Sleepers who experience lucid dreams are aware of their surroundings but refuse to awaken from their slumber. Studies have discovered that some people are more prone to “lucid dream control” than others, and that some people are more prone to “lucid dream control” than others.
Surveys suggest that 55% of adults have had at least one lucid dream in their lifetime, and 23% of people have at least one lucid dream a month. Some studies have suggested that lucid dreamings may be beneficial, such as in the treatment of nightmares. Some studies, on the other hand, claim that having lucid dreams might be harmful to one’s mental well-being since they disrupt sleep and cause the dreamer to confuse reality with fiction.
How Do Lucid Dreams Work?
The phenomenon of lucid dreaming has been thoroughly explored, yet there is still much to learn about it. The prefrontal cortex of the brain may play a role in the development of lucid dreams according to some experts. Even though people are aware of their surroundings during non-lucid dreams, they are unable to tell the difference between being asleep and awake. Cortical activity has been cited as a factor in this.
Dreams in which the sleeper is conscious of the fact that he or she is dreaming and has some degree of influence over their environment are known as lucid dreams. These features have been linked to increased brain activity in several studies. For sleepers who have been studied in lucid dream studies, prefrontal brain activity levels are equivalent to levels when they are awake. Because of this, lucid dreaming can be described as a “hybrid sleep-wake state.”
While studies have indicated that lucid dreams can occur at any stage of the sleep cycle, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep appears to be the most common time for them to occur. This is the final stage of a typical sleep cycle, which includes three stages of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. Researchers currently believe that lucid dreams are the result of non-lucid dreams occurring during the REM stage of sleep. In this view, lucidity is a feature of dreams that can be induced in a variety of ways.
How Are Lucid Dreams Studied?
Rare and impossible to predict are spontaneous lucid dreams. For this purpose, researchers often use a variety of approaches to produce lucid dreams. The following are some of the most often used methods:
- In reality testing, participants are required to carry out a series of tests all day long to determine whether they are sleeping or awake. For example, if a participant asks themselves if they are dreaming during the day, they will know they are awake because self-awareness is impossible in non-lucid dreams. Repeated tests are predicated on the idea that the participant’s dreams will eventually become lucid, allowing them to discriminate between the dream state and wakefulness.
- It is possible to induce lucid dreams by using a method known as “mnemonic induction of lucid dreams,” or “MILD.” After a period of sleep, subjects wake up and repeat the following phrase: “Next time I’m asleep, I’ll remember I’m dreaming.” Using the MILD approach, researchers will wake up patients after five hours of sleep in order to produce lucid dreams.
- This approach, which involves getting up in the middle of the night and then going back to sleep after a specified amount of time has elapsed, can help some people achieve lucid dreams. With the MILD method, WBTB is frequently used. To get the best results, it appears that 30 to 120 minutes is the ideal amount of time between waking up and falling back asleep.
- Flashing lights and other stimuli are activated when the person is in REM sleep in order to induce arousal. Because the sleeper will assimilate this input into their dreams, lucidity will be triggered as a result.
Additionally, some research has focused on the use of various medications and substances to induce lucid dreams.
The prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain can be studied using an electroencephalogram (EEG), which involves attaching metal discs to the scalp of a sleeping individual. The use of an electrooculogram (EOG) to monitor the subject’s eye movements can help detect whether he or she is entering a REM sleep stage. Certain eye movements can be used to indicate that a person is having a lucid dream in some studies. In particular, EOGs are useful in spotting these changes.
Are Lucid Dreams Good or Bad For You?
Self-instigated lucid dreams have become increasingly common in recent years. Wish fulfillment, overcoming fear, and healing are among the most prevalent reasons for producing lucid dreams. Lucid dreaming has also been linked to a reduction in the anxiety and stress caused by nightmares, according to some research.
However, whether or not causing lucid dreams is good for one’s mental health is up for discussion. This may have long-term consequences for one’s mental health if one purposely blurs the lines between dreaming and reality, according to some academics. For some populations, such as those suffering from PTSD, lucid dream therapy has been found to be unsuccessful.
A new difficulty with lucid dreams has been brought up by several researchers: they may interrupt sleep. Lucid dreams have been linked to higher levels of brain activity, which has been shown to have a negative impact on sleep quality and the ability to adhere to a healthy sleep schedule. Emotional regulation, memory consolidation, and other areas of daily living that are linked to sleep health might be affected by frequent lucid dreams. People who suffer from narcolepsy, a condition marked by excessive daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable sleep bouts, are more likely to have frequent lucid dreams than the average person.
The research on lucid dreams is still in its infancy, so there’s a lot to learn. Lucid dreams are still a mystery that needs to be solved through more research.
What causes lucid dreams to happen?
