Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hallucinate without altering your brain’s chemistry? According to a study conducted in Germany, lucid dreaming is the way to go. As a vivid dreamer and sleep enthusiast myself, I enjoy the otherworldly adventures I unintentionally embark on with people I haven’t thought about in ten years. Being able to consciously experience a dream, and maybe even alter it, however, is a complete gamechanger.
Lucid dreaming occurs when you consciously experience a dream while you’re actually asleep. It has been theorized that these types of dreams develop from regular non-lucid dreams that people generally experience during REM. One of the key identifying factors of lucid dreaming is being able to recognize and identify your own emotions while experiencing the dream. On occasion, you may have control over the dream itself which allows you to change different aspects of it like the characters, plot, and the setting.
Research shows that lucid dreaming is not easy. It often takes months of consistent practice with generally slow results. Most lucid dreams occur randomly but some practices that may aid in triggering a lucid dream include exercising, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and following a sleep schedule. A study supported two different ways to induce a lucid dream: wake-up-back-to-bed (WBTB) and mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD). This specific experiment showed that a combination of both methods can successfully induce lucid dreaming. Participants in the study were woken up after six hours of sleep and were tasked with a “control task” like reading. They were kept awake from a half hour to 60 minutes, depending on the trial, and then put back to sleep. If you wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and then attempt to slip back into slumber, you are more likely to enter REM while remaining conscious.
In the first study mentioned, volunteers also participated in the pre-sleep autosuggestion method where they told themselves to recognize that they were lucid dreaming by identifying the bizarre aspects of the dream. They were also able to signal to the researchers that they were in a lucid state through a sequence of voluntary eye movements. Another key finding in this study is that the lucidity that was achieved in the participants’ homes were not easily translated to the sleep laboratory. This implies that you must be comfortable and familiar with your surroundings to experience a lucid dream.
Aside from the entertaining factors of lucid dreaming, they can have long term benefits for your health. This experience may assist with nightmares as your consciousness during the dream allows you to change and avoid it. Lucid dreaming also relieves anxiety stemming from experience with nightmares and PTSD, however, further study is required to determine whether it helps with general anxiety. Due to the fact that your sensorimotor cortex is activated while you’re asleep, lucid dreaming may also improve your motor skills while awake.
The challenge of lucid dreaming is practiced regularly by very few people which explains the difficulty behind gathering concrete data about it. We’ve covered techniques and induction methods for the experience, yet the steps remain a blur. The only thing we can do as sleep enthusiasts is practice and be patient, and maybe then the instructions will become a little more lucid.