Lucid Dreams Vs Out-of-Body Experiences

Guest post by Sofia Andrewski:

Are lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences (OBEs) the same thing? Many people are inclined to argue that they are both internally generated dream-based experiences, with no real discernible difference. Practitioners of both or either phenomena often argue about the perceived distinction—but is there one?

Lucid dreams are generally quite easy to define; they are simply dreams where the mind awakens so that the agent becomes aware that they are dreaming, or enters the dream still aware, if they induce it from a waking state.

OBEs on the other hand, are slightly more complicated; only some elements cross over with lucid dreams. However, an OBE occurs when your consciousness transfers temporarily into the environment outside the body. It often involves interacting with the world we are familiar with, in addition to other places more dream-like, in that they are thought-responsive and possess fantastic or unrealistic features.

The shared elements of lucid dreams and OBEs are enough for many to equate them. For the purpose of this article, I am assuming one does not automatically dismiss the possibility of a genuine OBE due to materialistic tendencies, which I think would be a mistake.

One might wonder why the distinction matters, but to many regular OBErs, the relegation of the experience to the “dream” category is to say the phenomenon is a self-generated illusion, even though many believe they are accessing another level of reality, not just their subconscious. This is not to say, however, that OBEs are in any way “better” than lucid dreams.

Not just OBErs stand to gain from the promotion of sleeping phenomena to “real” as opposed to “illusory”. Dreaming, under certain paradigms, are portals to other worlds, not just their own, that is, one may leave the subconscious and tap into something else entirely during these excursions.

This is another reason why the two are shoved into the same box. If dreaming allows the access to other realities, then lucid dreams are OBEs without the initial sensation of leaving the body. Thus, says the critic, they must both be kinds of dream, which to most people still means “unreal”, somehow forgetting the assumption that both allow the exploration of independent realities.

Difference between lucid dreams and out of body experiences

The question becomes, do they differ? I have been lucky in that I have experienced many OBEs and lucid dreams; it is hard to judge the subtle differences otherwise. Over time it became clear that there are some key features that signal out what phenomena I am experiencing. The main signal for OBEs comes from the sensations immediately before an out-of-body trip; as the body falls to sleep, the mind is usually still aware of the surrounding environment (at least if the OBE has been induced from the waking state), and perceives a variety of interesting sensations. These include intense vibrations roaming through the body, loud noises, and being pulled up and out into the external environment. There is generally a perception of attachment with the body, and a back-of-the-mind awareness of its presence and needs.

Additionally, the return to the body often feels like one is being dragged back in, often seeing the body before reuniting with it. There tends to be a continuation of consciousness when returning to waking reality; instead of waking up, it is more like opening the eyes after blinking. Thought streams continue uninterrupted. These peculiarities distinguish OBEs from lucid dreams.

It is true that both lucid dreams and OBEs can be incredibly vivid. This is something they share. I think it would be wrong to equate them on these grounds however; under this reasoning alone, one could argue that as so-called “waking life” is also vivid, it could also be a kind of dream. It would be interesting to put people in a brain scanner to see what is going on in each of these states. Are they both always associated with REM—which we would expect in lucid dreams at least—or certain parts of the brain? Maybe this would help answer questions about how they differ. Unfortunately, this is very expensive, and consciousness research can be rather materialistic, providing little incentive for research in this area.

One might argue, if OBEs are so different to lucid dreams, if they really happen in an external reality, then why has there been so little veridical evidence to prove it? Anthony Peake explores this question in his book, The Out-of-Body Experience. It is a very good question. Whilst many experiments have come up with some interesting results, they are generally inconclusive.

The problem lies in the fact many OBErs believe they really are travelling in the actual physical world; often they float about their house or street and naturally assume they are interacting with the world they know and understand. Scientists and experimenters set up tests based on this assumption.

However, in my opinion, as well as Peake's, this is not what is really happening. The Real Time Zone (RTZ) refers to the physical plane in out-of-body literature and discourse. As we saw, OBErs often assume this is where they are during an OBE—a belief reinforced if they see their physical body lying asleep on the bed.

