A lucid dream is a dream you have that is so extremely vivid that you realize that in reality, you’re actually dreaming. Lucid dreams can be quite realistic. People who have them tend to try to go to the next level which is being able to take control of their dreams while they sleep.
Normally, when you experience a dream, you usually don’t know you’re dreaming. The events that occur in the dream will feel real at the time, even though they may stretch reality a bit. Then you awaken and begin to ask yourself how such a strange series of events ever could have come into your head.
Even though a high number of people may have experienced lucid dreams, many theoreticians still consider them impossible. Without empirical evidence, most sleep researchers are inclined to believe that lucid dreams are not typical parts of the dreaming scenario, but instead just brief arousals that occur during REM sleep. However, evidence began to appear in the late 1970s that suggest lucid dreams do actually occur during REM sleep.
Being Aware and Remembering
In a lucid dream, you are aware that you’re actually dreaming. You realize that the things you’re experiencing aren’t actually happening because, for one reason or another, you realize that something going on in the dream would be impossible in real life. The revelation then hits you that you must be in the middle of a dream, and that’s when the fun begins.
Most people don’t remember experiencing lucid dreaming, so when someone claims to be aware of what they’re doing in a dream, not everyone is a believer. However, there does seem to be some science behind lucid dreaming. Studies have shown that most people have experienced a lucid dream at least once in their lifetime. Other studies have indicated that as many as 20% of the population has experienced a lucid dream at least once a month.
Although some people think that dreams are messages sent from the unconscious mind, modern research suggests that dreams are actually models of the way we see the world. When we dream, our bodies become paralyzed and our brains build a model of the world that’s based on our assumptions, motivations and expectations. While we’re awake, it’s hard to identify these biases, so when we’re in a dream state, it’s easier for us to recognize and act upon them. Therefore, dreams aren’t messages but they’re more like clues that help us understand the inner workings of our minds.
In a 2004 German study of psychology undergraduates, over 80 of the participants said they had experienced being in a lucid dream at least once. In 2008, a similar study in Japan reported that nearly 50 percent of similar undergraduates had also experienced a lucid dream, and almost 20 percent of those admitted lucid dreaming at least once a month.
In another German study, students aged 6 to 19 were surveyed in an attempt to understand how lucid dreaming relates to age. It was found that by the age of 19, more than half of the sample had experienced at least one lucid dream, and that the number of lucid dreams decreased as the students got older.
Conscious dreams seem to look and feel vivid and tangible, as if we are awake. The difference between a lucid dream and a normal dream has been described as like viewing a movie with a bad TV signal compared to actually being in the movie and being the star actor.
You first realize that you’re in a lucid dream when you discover that you’re dreaming instead of being awake. This helps you realize your self-awareness and gives you the complete mental faculty to understand and actually live in the dream. In a lucid dream, you can control yourself, the plot, the scenery, and all the other dream elements you choose.
Even though the basic definition of lucid dreaming means simply that you’ve become aware that you’re dreaming, the quality of that lucidity can vary quite differently. When lucidity is high, you’re aware that all the things you experience in your dream occur inside your mind and that you’re actually asleep in bed. When lucidity is low, you might be aware that you’re dreaming, perhaps enough to be able to grow wings and fly, or change what you’re doing, but you won’t realize that people in your dream are not real but simply representations. You may not realize that you can’t suffer physical damage in the dream, or even that you’re actually in your own bed.
Many people are attracted to the idea of lucid dreaming by the idea that it has the potential to fulfill fantasies for wild adventures. Sex and flying are two of the most widely promoted concepts associated with lucid dreaming. Many people recount that the most wonderful experience of their lives was when they had their first lucid dream. Much of the extraordinary pleasures that come from lucid dreaming involve an exhilarated feeling of complete freedom accompanying the fact that you realize you’re actually in a dream without there being any social or physical consequences to your actions.
One of the more bizarre phenomenons about lucid dreaming is that some people claim to have experienced out-of-body experiences. An out-of-body experience or “OBE” can take several different forms. In one, you may be lying in bed thinking you’re awake when you suddenly experience a feeling of heaviness, feel vibrations or possibly even paralysis. Immediately after that you begin to experience your body separating into two and the second body will often begin to float above your bed. Many OBE enthusiasts claim that lucid dreaming is a sort of “stepping stone” to the OBE.
How Lucid Dreaming Can Help When You’re Awake
Many people use lucid dreams to rehearse how to do things when their awake. Examples include preparing for public speaking, athletics, artistic performances or any sort of expectedly difficult confrontation. Because in a lucid dream, the brain sees the activity as the same as in being awake, the neuronal patterns required can be established to prepare for performing the real task later when you’re fully awake.
