Lucid dreams are dreams during which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming, even though they’re asleep and experiencing the dream clearly. In some cases, they may even be able to control certain aspects of the dream while it’s happening.
These types of dreams most often occur during the deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep, which begins around 90 minutes after the dreamer falls asleep, and can last as long as that phase of sleep lasts–from about 10 minutes to an hour.
According to Psychology Today, about half of all people will have lucid dreams at some point in their lives, with around 20% having them once monthly on average. Neuroscientists also believe that those who dream lucidly usually have larger prefrontal cortexes than those who don’t, and may also tend to be more introspective.
Those who dream lucidly are said to experience decreased anxiety and fewer nightmares after lucid dreaming.
Can you be taught how to dream lucidly?
Many people wish to learn how to lucid dream for a variety of reasons–and some have been more successful than others in doing so. This is an area scientists hope to develop further, especially since it appears hopeful for the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
It also seems promising as an aid in rehabilitation, for those who suffer from chronic nightmares, as well as for those who wish to improve their motor skills, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
Some techniques seem to work better than others in helping dreamers get lucid–and no techniques tried thus far have become truly reliable. One 2017 study recommends the overlapping of three main techniques in the promotion of lucid dreaming. These are called:
Mnemonic Induction Lucid Dreaming (MILD)
In this technique, the person repeats a sort of ‘mantra’ or simple phrase to themselves while visualizing having a lucid dream throughout the day. An example of a good phrase would be, “Next time I’m dreaming, I want to know I am dreaming.” It is hoped, then, that once the person begins to dream at night, they’ll remember the phrase and become aware of their dream state.
This technique involves setting an alarm a couple of hours before their usual alarm wake-up time, getting up for just a few minutes, and then returning to sleep. This brief period of awakening is believed to cue certain brain regions which encourage lucid dreaming once REM begins.
This is where you ask your waking self questions throughout the day, or perform an action to determine whether you’re awake or dreaming. One such action includes finding a light switch on a wall and flipping it off and on. If the light goes on and off, you know you’re awake.
Other techniques used to encourage lucid dreaming include:
This requires the person to ask themselves repeatedly whether they’re dreaming or not during their waking hours. When asking this, they should look around for clues as to whether they’re dreaming or awake. This is intended to be reflected once the person falls asleep and starts dreaming, allowing for them to find clues that they’re dreaming.
This asks the dreamer to lie down in bed and relax at their regular bedtime, suggesting to themselves in their minds that they’re going to dream and it will become a lucid dream. They continue this until they’re asleep.
This is where some type of external stimulation is applied during REM sleep that encourages lucid dreaming. Sleep masks that produce light stimuli are the most popular product available for external stimulation.
There are also other modern strategies, such as the Awoken app, a free lucid dreaming tool, and certain types of wearable tech intended to encourage lucid dreaming. These are advised to be used carefully and minimally, as are drugs used to promote lucid dreaming, such as donepezil.
Lucid dreaming (risks)
Although lucid dreaming is widely considered to be harmless, some may experience problems with it, especially if they have or are developing any type of mental health disorder. Keep these risks in mind:
- For those who suffer from depression and anxiety, sleep problems should be carefully monitored. If symptoms of either disorder worsens over time, contact your physician to establish the best strategy.
- For anyone who has trouble remaining reality-based, or has issues with derealization or dissociation from trauma-related issues, etc., lucid dreaming may pose a problem. If you find yourself unable to distinguish reality from dreaming when awake, contact your physician to determine whether or not continuing to practice or strive for lucid dreaming is right for you.
Can’t sleep well enough to begin lucid dreaming? Try this
If you can’t sleep, you’re not likely to get much lucid dreaming in, and numerous factors may be contributing to the problem. A wonky sleep schedule, eating too much before bed, mental health disorders, hormonal shifts, too much before-bed screen time, and heightened stress from major life changes are some of the most likely culprits.
Check your mattress, pillow, and bedding
However, you could also try replacing your mattress and pillows. The right mattress and pillow can aid sleep by alleviating discomfort connected to a lack of spinal support or alignment. Hot sleepers, or those who sleep on their sides, backs, etc., can further seek the comfort of mattress toppers or other bedding i.e. cooling sheets designed to support their preferences.
Sip a hot cup of non-caffeinated tea or set up a white noise machine
If those don’t work, you could try sipping a hot beverage before bed, purchasing a gentle white noise machine set to drown out extraneous noise, or spritzing a little relaxing sleep spray on your sheets as well.
Try sleep aids or consult your physician
While there are many other types of sleep aids you could try as well, be sure to consult your physician for advice if you continue to experience difficulty with insomnia. Prolonged sleeplessness not only causes an increased risk of health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure, but it can also lead to accidents during the day or diminished performance at work.
Did you manage to lucid dream?
Are you able to enjoy lucid dreaming? Have you overcome insomnia? Do you have a favorite remedy you’d recommend?
Let us know what techniques or remedies you’ve tried and what works best for you in the comments!
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