Have you ever gained awareness and clarity in your dreams? Or..have you ever had control over your dreams? If your answer is yes, then you have experienced lucid dreaming. This particular kind of dream gives you direct control over the characters, narrative, and activities in your dreams.
Dreams are great! They provide an outlet to live out your greatest fantasies. Whether you would like to experience the life of the president of the united states of America or live out your life as the king of Wakanda. Or maybe you would like to fly like an eagle. You can live your fantasies to the fullest. That’s how exciting dreams are.
What is lucid dreaming?
The concept of lucid dreaming has been popularized in many movies. If you have watched Inception, then you probably have an idea of how it works. In the movie, dream artists were able to manipulate their dreams and the dreams of others. Although it is greatly exaggerated, the general idea is the same.
Lucid dreaming occurs when the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming while in the dream state.
This awareness gives you the ability to do what you want and even control certain aspects of the dream. You may even recognize your thoughts and act on your emotions in a lucid dream.
Lucid dreamers can increase creativity and solve major psychological issues through their dreams. Just like meditation, it can work as a mental exercise to sharpen your mind.
Some people can experience lucid dreaming as much as they want. However, a more significant majority may only experience it once or twice during their lifetime. Also, others may have to spend days or months to learn how to lucid dream. Aside from that, the level of lucid dream control depends on the dreamer.
The science behind lucid dreaming: how does it work
The concept of dreams and lucid dreaming has been studied extensively. Many experts believe that dreams are a way for the mind to sort out information attained during the day. While normal dreams are a regular occurrence, lucid dreams work differently.
Research has shown that even though you may be asleep, your brain keeps working, especially the prefrontal cortex of your brain.
Lucid dreaming happens in four stages;
- The first stage is the transition from being fully awake to drowsiness.
- The second stage is characterized by a reduction in the heart rate and muscle relaxation as you begin to sleep lightly.
- The third stage is the deep sleep that leaves you fully refreshed in the morning.
- The fourth stage is when dreams happen; Rapid eye movement sleep (REM) sleep. This stage is characterized by an increase in heart rate and brain activity. This is where dreams and lucid dreams happen.
How to have a lucid dream?
Lucid dreaming can be an exhilarating experience. You get to have all the fun you want while asleep. Let talk about how to have a lucid dream. There are several steps to help you have this fantastic experience:
1- Improve the ambiance of your bedroom
Lucid dreams only happen during REM sleep. The physical ambiance of your room can be a significant factor in determining whether or not you fall into REM sleep. Hence, it may be necessary to modify your bedroom to make it more hospitable for dreaming.
To fall into REM sleep, practice good sleep hygiene. Use appropriate curtains and windows to manage light and airflow, making it as dark, cool, and quiet as possible. These conditions help to induce deep sleep and REM sleep.
You may have to use earplugs or a white noise machine to induce sleep and eliminate disturbance.
2 – Reality check
You should practice reality checks; this is a form of mental training to help you confirm whether you are awake or asleep. This practice can improve our awareness during dreams. The sooner you gain awareness during your dreams, the faster you achieve control of your dreams.
Dreams are magical places; there are inconsistencies and distortions that make them different from reality. These practices help you to differentiate between reality and dreams. Some of them are;
- Ask yourself, “are you dreaming.” Try to remember every detail that led to your current state
- Try to push your index finger through the palm of your hand. Obviously, it can’t go through. But in your dream, it just might.
- Look around you; observe distortions in the environment around you. Check for things that look out of place.
3- Induction techniques
A quicker way to induce lucid dreaming is to practice induction techniques. By doing this, you can initiate it rather than waiting for it to happen randomly. Here are some of the methods.
Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)
This was created by LaBerge in 1980. MILD was one of the first methods used to induce sleep. It involves setting an intention to do something later. For instance, just before you go to sleep, tell yourself,” I would know that I am dreaming.” Keep repeating it till you fall asleep.
It works like a mantra. By doing this, you are stimulating your brain to be aware while dreaming.
Wake back to bed(WBTB)
This involves scheduling your alarm to wake you up during your REM sleep. You can set it for five or six hours after your bedtime. When your alarm wakes you up, try to do something that keeps your brain active as your body falls back to sleep. This keeps your mind busy as you slowly drift into REM sleep, increasing the probability of having a lucid dream.
You can also increase your chances of having a lucid dream by using MILD as you drift back to sleep during WBTB.
Wake-initiated lucid dream(WILD)
The WILD technique is one of the most powerful lucid dreaming methods. It involves trying to stay awake while crossing to the dream state. It helps your mind stay active while your body goes to sleep.
You can have initiate WILD by lying down until you have a hypnagogic hallucination. Remain in your bed after your alarm goes off and keep your mind focused and conscious. A lucid dream is bound to happen.
Benefits of lucid dreams
Research has shown that lucid dreaming has a bunch of therapeutic effects. Some of them are;
It can reduce nightmares
Nightmares are a normal occurrence. However, recurring nightmares can wreak havoc on your mental state, causing stress and anxiety. It can also cause post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Lucid dreaming gives you control over your dream, allowing you to know that your dreams are not real. Hence, easing your fears and allowing you to sleep comfortably.
Research has shown that improving your motor skills in your dream has a beneficial impact on your physical movement. As a result, lucid dreaming is utilized in rehabilitation centers to help people with physical disabilities.
Run, fly, and jump as much as you want in your dreams.
Lucid dreamers can utilize their control over their dreams to think about a possible problem and practice solutions to them. You can make your mind more creative and open-minded as you explore the environment in your dreams.
Besides, you can also test out solutions to problems and see how they work out in your dreams. The most advanced lucid dreamers can train their minds to work towards their goals as they sleep. Isn’t that incredible?
Cautions-things to note
In as much as lucid dreaming has several beneficial effects, there are some downsides that make it less ideal for some people. Let’s talk a bit about them.
Practicing lucid dreaming induction techniques can encourage bad sleeping habits. For instance, WBTB and WILD involving interrupting your sleep. These disruptions can affect your sleep quality and may even cause a sleep disorder.
Also, it can cause sleep paralysis. You may find yourself unable to move for a while even after being awake. This can be terrifying.
Besides, it can cause derealization. Causing you to find it hard to distinguish between reality and a dream. You may also find yourself disconnected from the surroundings or even yourself.
Furthermore, it is not recommended for people with a mental health disorder.