The 411 on Lucid Dreaming
No need to pinch yourself—it’s real. The whole “lucid dreaming” thing is having a pop-culture moment. On the heels of mind-expanding movies like Inception there are now entire websites devoted to the phenomenon. If you’re curious (we certainly were), here’s a quick run-down on the topic.
What Is Lucid Dreaming?
A “lucid” dream is one in which the dreamer is aware (at least on some level) of the fact that they are dreaming, and may be able to influence the outcome of their dream. The concept isn’t new—there are references to it in ancient literature. But a branch of science has recently sprung up to study the subject, researching both why it happens and how to increase the chances it will occur.
Lucid dreaming has been linked to a related phenomenon you may have experienced: False awakening. This is when a person dreams they have woken up and are performing “conscious” activities, but in fact they are still asleep. There can be a dream-within-a-dream aspect to such false awakenings, creating a “hall of mirrors” effect that can be disorienting to say the least.
What’s Good About Lucid Dreaming?
There are at least two practical applications for lucid dreaming. The first concerns recurring nightmares. If a person suffering from such dreams is able to recognized that they are dreaming while still asleep, they may be able to exert some “conscious” control and direct the course of the nightmare toward a more satisfactory conclusion.
Another potential benefit is in the realm of creativity. Countless researchers have found links between dreams and outside-the-box thinking. Whether in the arts, sciences, or creative professions like architecture or design, it’s possible some people may be able to direct the course of their dreams toward solutions they seek in the waking world.
Can Lucid Dreaming Be Controlled?
Sorry to say, there’s no single technique you can apply tonight and begin lucid dreaming immediately. But there is a long list of practices you can try in order to raise your chances for success. These include:
- Periodically asking yourself if you are dreaming during the day (so you’ll begin to ask the same question while dreaming and recognize your dream-states).
- Keeping a dream journal. This can aid in remembering your dreams, which is one of the keys to lucid dreaming.
- Getting more REM sleep. This is the stage when dreaming occurs, and can be fostered, among other ways, by going to bed at the same time each night.
There’s much, much more to learn about lucid dreaming, but that's a start...