Artistic inspiration and problem solving are additional manifestations of how lucid dreaming can help us cope with real life. Since during REM sleep the brain is highly active, several studies have found that if one considers problems during a dream state, the creative potential of dreams adds a new dimension to our capability to help solve them.
Your physical health can also be enhanced through lucid dreaming. Several studies have shown that medical patients can alleviate pain by using soothing and positive imagery while in a dream state. Some people have been able to overcome phobias, work through grief, achieve greater self-confidence and decrease sexual and social anxieties by directing the body through lucid dreaming to help physically heal themselves. Other possible healing applications of using lucid dreaming include faster recovery from disease or injury and encouraging recovery of neuromuscular functions.
Most lucid dreams seem to be positive and rewarding experiences. In addition, without the fear of being hurt or suffering serious consequences from one’s actions during a dream, being in a state of lucidity tends to have a calming effect and can elevate the dreamer’s mood, even during a nightmare. A study of college students reported that while lucid dreaming, the students reported feeling better in a nightmare about 60 percent more often after they realized they were dreaming.
Excellent dream recall is one of the most important prerequisites to learn lucid dreaming. Being able to remember your dreams helps you become familiar with their patterns and features. This will help you to recognize when you’re in a dream while you’re fast asleep. One of the best ways to begin to improve your dream recall is to keep a pad and pencil next to your bed and write everything you recall about each dream as soon as you awaken. Remain absolutely still while doing this and try to remember each of the essential parts of the dream. Pay close attention to any signs that obviously indicate that you were dreaming, such as meeting dead people or miraculously flying by yourself through in the sky.
One of the problems lucid dreamers have when they first begin practicing lucid dreaming is that they wake up right after becoming lucid. This obviously prevents them from realizing the full value of becoming lucid. To combat this, the first thing to do when you know you’re lucid is to remain calm. It’s exciting when you become lucid, but if you express that excitement you run the risk of waking yourself up. Relax, as if you are playing poker, and engage with the dream trying to enjoy it. If the dream begins to end and starts losing detail, try spinning yourself around several times. This unusual trick discourages the brain from changing its current state of dreaming to become awake.
How quickly you can develop the skills needed for lucid dreaming depends on many factors. How well you recall dreams is particularly important, but how much time you spend practicing mental exercises is also important. Here are some things you can try to lay the groundwork for lucid dreaming:
- Find a “dream door.” This will be a door that exists in the middle of a landscape. Next, step through the door into another world.
- Change your TV channel on a TV, and then jump into the screen. Let the image become a three dimensional setting that surrounds you.
- Walk through a mirror portal. The mirror will be liquid-like, and it will lead you into another dimension. Then use your mind to create the scene that you reach.
- Spin around. When you stop spinning, use your mind to create a new scene that wasn’t there when you started.
- Stop and turn away. Then create a new location that will be emerging behind your back. Then, when you turn around, everything will be different.
- There are many creative solutions to control your dreams. What’s important, is to remember that your conscious expectations play a major role.
A good technique for beginners is to pick a few times during the day when you can stop for a few moments and exercise your lucid dreaming capabilities. Do it anytime you happen to think about it, especially if something odd occurs or when you’re thinking about dreaming. Concentrate on your watch and read the numbers on it. Then, look away, and then look back. Observe the numbers and see if they’ve changed. Concentrate on trying to make them change while you’re looking at them. In dreams, when you do this, if the characters change, or don’t make sense, then you’re definitely in a dream. Another technique is to carry a piece of paper with some text on it. Read the numbers, and then look away, and then look back. Concentrate on the numbers and see if you can make them change. If you can, you’re dreaming.
Studies have shown that learning to achieve lucidity is similar to learning a new language. Many people seem to have an innate talent to achieve it readily while others may not and experience it only rarely as an unusual event. Rarely, however, do people experience lucid dreaming without focusing their minds properly and preparing for it beforehand. Lucid dream preparation exercises range from ancient Tibetan exercises to modern methods that have been specifically developed by dream researchers.
Many of our ancient civilizations documented their dreams and then applied them differently. In Mesopotamia and Egypt, dream books were very popular. In Greece, dreams were considered messages from the gods that foretold the future or were capable of curing illness.
People who have become lucid dreamers offer this advice to those who may be interested in exploring the possibilities of lucid dreaming. Stay confident. You do have the ability to summon up whatever you dream about, from dragons to teleportation. Yes, you can really fly like the proverbial eagle. You will find that there is absolutely nothing that isn’t possible when you’re inside a lucid dream.