“Lucid dreaming” is the act of dreaming while maintaining consciousness during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This type of dreaming allows you to tell yourself that “you are dreaming” without waking up. Awake consciousness, if used correctly, gives one the opportunity to keep on participating in the dream while defining it to be something else. If you are the type who suffers from nightmares, lucid dreaming can help you stop that bullet — though probably not as smoothly as Keanu Reeves did in the first “The Matrix” movie.
For centuries, people have tried to control their dreams. It’s even been considered a semisupernatural ability that only some can attain. Controlling dreams, or, to use the proper terminology, lucid dreaming, has received significant criticism from skeptics who dismiss conscious dreaming as just speculation, invented by people who want to believe that they have access to a special type of power. While so many people dream, few actually come forth as “lucid dreamers,” being really able to manipulate their dreams into whatever they want, as if flipping through channels of a TV set. Science, however, comes to our rescue to clear the air and prove the reality of lucid dreaming. Many studies show that the phenomenon of lucid dreaming not only exists, it’s more common than we think.
Although lucid dreaming sounds like a savior and vessel for sleep-time entertainment, it definitely requires some practice. The Goethe University of Frankfurt conducted a study wherein nonlucid dreamers were given zaps of electricity during their REM sleep. Interestingly enough, they reported having experienced lucid dreaming right after their frontal cortex was stimulated. Yet, it is pretty much impossible to always keep some scientists around just to shock you during a specific time of your sleep. But don’t worry, you can still be a lucid dreamer without the electricity! The reason why electricity works as an inducer is because it introduces external stimuli, reminding one of being in a state of dreaming. If you set up a light that goes off approximately around the same time as your REM stage begins, then you will be more likely to remember that you are dreaming.
You may also want to try keeping a dream journal close by. Many “lucid dream specialists” suggest that maintaining a dream journal makes you more aware of your sleeping experience, and thus helps you become a lucid dreamer. Even though we tend to forget our dreams later on in the day, these specialists propose that if written right after waking up, dreams can promote lucid dreaming in the long term.
These specialists also suggest using “reality checks” regularly while you are awake — if you are committed to taking your lucid dreaming abilities to another level. What does a reality check mean? Well, since you need your awake consciousness while dreaming, it is important to remind yourself of your consciousness during the day. You have to ask yourself whether you are awake or not. By making this a habit, you will find it easier to remind yourself that you are dreaming throughout your sleep. The same applies to repeating that you are aware of going to sleep before you fall asleep each night.
Today, the science suggests that we all experience lucid dreaming at least once in our lives. While seemingly mystical, or maybe even pointless, lucid dreaming actually helps us fight against some anxieties and fears. We can condition ourselves to believe that by controlling our dreams, we can find the power to fight against the phobias and anxieties we suffer from in real life. Still not buying the whole phenomenon? Then I suggest having a relaxed mind right before you go to sleep. Not only will you have a good night’s sleep, but maybe even find yourself having some wonderful dreams.
This articles was first published in Brain World Magazine’s Winter 2016 issue.