From my own experience, it is more accurate to say that we enter a "filter" world. To understand this, one can think about the image-designing programme Photoshop. To create an image, one layer of say text, or a transparent image, is placed upon a base layer. Within the designed image, layers are accessed and edited separately. This means we see much of the base layer but superimposed are other bits belonging to other layers, although it looks like a single image.

Similarly, during an OBE, much of physical reality—the base layer—is visible. Whilst out-of-body, other parts of reality are superimposed upon this backdrop. This can include thought-forms, subconscious projections, and other beings, even one's own “astral” body. The OBEr is on another plane of existence, but they can still view some of the RTZ if they are close enough to it.

This explains why during experiments an OBEr might get many details correct but be totally out on certain other details, or even misread things completely, if the subconscious mind is projecting stuff all over the place. It also explains a common OBE phenomenon; a familiar room may appear an exact replica of one on Earth except one thing will be out of place.

For example, many times during an OBE I have been confused as to why there was a light switched on in my bedroom, when I knew perfectly well it was night time and all the lights were off. I would then realise that the light in question did not actually exist on the physical plane at all. It is almost as if my subconscious projected a light source into the room in order to make it easier to me to navigate in the dark. Other lamps or light switches in the room, which belonged there, I could not influence or switch on, suggesting that these were genuinely part of physical reality. In lucid dreams however, I have no problem manipulating all these elements.

It is understandable that OBEs and lucid dreams can be confused with each other. I can imagine many practitioners saying, “I can't switch lights on in lucid dreams.” This might mean they are in fact becoming lucid in an OBE rather than a dream. Likewise, an OBEr might assume they have become lucid whilst “out” rather than in a vivid lucid dream, leading them to believe they are really interacting with physical reality. This is especially the case in extremely vivid lucid dreams and during OBEs with poor lucidity.

OBEs and lucid dreams induced from a waking state avoid such confusions—generally, the sensations during transition and the extra clarity help point to which reality stream one is entering. However, many times these phenomena are spontaneous and the entrance signals of either completely missed.

The differences can be subtle indeed, as both are part of the consciousness spectrum. OBEs are less about purely self-generated worlds, and more about interacting with other external realities, involving other conscious beings. Like colour on a spectrum, two shades may be of different hues but the same colour. This does not mean they are in fact identical.

Additionally, these “external” realities may still be accessed through internal processes—something Peake makes a strong argument for in his book. Perhaps we do in fact travel inwards during an OBE, but this “turning in” feels like we are travelling externally because we are entering a filtered world that partly maps our own.

Lucid dreams and OBEs are reminiscent of intersecting Venn diagrams; they overlap in many ways. If we consider consciousness to play an active part in the construction of reality—a theory becoming more and more popular, largely thanks to quantum physics, and the work of the likes of Tom Campbell—then both possess a kind of reality; they both represent a truth about the world, just maybe not the physical world.

We should continue to test in these areas, in whatever way that makes sense for the kinds of places one accesses during these experiences, if we really want to understand what we even mean by reality. The philosophical sense of reality is something that maps the truth of what's really there–however, if consciousness is the centre, there may not be any such thing as “true out there, independent of us,” only “true in here”. This hypothesis is both exciting and mind-boggling, and could transform the debate.

© Sofia Andrewski 2013

Sofia Andrewski BA (Philosophy and Classics) is a freelance writer and keen explorer of the mysterious and intriguing aspects of life. She writes extensively in the area of philosophy, ethics, spirituality, holistic lifestyles and nutrition, as well as dabbling in fiction. These topics are the focus of her blog. To read more, visit

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21 comments on “Lucid Dreams Vs Out-of-Body Experiences
  1. Sas Beuk says:

    I've been reading about OBE's a bit myself and I also noticed in a lot of texts some parallels between OBE and Lucid dreaming. So this was really informative to me. Though I still have a few questions, in hope someone here maybe could help me with; This term "Astral projecting" I came across the internet discribes also something like an OBE or a lucid dream. But I've also noticed that people argue that it's not an OBE. So what do people exactly mean by 'Astral Projecting'?? And the other question is; I've read about people who experience paralysis during OBE's, (or entitiy encounters during their sleeps, I don't know if these phenomena can ben classified as OBE's??). Why do some people have this, while others don't?

