[ELI5] How is it that nightmares can feel so real and scary, only for you to realise it’s not real when you wake up?

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[ELI5] How is it that nightmares can feel so real and scary, only for you to realise it’s not real when you wake up?

In: Biology

Remember that time you totally thought you saw a person but it turned out it was just a sign when you double checked?

Similar principle. Your interpretation of reality depends on which brain bits receive what information and how they deal with that info. When you’re dreaming, your brain is “like awake,” in terms of it’s activity, but it isn’t actually awake. It isn’t doing the same things exactly. So you totally ignore the fact the clocks look like they’re melting, even though normally you would find that odd if you were fully conscious. But enough of your brain is chugging along to make believable scenarios and things occur.

Then you wake up fully and the parts of your brain that weren’t processing stuff go “wait a minute. The clocks were melting? Totally not real.”