Dr. Roth points out that further research is needed to determine how exactly lucid dreams occur. However, they are more common in REM sleep. It’s during this active period of REM sleep that you get your most vivid dreams, according to Dr. Roth. In REM sleep, your brain functions in a similar way to while you’re awake,” according to a sleep research.
The frequency of lucid dreams may be affected by sleep disturbances or disorders, particularly those that impair REM sleep.
Patients with narcolepsy experienced more lucid dreams than the research’s control group, according to one study. During REM sleep, “a change in brain activity in the direction of waking” may generate a “hybrid” scenario including “elements of both REM sleep and waking,” according to another study.
Lucid dreams are still a mystery, and it’s not clear why some individuals get them and others don’t.
How to have a lucid dream: 5 methods
The practice of lucid dreaming helps you become more aware of your own consciousness. While in REM sleep, they’re supposed to aid in the regaining or maintaining of consciousness.
1. Wake-initiated lucid dreaming (WILD)
A WILD occurs when you enter a dream directly from your waking life. WILD is claimed to help keep your mind awake while your body sleeps, according to several studies.
A hypnagogic, or near-sleep, hallucination can only be experienced if you’re laying down and calming yourself down. Although WILD is straightforward, mastering it is a challenge.
This will boost your chances of WILD by practicing other lucid dreaming techniques.
2. Reality testing
One way to improve one’s mental fitness is to perform exercises that involve testing one’s perception of reality. It improves metacognition by making you more aware of your own thoughts and feelings.
In both waking and sleeping stages, your capacity for self-awareness is about the same. It’s possible that having a higher level of metacognition when waking can lead to a higher level of metacognition while dreaming.
Prefrontal cortex, which is implicated in both reality testing and lucid dreaming, may be involved here. Doing reality tests while awake can help you improve your metacognition.
Follow these instructions numerous times a day to conduct a reality test:
- What if I’m having a bad dream?
- Check your surroundings to see if you’re dreaming or not.
- Take a moment to observe your thoughts and how you interact with the world around you.
Every two to three hours, you can set an alarm to remind you to take a reality check.
Reality checks that people use to lucid dream include the following:
- Mirrors. Check your reflection to see if it’s in the right place.
- Stable things. See if you can get your hand through a wall or table. In some cases, the fingers of one hand are pushed into the other.
- Hands. Your hands tell a lot about who you are. No, they don’t look right.
- Time. The time on a clock will constantly shift if you’re dreaming. The time will scarcely shift if you’re awake.
- Breathing. Pinch your nose and test if you can still breathe as a common reality check. If you’re still able to take a breath, you’re still in a dream.
Pick one reality check and perform it several times a day, according to the experts. Inducing lucid dreaming can be done by doing reality checks in your dreams.
3. Wake back to bed (WBTB)
REM sleep induction while remaining awake is known as “wake back to bed” (WBTB).
Among the many WBTB techniques, consider this one:
- You should set your alarm for a time that is five hours beyond your normal bedtime.
- As usual, retire to bed.
- Stay up for 30 minutes after the alarm goes off. Reading is a great way to unwind.
- Retire to your bed.
You’ll have a better chance of having a lucid dream if you go back to sleep. Do something that takes your whole attention when you’re awake.
4. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)
Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams was developed by LaBerge in 1980. (MILD). There were very few procedures prior to this one that were based on empirical evidence from the scientific community.
Prospective memory is a type of memory in which one sets a goal to do something in the future. MILD is based on this habit.
Make a conscious effort to remember that you’re dreaming when playing MILD.
Using the MILD method is as follows:
- Think on a recent dream before you go to sleep.
- In your dream, look for a “dreamsign,” which you can define as anything unusual or strange. Flying might serve as an illustration.
- Go back in time and imagine what it might be like if you could. Resolve to accept the fact that the dreamsign can only appear while you are sleeping.
- Recite the words aloud to yourself: “The next time I dream, I want to remember that I am dreaming.”
If you wake up in the middle of a dream, you can still practice MILD. As a general rule, this is a good idea because you’ll be able to recall the dream more clearly.
Realistic testing, WBTB, and MILD are the most effective methods. WBTB and MILD can be combined by setting an alarm for five hours from now. Practice MILD as long as you’re awake.
5. Keeping a dream journal
A common way to begin lucid dreaming is to keep a dream notebook or diary. Remembering what happens in a dream is made easier by keeping a dream journal. Supposedly, it might assist you better recognize your dreams and increase your apprehension of them.
Log your dreams as soon as you wake up for the greatest results. Reading your dream journal on a regular basis is also advised.
Constantly questioning the “truth” of one’s surroundings is an important part of the reality testing process. Looking in the mirror, pressing against solid objects, or even trying to breathe through a squeezed nose are all examples of self-reflection. For this experiment, the idea is that if one does this enough when awake, they’ll also do it in their dreams. When they do, they’ll be able to tell if they are dreaming or awake.
Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)
The MILD technique is based on the idea that remembering your dreams is something you want to do in the future. This usually entails waking up after a long period of sleep, reliving your most recent dream, and repeating the phrase “the next time I dream, I’ll recognize I’m dreaming” in some form.
How to wake up
You may wish to wake yourself up from a lucid dream at times. Several methods are employed by people who have lucid dreams.
Try the following methods to wake from a lucid dream
- Send out a distress call. According to folklore, yelling in a dream is a signal to your brain that it is time to get up. To wake yourself awake, you could try speaking out loud.
- Blink. Blinking frequently can help your brain prepare for waking up.
- In your sleep, drift off. Go to sleep in your dream if you’re conscious that you’re dreaming so that you can wake up in the real world.
- Read. In your sleep, try to decipher words on a sign or a page from a book. The brain’s non-REM regions may be stimulated as a result of this.
Devices that send external stimuli to a person while they are in REM sleep are another option. In order to determine if these stimuli were absorbed into the sleeper’s dream and if they could provoke lucid dreaming, researchers may use flashing lights, sounds, or odors.
Lucid dreaming has been shown to have therapeutic advantages in various studies. The following are possible benefits of lucid dreaming.
It’s normal to experience a bad dream from time to time. The tension and anxiety of recurring nightmares, on the other hand, might be damaging.
In general, they are related with:
- A condition known as PTSD (PTSD).
- such as sleeplessness or restless nights.
- The use of drugs or alcohol.
The ability to take control of one’s dreams via lucidity may be beneficial in this situation. It’s also possible to tell if a nightmare is real or not if a dreamer realizes they’re dreaming.
In imagery rehearsal treatment, lucid dreaming is frequently employed (IRT). In IRT, a therapist works with you to create a new scenario for a recurring nightmare.
IRT with lucid dreaming induction can assist improve dream control when used with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
An examination of 33 soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and recurrent nightmares conducted in 2017 shed some light on this effect. Some people received CBT plus IRT, whereas others received CBT alone. Dream control was improved in the CBT with IRT group, resulting in less stress from nightmares.
PTSD and nightmare-induced anxiety have been the focus of most scientific investigation. Anecdotal research, on the other hand, suggests that lucid dreaming can alleviate anxiety for a variety of different causes.
Controlling your dreams is said to be a way for people to deal with stressful situations.
Improve motor skills
Physical rehabilitation may benefit from the use of lucid dreaming. Performing motor skills in your mind may help you execute them better physically, according to a 2013 study.
As a result, people with physical limitations may be able to practice motor skills in their dreams while they are still awake. The authors of the paper think that lucid dreaming could also be used by those without physical limitations to improve their motor skills.
In most cases, induction procedures are to blame for any lucid dreaming dangers.
A few examples of negative features include:
- Inability to get a good night’s sleep. Midnight wake-ups in WBTB and MILD are part of the experience. If you have a sleep disorder or an inconsistent sleep schedule, these interruptions might make it difficult to obtain adequate rest.
- Derealization. Derealization, or the belief that people, things, and your surroundings are not real, can occur when sleep difficulties occur.
- Depression. Depressive symptoms may be exacerbated by the sleep disturbances of induction procedures.
- Involuntary slumber. Sleep paralysis can bring on brief yet disturbing episodes of lucid dreaming. In addition, sleep deprivation raises the possibility of developing sleep paralysis.
Are lucid dreams bad for you?
Lucid dreams are difficult to evaluate because there is no empirical evidence to back up the claim that they are harmful to a person’s well-being. It’s possible that lucid dreaming can lead to sleep deprivation, which can impair alertness and memory, cause stress and even lead to health problems like hypertension and diabetes in some people.
When to see a doctor
Consult a medical practitioner if you have any of the following symptoms:
- having a lot of bad dreams
- recurring, sleep-inducing nightmares.
- fear of falling asleep.
- traumatizing recollections.
- Changes in mood.
- issues with memory.
- Inability to sleep
PTSD, a mental health problem, or a sleep disorder could be the cause of these symptoms. You and your therapist can decide if lucid dream therapy is good for you.
The bottom line
When you’re conscious that you’re dreaming, you’re lucid. In many cases, you can influence the content and setting of your dreams. REM sleep is when this happens.
As a kind of therapy, lucid dreaming can be used to treat disorders such as nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physical rehabilitation may also benefit from it, according to researchers.
You can use the strategies outlined above to achieve lucid dreaming. These techniques can help you become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings as you sleep.
If you suspect that you have a sleep issue, PTSD, or another mental illness, you should visit a doctor.