by Lauren Tam
Lucid dreaming is almost like the real-life version of virtual reality. You’re in an alternate reality; you feel as though the world has shifted under your feet, and there are no real consequences to what you do in this space. Lucid dreaming is an ancient practice. It is part of the Hindu way of yoga nidra, and the Tibetan practice of dream yoga. The term “lucid” was coined by Dutch writer and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden in 1913, in his article “A Study of Dreams.”
How It Works
While lucid dreaming, the sleeper is aware a dream is taking place and will not leave the dream state. More specifically, it is a dream where the sleeper can exercise control over different aspects of the environment. The sleeper can recognize thoughts and emotions as the dream happens. Studies have found that roughly 55% of adults experience it once, and 23% of people experience it at least once a month.
This phenomenon usually happens during REM sleep, when the brain is extremely active. Some researchers believe the activity is related to the prefrontal cortex of the brain. While one is engaged in lucid dreaming, prefrontal cortex activity levels are comparable to levels when they are awake. For this reason, lucid dreaming may be referred to as a “hybrid sleep-wake state.” In regular dreams, people are conscious of objects and events within the dream state, but they are not aware of the dream itself and cannot distinguish between sleep and wakefulness. This has been correlated with lower levels of cortical activity.
No, not really! Lucid dreaming is generally safe and can be a beneficial treatment for nightmares. But just like anything, there are a few potential risks. These include experiencing realistic feelings such as sadness, pain, or anxiety, having difficulties recognizing reality, using lucid dreams to escape reality and even experiencing a lucid nightmare. Always make sure you are practicing lucid dreaming for the right reasons.
These Techniques Could Get You There
There are various techniques to lucid dreams, but here are three to get you started.
To begin, optimize your bedroom for sleeping. Make sure it has a comfortable temperature and is dark and quiet. One technique uses reality testing. Pinch your nose. If you can still breathe, you’re dreaming. Similarly, reread a line of text. If you’re in dreamland, the text will constantly change.
Another technique requires you to wake yourself up at night. REM sleep occurs 90 minutes after falling asleep and every 90 after that. This can increase your odds of remembering a dream if you wake every 90 minutes. If not, set an alarm 2 hours earlier than your regular one. A third technique is to simply keep a dream journal. Record your dreams as soon as you wake; it will make it easier to recognize a lucid dream. Try it out! You will be surprised at what your mind can do when your body is asleep.