Experts say lucid dreaming helps you get over your nightmares, traumas, and PTSD, but what it actually is?
Philosophers and scientists have been studying human brains for centuries, they have figured out about sleep, consciousness, dreams, etc. But lucid dreaming is a relatively less understood topic. Over years this intriguing topic has gained attention from scientists to use as a therapy for people combating recurring nightmares and troubling past memories.
Inception- the blockbuster movie which popularized this impressive concept of lucid dreaming by featuring dream artists who were able to control their dreams as well as other dreams. This phenomenon is not possible to this extent but is definitely not altogether absent.
"I'm standing in an empty white room, which is completely bare like a new house. The complete lack of detail makes me curious... What is this place? Suddenly, I realize: this is a dream! The room surges into focus. I become self-aware: conscious of my body and its place in the dream world. I do my reality check and feel my fingers push right through the palm of my hand. I'm lucid! I am so excited, I run out the door, looking for someone to tell. I find a woman who I don't recognize and shout in her face. "I'm dreaming! I'm dreaming!" I'm so excited, I accidentally wake myself up." Said Rebecca Turner- the founder of the website “World of Lucid Dreaming”.
What is lucid dreaming?
The phenomenon in which the person having a dream becomes aware of the fact that he is dreaming is known as lucid dreaming. Normally, when we have a dream the whole scenario created by our mind seems vivid and we really don’t know that we are having a dream. As said in Inception “Well, dreams, they feel real while we’re in them, right? It’s only when we wake up that we realize that something was actually strange.”
According to research, about 50 percent of people have experienced at least one lucid dream in their lifetime and almost 11 percent of people become aware of their dreams about two times per month.
When does it occur?
During sleep, our brain goes through two stages- REM sleep and Non REM sleep. The latter one is a deep sleep stage in which typically our heartbeat, brain waves, and eye movement slow down. It usually occurs in three steps.
The REM stage is characterized by an increase in eye movement, heartbeat, etc. In this stage, our brain is actively working. It occurs after 90 minutes of your sleep and lasts for roughly 10 minutes during the first cycle and increases to about 60 minutes in the final sleep cycle. Limbs and muscles are temporarily paralyzed during this stage to prevent walking and performing actions of dreams in real life.
How to do lucid dreaming?
Some people are born with the ability to lucid dream. Whereas lucid dreaming can also be induced by changing your lifestyle in a way that helps to experience lucid dreaming. Some of the tips which proved to be beneficial in inducing it are the following.
1. Reality Testing
This means to verify that whether you’re dreaming or not. It acts as mental training for your brain to detect your awareness. Research has proved that your self-perception level is the same during dreaming as well as waking so reality testing while you’re awake will increase metacognition during dreams. Hence you’ll be more likely to become aware of the fact that you’re having a dream. Some common reality checks are passing your finger through your other hand, if it passes through it you’re probably dreaming. Another effective one is to pinch your nose and check if you can still breathe. Looking at a clock or your reflection in a mirror to check if they look normal are also reality checks.
You have to choose one of the reality check methods and train your mind by performing it several times a day for the induction of lucid dreaming.
2. Dream journals
Dream diaries and journals have proved helpful for lucid dreamers. Try keeping a diary and pen beside you while sleeping and whenever you wake up try to remember your dream and write it down in the diary. This forces your brain to recall dreams and you’re most likely to become aware of your dreams.
3. Wake back to bed (WBTB)
You’re more likely to lucid dream if you enter your REM stage while being conscious. This can be done by setting an alarm to wake up after 5 hours and going back to sleep in your consciousness. Try to perform some mental activity when you wake up like reading in order to make your mind alert.
4. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD)
MILD is one of the first methods of induction of lucid dreams which involves scientific research. This was presented by La Berge in 1980. According to this technique, you have to make the intention to be aware while having a dream. You’ve to continuously remind yourself that when you’ll dream next time you’ll remember that you’re dreaming. Repeat this sentence again and again in your mind before sleeping or going back to sleep again after waking in the middle of a dream. A combination of WBTB and MILD increases the chances of lucid dreaming.
5. Wake initiated lucid dreaming (WILD)
This happens when you directly shift from a physically awake state to a dreaming state. It means that your mind stays conscious while your body goes to sleep. It starts with hypnagogic hallucinations which slowly turns into lucid dreams. This technique is a bit difficult to learn but serves as one of the simplest methods to induce lucid dreaming.
How to wake up from a lucid dream?
Several techniques are used by lucid dreamers to wake up from the dream. Shouting in your dreams gives signals to your brain to wake up, so calling for help can make you wake up from a dream. Blinking continuously also helps you to wake yourself up. Another method is by falling asleep in a dream to wake yourself up in reality. Also, reading is quite beneficial for waking up from dreams because reading and dreaming are functions of opposite parts of the brain and cannot take place at the same time.
Benefits of lucid dreaming:
Lucid dreaming can be used to combat recurring nightmares. Anyone who aces the art of lucid dreaming can control their dreams and reduce nightmares by changing the horrible storyline of a dream into a pleasant one. Also, when a person knows that they’re dreaming and everything around them is nothing but hallucinations, they can overcome their fear of nightmares. Thus overcoming nightmares due to PTSD, stress, depression, insomnia, etc. has become easier by using lucid dreaming.
Relieving anxiety by using lucid dreaming is also very effective. People who control dreams are more likely ready to face situations that cause them anxiety. Lucid dreaming also helps to gain control over phobias by doing exposure therapies in dreams.
Lucid dreaming enhances the creativity of a person. People can go on an adventure, meet new people, and explore new things, etc. in their dreams by controlling them. They can do whatever they want and thus makes them more creative and curious.
Typically, there are no serious dangers of lucid dreaming, but it may affect your sleep quality by not being able to sleep because of extremely vivid dreams or you might find it difficult to sleep if you’re more focused on lucid dreaming. One of the main risks is sleep paralysis, which is briefly terrifying but has no serious impacts.
Lucid dreaming might be an intriguing, beneficial, or wonderful experience, yet you ought to consider why you are keen on accomplishing it and what you hope to get from it prior to attempting it.