Dreams are powerful. We may awaken from one feeling exhilarated, confused, amazed, terrified, distressed or not even remember it at all.
So What Is Lucid Dreaming?
The medical dictionary definition of lucid is ‘a period of relative mental clarity between periods of irrationality.’ This describes a lucid dream very well, because dreams aren’t lucid all the way through. The lucidity doesn’t usually kick in until the middle of a dream.
Lucid dreaming is simply realizing, during a dream, that you are dreaming and not awake. This realization can vary greatly. Sometimes, you will realize that you are dreaming for no particular reason. At other times, you may be dreaming – with the dream appearing ‘real’ to you – and then something bizarre may happen in the dream which makes you realize that this scenario is so crazy that you must be dreaming. Lucid dreams fall into two main categories:
- High Level Lucidity You know that everything in the dream is just a dream. You know that you are safe and will wake up soon.
- Low Level Lucidity You may realize that you are dreaming but not enough to know that anything or anyone in the dream are not ‘real’. You may not recognize that you are in no danger or that you will awaken safe in your bed. Vivid nightmares fall into this category.
Confused? You may think that if the dream is very vivid, you would be dreaming at a ‘high level’. Don’t forget it is the lucidity that is being graded here – not the quality of the dream itself. More awareness is ‘high level’ and less is ‘low’.
Is Lucid Dreaming The Same As Controlling Your Dreams?
Yes and no. You may have a lucid dream in which you have little or no control over the actual content of the dream. Or, you could have a dream which you are able to ‘control’ and yet still not be aware that you are dreaming.
Can Anyone Learn To Have Lucid Dreams?
Yes – it’s a skill that can be learned. Most people have infrequent, spontaneous lucid dreams but can be trained to have them whenever they want. The few people who have frequent lucid dreams can learn to get more from them. Researchers say that you will find it easier to learn dream techniques if you find it easy to remember your dreams – but even if you don’t, you can be taught how to, so that you can still learn to lucid dream.
Why Would I Want To Have Lucid Dreams? Here’s a list of reasons:
When you’re asleep and dreaming, the only limit is your imagination. A common pleasure for lucid dreamers is experiencing the ‘genuine’ feeling of being able to fly. You could fulfill all of your fantasies in your dreams. Lucid dreamers report an ecstatic, exhilarating feeling of complete freedom with no consequences to anything that happens in the dream. It’s the ultimate playtime!
If you are plagued by nightmares, this could help you. The danger that you encounter in a nightmare is obviously not real but the fear is. Dream experts say that the only way to get rid of this fear is to confront it. However, nightmares are ‘low level’ lucidity. Remember this means that you wouldn’t realize that you are dreaming so how could you confront what’s scaring you? Try the techniques later in this article. Change your nightmare to a lucid dream and get rid of it!
Lucid dream ‘dry runs’
Lucid dreamers report that it is great for practicing upcoming occasions such as public speaking, interviews, appearing on stage or athletic events. This is because the brain activity during a lucid dream is the same as it would be during the real event. So you can start laying down brain (neuronal) pathways in preparation. By the time the real event comes up, you’re well rehearsed, primed and ready to go!
Increase creativity and solve problems
We dream during Rapid Eye Movement / REM sleep. During this phase, our brains are extremely active and functioning at a purely ‘thinking’ level because there is little or no sensory input from everyday activities. The natural ‘bizarre’ nature of some dreams can help to pop an idea into your head that you would never think of during your waking hours. This is supported by a research study which showed that 29% of people who were given a simple word association test after being woken from REM sleep, answered with highly unexpected words.
Sleep can help to heal
We all know the benefits of a really good nights’ sleep. And our bodies force us to rest and sleep when we’re ill as part of the recovery process. Combine that with the recognized benefits of visualization and lucid dreaming is a winner. Lucid dreams have been used to combat phobias, alleviate grief, lessen social anxiety, help with sexual problems, increase self esteem and self confidence and improve body image. When lucid dreaming about their body image, subjects were able to speed up physical healing.
Our minds inhabit our bodies. How we see the world is dictated by how our brain works. This is the basis of many spiritual paths. People seeking enlightenment report that lucid dreams can bring a feeling of peace and a connection with a safe, loving higher power.
OK – You’ve convinced me of the benefits. How do I learn?
You need to be motivated and prepared to put in some effort. Remember we said it’s easier to learn how to lucid dream if you find it easy to remember your dreams? Even if you do remember them, try this:
Learn or optimize your memory of your dreams
You need to be able to do this for two reasons.
- You will start to recognize recurring themes and patterns in your dreams. This will help you to recognize them as dreams while you are actually dreaming.
- If you can’t remember your dreams, how will you know if they’re lucid or not?
Your dream journal
Keep a notebook by your bed and as soon as you awake from a dream, (even in the middle of the night) write down everything that you can remember. The memory fades so get it down on paper before it’s lost. You need to be remembering and transcribing at least one dream each night before going on to learn how to induce a lucid dream.
Are you awake or dreaming? Repeat these several times each day:
- Get a grip on reality by really noticing as much as you can when you look in the mirror, travel, walk around your home etc.
- Look at your digital watch or read some words. Then look away from the watch or book. Now look back and read again. Have the numbers / words changed or now don’t make sense? Dream researchers say that during a dream, they should change 95% of the time. You’re dreaming!
- When you’re awake, imagine that you are dreaming. What would your surroundings look like now? What bizarre things might happen?
- What would you like to do in a lucid dream? Imagine it in your waking hours until you can see it clearly.
Induce a lucid dream
You are now ready to try to lucid dream. The best time to try this is after you have just awoken from a dream and are about to go back to sleep. Researchers also say that doing this during an afternoon nap brings the best results.
- When you go to sleep for the first time, tell yourself you will remember your dream.
- As you go back to sleep, tell yourself that you will recognize that you are dreaming.
- Continue focusing and imagine that you are back in the dream that you just awoke from but this time you know it is a dream. Tell yourself that once you realize you are dreaming, you will do whatever it is you wish, such as flying etc.
- Repeat all the steps until you fall asleep. When you wake up, write it all down as usual.
As soon as I lucid dream I wake up!
This is common for beginners. It’s due to the excitement of realizing what is happening. Stay calm. While still dreaming, make yourself spin around or move suddenly. You are not physically spinning but your brain knows that pattern and is distracted from waking you up. This may take a few tries and you may experience dreaming of waking up – when you are still asleep. Just persevere and you will be able to lucid dream without waking.
Keep practicing and your dreams will take you to a whole new level. Enjoy!