    • Sofia Andrewski says:

      Hello. I think the reason why some people class astral projecting as not a real OBE is because they assume that anything that doesn't happen in the Real Time Zone lacks any kind of reality, or they equate it with a lucid dream. This is probably because many times during an astral projection the experiencer wakes up during sleep to find themselves already "out". Because the exit signals were missed due to sleep, one may think it is a dream. However, most of my OBEs (where I have experienced the classic sensations associated) have projected me right into the astral planes. I often can't see my body on the bed even though I can sense it is there, suggesting I am not close tp physcial reality at the time. An astral projection is simply an OBE where you find yourself in non-Earth realities, in the sense you are not in everyday life observing it. 

      Now, sleeping paralysis is a complex phenomena. I've had it many times, as did my mother and other family members. I don't know why only some people have it, but I suspect if one is experimenting with dreamtime phenomena one is more likely to wake during various points of the night in various states of consciousness, and it could be genetic. With sleep paralysis, the natural mechanism to keep us from enacting our dreams simply fails to switch off even though our mind wakes. The panic paralysis brings often triggers hallucinations of deep-rooted fears (like being attacked). However, this is the perfect time to trigger an OBE as the body is asleep and the mind awake, a key condition. Once I realised this no more nasty hallucinations, as I no longer feared it! So, they are precursors to OBEs, but not OBEs until there is a sensation of leaving the body. Hope that helps 🙂

      • Tom Campbell who wrote My Big TOE said he had many OBE's where he did not experienc the vibrations before lifting out.  He asked his guides why that was and was told that they lifted him out (paraphrasing).  However, he then asked to experience that and they obliged. 

        I too have had an OBE where I requested not to experience that vibration and was lifted out. 

  2. Aaron Bernal says:

    In this text, you asume that

    a) A Conscience can exist outside of the mind

    b) You can perceive reality without your nervous system or any of your 5 senses

    can you prove this?

  3. Sofia Andrewski says:

    In your comment you assume that:

    a) Concsiouness cannot exist outside the mind

    b) You cannot perceive reality without your nervous system or any of your 5 senses

    Can you prove this? 

    I don't mean to be flippant, but I can only talk about the experiences themselves, and what they suggest to the perceiver. I am happy to admit I could be wrong, but my aim to allow these experiences room to talk in a free space where a closed system of reality isn't assumed. 

  4. Mike Rembis says:


    I have something to report about my sleep and dreams that I have been experiencing now for the past few years.  I have another life in my sleep.  I am still me and sometimes I see people from this life there, but there are many other people I know and see on a regular basis in my "dream world" that do not exist in this one.  My dream world is vivid and obeys the laws of physics.  Only birds and airplanes can fly and there are no magical things happening.  It is another plane of existence.

    There is a town I live in.  I know my way around and have several regular destinations.  I work in a restaurant there.  I have friends and acquaintances I know well who do not exist here when I awake.  I don't have a car there.  I am not scared and I do not view anything as unfamiliar.  I do not think about my "real world" when I am there.  The weather is fair and sometimes it gets cold.  I don't remember there ever being snow.  I have equal memories of both day and night sequences.  There is no repetition.  The arrow of time exists.  I recall a past and when I am there I am actively involved in the present.   

    I am interested in being involved in a sleep study so that my other reality can be investigated.  I can not express emphatically enough how vivid and real it is there.  I have concerns about my paycheck and rent and my friends there and feel these emotions when I am there.  When this happens it is as if I am getting a glimpse through a veil as an outside observer of myself while having no control of what I am seeing.  I am only able to see it happening.     

    Anyone wishing to discuss further may reach me at

    • Dolors says:

      Hello Mike,

      Thanks so much for your comment. Sounds like you are trully living parallel lives… although, from what I hear, I am not sure you are just witnessing a life in your dream reality, or if you indeed have a free will there. Do you feel you are just watching a movie, or do you feel you are capable of making decisions? 

