Posted by: beagle4 | April 18, 2011

Oww.. That Hurts

It wasn’t until I read Reality Shifter’s post titled, “How Physical Pain Finds Its Way Into Our Dreams“, that I realized that some people experience physical pain while dreaming. Reality Shifter is a blog I recently found that explores consciousness, dreams, and mind enhancement. I have created a page tab on my blog linking to the blog.

Personally, I have never felt any pain in a dream regardless if I was feeling pain in the waking life. According to Kris, the author of the blog, physical pain is capable of crossing the border between waking and dreaming. She explained that after she injured her foot in the waking world, she felt the same intense pain in the dream world when she went to sleep. Even weirder, some dreamers have experienced the opposite effect; a dreamer would dream that they were injured, and when they woke up they would feel severe pain in the same part of the body that was injured during the dream. These examples pose an interesting question: what is the connection between mind and body when it comes to dreaming pain? Currently little is known about the relationship of pain to dreaming.

It is known that pain is caused by the brain. If you stub your toe, it hurts simply because your brain tells you it does. Pain medication simply stops the pain signal from ever reaching the brain. One of the benefits of dreaming is the ability to control dreams once you enter a lucid state. Dreamers usually attempt to fly, travel through time, and basically do whatever they want within the confines of the dream world. Dreams allow the ability to test ideas and take risks with no harm to the dreamer. If you feel physical pain when you wake up from an injury that occurred in the dream world, you may not want to attempt flying in a dream.

I found an article published in 2002 in Sleep, a monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal, regarding pain felt in dreams of hospitalized burn victims. From the study it was concluded that localized painful sensations can be experience in dreams either through direct incorporation or from past memories of pain. Twenty-eight burn victims (24 men, 4 women) were interviewed and asked about dream content, quality of sleep, and pain intensity during the first week of their hospitalization. From the study, 39% of the patients reported at least one pain dream. There was a total of 19 pain dreams out of 63 (about 30%) from the test subjects. Patients with pain dreams experienced worse sleep and more nightmares, then those without pain dreams. On the other hand, the frequency of pain dreams from healthy subjects is low (approximately 1 out of 170 dreams reported by healthy participants).

Another study from another article from Sleep Journal, explains that pain was absent from both a collection of 80 and 100 dream reports submitted. This low frequency of dreamed pain could reflect the fact that pain is relatively infrequent in waking life and therefore it is not mirrored in dream life. This could be the reason why I do not experience pain in my dreams; I have never broken a bone, been to the hospital, and usually hardly ever feel pain. The article also explains another study where five subjects (2 male, 3 female), who had reported one instance of dreamed pain in previous studies, were used as test subjects. This test included the use of pressure stimulation; each subject wore a blood pressure cuff above either their right or left knee. After at least 5 minutes of REM sleep, a reduction of blood pressure (ischemia) was applied by inflating the cuff on the patient. Pain dreams occurred 13 time out of 42 total stimulation trails (about 31% of the time). The results show that when pain is directly applied, the dream world sometimes incorporates this pain.

On the plus side, if you do not experience pain in dreams, you can use the lack of pain as a trigger for lucidity. This could be another easy to perform reality check that you can use to see if you are dreaming (I discussed this topic in my video blog post).

Now just close your eyes and dream… and try to be careful not to injure yourself…



  1. I used to have regular dream that I was falling from the sky. It happened almost every night. It was actually pretty scary, but I always seemed to wake up before I felt the excruciating pain of slamming into a concrete slab. I have been shot before in dreams, and it does hurt. Interesting post.

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