your will, anything you think about tends to become a fact or an experience within a lucid dream.

This is especially the case in the early days of your lucid dreaming, before you really hone your lucid dreaming skills.

If you think about scary things in a lucid dream, scary things will probably appear.

If you find yourself starting to think about scary things just reverse those thoughts.

Then start thinking about fun stuff or simply will yourself to a different location to break your current thought cycle.

Staying in a fun scary scene too long

Experiencing scary things in a lucid dream can have some benefits. Yes, seriously it can!

Nightmares are the subconscious mind’s way of dealing with things that happen in the real world.

By investigating a lucid nightmare, or just a standard nightmare, you can uncover and heal some very deep issues.

This can become addictive.

Doing scary things and having scary experiences in a lucid dream can also be a lot of fun.

If you are the type of person who loves scary movies then you can get a kick out of having the odd scary lucid dream (as long as you stay in control of it).

But whether you use lucid nightmares for personal growth, or just for fun, be sure that you don’t stay in the nightmare too long.

The longer you stay in the nightmare the greater is the chance of losing conscious control and things can start going bad.

Do the inner work, or enjoy a few slight scares, and then change the dream to something pleasant.

Likewise, you should not continually visit or revisit the same nightmares. Have a balanced view between personal growth, fun and common sense.

How To Take Control Of A Lucid Nightmare In 3 Simple Steps

As promised, here is a simple 3 step formula for changing any lucid nightmare into a normal lucid dream in which you have complete control.

3 simple steps to turn a lucid nightmare into a lucid dream:

  1. Create a safe place.
  2. Visualize yourself into that safe environment.
  3. From there choose to wake up, change the dream or learn from the nightmare.

Step 1. Create a safe place

Lucid nightmares do not have to haunt your lucid dreams.

Even if you are someone who has never experienced a lucid nightmare I recommend you create a safe place within your lucid dreams.

Creating a safe place is as simple as constructing a specific environment, such as a room, garden, house, cabin etc., that represents safety to you.

You can give this a lot of thought and design it to suit your needs or you can simply “will it” into being during a lucid dream or ask the dream itself to create it.

Once you have created this safe place enter it and really feel that nothing can harm you while you remain there and know that nothing can penetrate that space.

This is your personal and private space and it is for you alone.

The more you visit this safe place the more real and safe it will feel to you.

I therefore suggest you visit this safe place for a minute or two at the start or end of every lucid dream you have.

Step 2. Visualize yourself into that safe environment

When you are in a lucid nightmare simply visualize or “will” yourself into your safe place.

If need be you can call out to the dream that you want to be in your safe place and you will be instantly transported there.

But what if you never created a safe place?

If you find yourself in a lucid nightmare and have not already created a safe place then simply “will yourself” into a safe place without giving it any form in your mind.

Just “will yourself” to be transported somewhere safe. You can also tell the dream to take you somewhere safe where nothing can follow you.

Step 3. Wake up, change location or learn what the nightmare is trying to teach you

At this point in your dream you will have already changed the lucid nightmare into a normal lucid dream simply by relocating to a safe environment.

You will have almost certainly regained full control over the dream and can now decide what your next course of action will be.

Take a moment or two to catch your breath and relax.

You now have three options.

  1. You can decide if you want to wake up in the real world (option 1).
  2. Exit the dream and immediately re-enter the dream state in a more pleasant environment with more pleasurable experiences (option 2).
  3. And then there is option 3 which I believe is the best – change the entire dreamworld.

Instead of waking up, or simply changing the dream, why not take the time to ask your subconscious mind what it was trying to tell you through the nightmare.

Delve into the dream meaning to discover what issues/challenges/fears your subconscious mind is trying to address through the dream.

Wakened from nightmare

Then ask what steps you need to take to resolve the issue or heal the situation/fear/pain.

Doing this will help you to make a profound steps forward in your own inner personal development.

Simultaneously it will ensure you never experience that nightmare again either lucidly or non-lucidly.

Recap: The Dangers Of Lucid Dreaming & The Truth About Lucid Nightmares

So, now that you know what lucid nightmares are and that they sometimes stem from lucid dreams you may be wondering if lucid dreaming is good or bad.

Lucid dreams are good for many reasons.

Lucid dreams can be used to experience your fantasies as though they were real and to do things you never could in the waking world.

They can also help you in all areas of your life from self reflection to improving real-world skills.

Lucid dreaming offers many benefits – including real world benefits. As well as being an excellent tool for personal growth and for improving real-world skills you can even use lucid dreaming to make you smarter and to help you study.

And, let’s not forget lucid dreaming allows you to experience all your fantasies as though they were really happening.

The truth is, lucid dreaming is well worth the effort. It is even worth having to learn how to deal with lucid nightmares and sleep paralysis for those small percentage of lucid dreamers who experience them.

If you want to know why you should definitely learn to lucid dream read this article.

You’ll be amazed at just how much lucid dreaming can improve your life.

Be aware also that just as you can learn how to lucid dream you can also learn how to stop having lucid dreams any time you want so there is no reason not to learn this amazing skill today.