      It would be good if you could become lucid in there. Because if you became lucid, you would be able to find out more about this place, its inhabitants and whether it has anything to do with you, Mike, in your waking reality. Have you seen Inception? They are always lucid, so they can get deeper and find out things they could not otherwise (if they were just spectators).

      Here is Sofia's FB group; if you want to join:


    • Jack Undernet says:

      Mr. Rembis,

            Do you experience other realities, or just the one? Dreams of a random nature as well as recurring vists to this other place?

      I have begun having extremely realistic dreams of myself in other realities. In each one I am aware of the present moment, recent past events and can extrapolate possible futures based on my actions. The dreams are very boring and mundane. I am usually just living my life in the other realites, but not as myself, always someone else, but it is still me. I think they are other versions of me. I have the sense of self, when I am them, but they are not me. I feel like I have to participate in that reality and behave as if it is real. Even when I sometimes recall I may be dreaming or whatever, I am compelled to play out the dream as if it is real. I am sure that if I walk in front of a bus, it will kill me, at that moment in the dream, but I don't think it would be the end of me, just the end of me in that reality. In a sense I am very tired, having lived pieces of those other lives, many, many lives. I dread going to sleep, because I might have to go into one of those realistic dream lives and do work, (boring unrewarding), I don't get the paycheck for the other guy. Then I have to get up, usually beat, tired and unmotivated to face my own reality and attend to my own responsibilites. I am just thankful that I am not accountable for some of the things I find myself doing in some of the dreams. Like an I Love Lucy episode when she does something wrong and it just goes spiraling out of her control.

      At least I get to escape back to my reality and never have had to face the consequences of the dream lives.

      Take care.

  5. Sofia Andrewski says:

    Hi Mike,


    My questions are along similar lines as Dolors'. Also, your experience sounds very much like what Robert Monroe discussed in his later books. Please do join my group; many like-minded individuals there who might be able to shed some light on your experiences. 



  6. Mike Rembis says:

    Hello Dolors and Sofia,

    It is a little of both.  Sometimes I am watching and other times I am living.  Actually, most of the time I am living it, so maybe it is those waking moments where I am slipping back here.  It's amazing how solid it feels, especially because I do not think about "here" when I am there, but I do recollect when I wake up.

    Yes, I am quite lucid there.  I am making decisions, phone calls, punching a real time clock.  My boss is okay.  My friends have real issues.  I don't want to go into detail in a public forum, but over there a couple are criminals.  I am not – in either place.

    Some of the people I know here who are over there are not the same people there.  They do not hold the same status and our relationships are different.  The more I think about it the more it is like FRINGE, the TV show with the alternate universe.  But there are only about half a dozen people from here that I can place there and some of them I do not know so well here.

    I don't know what it all means, but if it is really real I would like to understand why I go there when I sleep.


  7. will galison says:

    What an interesting discussion. I am a musician by profession but I consider my biggest talent to be as a dreamer . I can recall my dreams in detail virtually every time I awaken, and I have lucid dreams about one thrd of the time. 

    If, in a dream,  I am unsure whether or not I am dreaming, I use two methods to find out. The preffered method is to look for any written language, alphabetical or numerical. I can read the letters or numbers once, but if I try to read them a second time, they will always change. I'm sure this effect is not unique to me, 

    The other method is to smply raise two or three fingers in fromt of my eyes and try to count them. I cannot count the same number of fingers twice. Even if I hold up just one finger, another finger (or more) will appear as soon as I attempt to "quantify" the one finger. 

    Many dreams hve been so clear and realistic that I was quite surprised to confirm through these methods that they were indeed dreams. Of course from that moment on, they are fully lucid dreamd. 

    I have always felt that if I found that I could read a written phrase or number twice while in a dream, that would prove that I was truly in a seperate reality, and not "merely" in a lucid dream, stemming from my unconscious. However, in my 55 years, if has never happened. 

