Lucid dreaming: what is it?

Photo by Bruce Christianson on Unsplash

BY LAUREN ESCHENBRENNER

If you were given the choice to control your dreams, would you? Would you want to experience your greatest successes with the ability to control the outcome? Or would you want to visit a place you’ve always wanted to go? To control your dreams, you have to be aware you’re dreaming.  Once you’re aware you’re dreaming, you can classify yourself as participating in a lucid dream.

A lucid dream is a phenomenon that involves one being aware of themselves when they dream, allowing their minds to take them to incredible extremities. Reportedly, lucid dreamers are able to think clearly, remember the circumstances and depth of the dreams, and act deliberately upon pondering reflections, all while in the middle of a dream.

Some people have mastered the ability to train their body to lucid dream frequently. Benjamin Baird, a research scientist at Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies lucid dreams, reported that somewhere from 50-80 percent of people recorded have had a lucid dream in their lifetime.

Baird reported that some people “have lucid dreams more frequently naturally, ” but for the majority of people, lucid dreams “occur very infrequently.”

So how do people lucid dream? How can we do it?

Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonologist, sleep medicine specialist, and an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC, suggests that you should first determine when your REM sleep occurs. REM is Rapid Eye Movement, and is a deep part of the slumber where experts report that you are most likely to lucid dream. The REM cycle usually happens within the first 70-120 minutes of one’s sleep, and it only tends to happen for approximately 5 minutes. The closer it is to morning, the more likely someone is to lucid dream.

Dr. Dasgupta recommends keeping a dream diary or log in order to authenticate the individual’s dream awareness. He advises to look out for “dream signs,” or symbols within the dream that don’t make sense, that make it clear to the person that they are dreaming.

As great as the experience of lucid dreaming sounds, it does not come without its risks. Research published in Frontiers in Psychology established that use of techniques to deliberately induce lucid dreaming is associated with increased mental health symptoms, such as depression, anxiety and dissociation, along with irregular sleeping patterns and problems. If one forces the experience without proper induction on its steps, one can be left in a state of disconnectedness while awake.