Out of Body Experience: Difference with Dreams

An out-of-body experience, or OBE, and dreaming -- particularly lucid dreaming -- are two psychological phenomena that are similar and often mistaken for one another. Despite this, however, the two are significantly different when considering the way a subject perceives each experience, the way each experience takes place and the way subjects recall their experiences.

Robert Peterson, author of "Lessons Out of the Body" and "Out of Body Experiences -- How to Have Them and What to Expect," states that during an OBE, an individual experiences the physical world outside of his physical body. The subject is completely coherent during an OBE and sometimes is able to recall events that occurred with no apparent way of knowing. During dreaming -- lucid dreaming in particular -- a person is still aware of his physical body and is able to consciously control what is happening. With an OBE, the individual is unable to control what's happening and typically acts as an observer of his physical self.

According to Stephen LaBerge, PhD, remembering a lucid dream is difficult for many individuals. However, those who have experienced OBEs typically have no trouble recalling what happened in detail, and the experience is remembered for years afterward. Also, after a lucid dream, the dreamer is able to accept that it was "just a dream." However, a subject who has an OBE usually has trouble accepting the experience as a figment of her imagination and accepts it as reality.

REM Sleep
Lucid dreaming usually takes place during the "rapid eye-movement," or REM, sleep stage. It is unusual for a person to be awake and immediately pass into a state of lucidity. Out-of-body experiences, however, may occur from a state of alertness and an awakened state. OBEs, unlike lucid dreams, are also common occurrences with a near-death experience (NDE).

Patricia Garfield, PhD, author of "Creative Dreaming," states that nearly two-thirds of her subjects who have experienced lucid dreams have recalled their dreams containing sexual content. Subjects who have experienced sexual content, during lucid dreaming, describe it as feeling incredibly real. During out-of-body experiences, however, sexual content is very rare. In fact, sex during, an OBE has been described by subjects as euphoric but not convincingly real.

Author: Emilia Lamberto