    Mike, your story is fascinating to me. I wonder if you, or Dolors or Sofia have ever done the "reading test" in an apparent lucid dream and been able to read the same characters repeatedly. 

    Safe travels!

    Will Galison


  8. Mike Rembis says:

    The key thing to realize about my lucidity in my "dream world" is that when I am aware of what I am doing, I am not attenpting to incorporate and influence from here, or from my sleep state.  I am certain that I have no realization that my dream world is not real or hallucinated – it is just real.  I accept it for what it is and I do not think about here when I am there.  As a result I only seem to recall what I saw and experienced in waking moments and recollection during my days here.

    This morning when I woke up I remembered some detail about the dream world.  I don't recall what I was doing but I knew where I was and it was not extraordinary.  Just typical.  I can't remember exactly what that dream was about no.  They fade away throughout the day.  But there are places I know well and I know the name of th town now.  It is a suburb of a larger city.  It is American by all accounts and has some open spaces farther out of town.

    I know my way around there.

  9. JoeB says:

    hey ppl,

    I was just wondering if any1 here ever had any experience with ketamine and/or dmt ?

    if so….are they really @ least 10X as "powerful" as the lucidest of dreams ?



    • Eric Geller says:

      I've had experiences with DMT, and I've had many lucid dreams. From my experience there are many parallels between the psychedelic experience the dream experience, and I go as far as claiming that the dream experience is a psychedelic experience. What appears to be objective reality becomes malleable by thought, emotion and imagination. Often I have become aware of an intelligence that communicates with me through the psychedelic experience. To directly answer your question, I've found no meaningful distinction in the potency of my psychedelic trips while using substances such as DMT and my psychedelic experiences through lucid dreaming. 🙂

  10. Hi Sofia and all,

    I devote about 15 pages to the question of OBEs and Lucid Dreams in my book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self.  Like Sofia, I feel distinct differences exist between these two types of projections of consciousness, such as the following:

    Lucid dreams occur when one becomes aware of dreaming while in a dream.  OBEs normally are recognized when one hears strange sounds or buzzing, feels energy or vibrations, while falling asleep (or in the fuzzy stage between waking and sleeping).

    Many OBEs conclude with a re-connection with the body (pulled back to the body, slam back in bed, etc.) — while lucid dreamers wake up from a dream, or lose their lucid awareness and move into a regular dream, etc.

    Robert Monroe said the main difference is that lucid dreamers report changing the environment completely, whereas OBErs do not change the environment, which they accept as real and apart from them in many ways.

    Also a long lucid dream is hard to remember in detail, while a long OBE can be recalled in exact order with very specific detail.

    In any case these are some of the differences, which are distinct and noticeable by people with experience in both 'forms' of consciousness.  Lucid wishes!

    • Tor says:

      Hello, I see its long time since this was written, but I am getting interested in oobe and lucid dreaming the last months and are wondering about something… (sorry for my bad english, I am norwegian)

      I have read about alot of oobe and lucid dreaming, and find it hard to understand what is what. After about 14-20 days of meditation, listening to Monroe and someothers guides I one morning got these noize and vibration and suddenly I was floating in the room (or a simular room…). This was a experience who felt very real, but when I turned to see my self in bed, there was no bed and I was not there either! 

      After another week I again experienced this (also in the morning, thats the key I believe), and again I turned in the air and then I see my self with my wife, but the thing is that my wife already had woken and wasnt in bed. 

      The buzzing, noise etc is like oobe, but experience is like LD. AND I remember everything clear. Why isnt the images I get right then?

