What's the Difference Between Dreams and Out-of-Body Experiences?

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Answered by: Chad, An Expert in the Mind-Body Connection Category
Dreams and out-of-body experiences are not the same thing, although they share certain similarities. For instance, both are states of consciousness that are different from a wakeful state. Although materialists believe that an out-of-body experience is nothing more than a lucid dream, people that support dualism believe that an out-of-body experience occurs when your immaterial mind leaves your physical body. A dream is simply your mind working while your conscious mind is inactive. In the case of a lucid dream, your mind is conscious that it is dreaming. A lucid dream can resemble an out-of-body experience in the sense that both states have an ethereal feel to them that is a result of differing brainwaves from normal consciousness. Despite some things that dreams and out-of-body experiences have in common, supporters of dualism believe that there are more differences than similarities.

Separation of Mind and Body

When somebody has an out-of-body experience, they are usually able to see their physical body. This is because an out-of-body experience involves a clear dichotomy between the physical body and the immaterial mind. Many people report seeing their physical body lying where they fell asleep; most people also see a silver cord that extends from their midsection of their "mind body" to the midsection of their physical body. Out-of-body experiences can typically involve strong sensations of dualism. This is because your body still remains alive and functional despite your consciousness having left it. It is therefore possible to experience sensations from both your "mind body" and your physical body. This is quite a bit different from dreaming: dreaming doesn't involve a separation between the mind and body. Instead, dreams are fully contained within the physical body.

Lack of Control

During an out-of-body experience, people are unable to manipulate their environment. People who believe in the paranormal believe that when people have out-of-body experiences, their consciousness is traveling through a copy of the physical universe. If you are having a lucid dream, it is easy and common to manipulate the dream world around you. This is because you are the one creating the world. In the case of an out-of-body experience, you are not the one creating the world, but are merely an explorer in a preexisting realm.


Dreams commonly have elements that are nonsensical and ridiculous. This is because your mind is constantly inventing the dream world, while filling it with many things, some which have meaning and some of which do not. According to supporters of the paranormal, an out-of-body experience will yield real information about the physical world. To check if you are really having an out-of-body experience, verify what you saw when you awake from your experience. If you can verify certain facts in real life, your consciousness was obviously outside of your own body.


Everybody knows what it's like to have dreams, and lucid dreams are merely dreams in which you know you're dreaming. People who have had an out-of-body experience say that it feels nothing like a lucid dream. Although this is incredibly subjective, it is still worth noting: the difference between an out-of-body experience and a lucid dream is obvious to anyone who has had both. Out-of-body experiences feel like a heightened, fully-awake level of consciousness, while dreams are often cloudy and tough to focus on. People who consciously induce out-of-body experiences believe that out-of-body experiences are characterized by a higher state of consciousness than normal waking life. Dreams, on the the other hand, are a duller, less alert state of consciousness.

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