  11. Felipe Castanho says:

    Sofia (and whoever is interested), I have great interest in both obe and Lquestions arrise subjects.
    think look at those phenomenon with a cientific and explorer view.
    Unfortunately I never had an Obe or LD, but I am trying really hard on this.
    So i have to rely on the testimony of other people and I have been reading a LOT.
    I think that everythinge this subject must be considered very very carefully, because a lot if not all is created and controled by our subconscious.
    I mean Obe can be a product of the subconscious to fill some need we have. Same with previous lifes. I am not saying it is not true, I am just saying we must be very careful, that is all. Look at quantum physics, scientists discovered that a particle behave completely different just by observing at it, the act of observation do alter the reality! Imagine the ramifications IF the consciousness is linked to quantum science!
    Now I get to a point that I am very interested: I have read that one can have a LD for example with the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty even if they had never seen it personally because they actually saw them several times in movies or pictures, but one cannot visit a simple street in the middle of nowhere, because one does not have information to create that scenery. But there is also people that claim to have been on places they never saw before, maybe true or not.
    This may open the possibility to verify if obe and LD are from the same essence or if they have nothing to do with each other.
    One could visit simple places around the world, observe some details, the address and when back to physical world could check if the scenario is the same on Google Earth or Maps with the Street view feature.
    Another simple test is to ask someone to place a big card with a simple draw with one color in a room that one does not have phisical access, lets say a red circle or a green triangle then one must do this test several times on obe and see the results. If the results verify positive a considerable number then we can assume Obe have a completely different nature then LD (wich I hope) if one canot be verify then we can assume that happens because one simply does not know what is in the card at all.
    But if the results are positive for obe and LD being different, then other questions arise: what if subconscious of all living being in the universe is conected as the collective consciousness, what if we have access to all information of every one in the world? Then our consciousness might create an obe experience with the information on the cards because the other person know. Or in the case of a street someone have been there.
    And that is not all, what if everything in the universe have its counterpart as a piece of information in a fabric of space of another dimension? And our consciousness can access it because it is part of it? Lets call it the Great Consciousness, in this case obe and LD are from the same essence, because ultimately our consciousness know anything we want to know because we have access to all information of everything that exist in the universe or multiverse independent if it is alive or not.
    What are your thoughts on that?

  12. Maybell B. Williams says:

    Dear Dolor,

    Thank you for such a beautiful-creative work.

    I can't remember now what I was googling when I came upon your video. I know I was searching for something that was compelling me, and then your video came up.

    I want to ask you if you are able to have email discussions with people wishing to have some meaningful discussions (if such a thing still exists).

    I am a research student in Education, searching for some meaningful answers. I live and work in Egypt. My formal background is Information Technology. About 10 years ago, I discovered the link between information and consciousness. It has been an interesting journey since then.

    Anyway, if you are interested or have the time in some open discussion, I would like to share ideas with you, ask about your views on some concepts etc. Please let me know.

    Thanks again for the videos.



  13. Michael Nila says:

    I know this is an old thread but I had an interesting xp last night. 

    While in SP I was able to slip into an OBE and I could actually hear and see multiple different conversation scenarios of my minds dreams happening simultaneously. 

    I realized what it was immediately and that I would have to slip back into my body to actually be 'there' in one of the dreams but I was able to view my body or mind rather having more than one dream at once while I was having an obe.

    This is very interesting to me as I had never considered the minds ability to have more than one dream at once (certainly more than one throughout the night) or my consiousness' ability to leave my body and realize it was dreaming at the same time!?

    I slipped back in and immediately woke amazed at the revelation of what had occurred. 

    Perhaps when one xp/remembers multiple dreams in one period they are actually happening simulateously and only later percieved as consecutive or seperate? 

    Personally, I believe God, the universe and self are all infinite and that when you dream youre really traveling and living multiple lives.

    How do you know that when youre awake in this reality you arent sleeping in another and have projected your self there?


  14. Michael Nila says:

    Just for clarification to my above post. 

    While in an OBE out of SP I was able to view my body having more than one dream at once I knew very clearly what was happening and I could hear both dream conversations occuring individually or at the same time like a switch.

    I couldnt fully immerse with dreams without ending the OBE and am pretty sure I wouldnt have been able to chose which but they both ended and I woke up as if id blinked and felt like my eyes were never even closed.

    Has anyone experiened anything like this before?

    This clearly proves to me that the mind and consciousness/higher self are totally separate from one another amd be detached. 

    Ill continue researching at report any new findings. Any feedback is appreciated. 



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