What is lucid dreaming?
In basic terms, it is any dream where the person is aware that they are actually having a dream at that moment.
Some are skeptical of the concepts of lucid dreaming, while others have embraced these dreams whole-heartedly. Is there scientific evidence that can prove lucid dreaming is real?
If lucid dreaming is real, are there any benefits to the creation of a lucid dream?
There are many questions about the human dream state that have plagued scientists and researchers for generations.
Although we don’t know 100% of what the mind can do, there is something that we do know: people can engage others as if they are physically awake, even when their mind is still within a dream state. Sleepwalking would be one example of this.
What about lucid dreaming? Is it real… or is it just another type of sleepwalking?
How Much Research Has Focused on Lucid Dreaming?
Since the times of the Egyptian empire, humans have been aware that there is something unique about their dream state.
The Egyptians created hieroglyphs that showed their sleeping bodies being outside of their soul. Aristotle mentioned that there were dream states that seemed so tangible and real that they didn’t seem like a dream at all.
What about modern research? Lucid dreaming really began to be emphasized in the 1960’s after REM sleep was directly linked to dreaming.
In 1968, Cella Green began to collect accounts of dreams that seemed to be lucid. This was the first real step toward a modern realization that lucid dreaming was a unique state of consciousness.
In 1975 and then again in 1978, the ideas that Green collected were put into observational research studies.
Keith Hearne and Stephen LaBerge both validated that conscious dreaming could occur by tracking the eye movements of study participants.
Over the next three decades, numerous studies would attempt to discount lucid dreaming.
One proposal even suggested that dreams are just random neuron firings that occur within the central nervous system.
All of that changed in 2009. The Neurological Laboratory showed through brainwave readings that those who are lucid dreaming generate gamma brainwaves that are highly active.
This was followed up by MRI scans of those who regularly lucid dream so that their brain activities could be medically documented.
What has all of this research confirmed? That the mind responds the same way when a command is issued to move a leg as it responds to a dream state.
Because the brainwave activity is the same, it shows that the mind does not distinguish between being physically awake or being in a lucid dream.
There’s a Good Chance You’ve Already Had a Lucid Dream
Jerry went to bed like he always did, but with one exception: he’d left the television on. In the middle of his sleep cycle, Jerry began to dream about being a super spy, hired by his country to eliminate covert threats. His mission was simple: take out the bad guys.
Jerry got dressed up in a tuxedo and then began to climb a fire escape. Why? He had a gut feeling that there was a bad guy up there. He slowly emerges on the roof and sure enough, there is a bad guy there.
The bad guy attacks. Jerry responds by trying to kick him. It causes a pain to shoot up his leg and the pain wakes Jerry up. What did Jerry do? He kicked the wall next to his bed so hard that he put a hole into the drywall.
On the television was a James Bond movie.
Many of us have had dreams like this. Sometimes they happen when the alarm clock goes off in the morning and it turns on the radio – you begin to hear the broadcast in your dream.
At other times, we can actually make the conscious decision to dream about something and have it happen. The difference between the lucid dreamer and everyone else is that they recognize these items as a “trigger” and this allows them to become conscious enough to take over a dream.
Triggers can be anything. One of the usual pieces of advice given to those who want to try lucid dreaming for the first time is to go to sleep while needing to go to the bathroom.
What happens? There’s invariably a dream that occurs where the person needs to stop at the toilet to go to the bathroom. Will they wake up in time to actually make it to the bathroom?
Guess that depends on how close the bathroom happens to be.
The fact to take away from here is this: if you can remember interacting in your dream environment, then you are having a form of a lucid dream.
You’ve crossed the first hurdles by being able to recognize this. Now you’re ready to take advantage of all the benefits that lucid dreaming is able to provide someone.
What Are the Benefits of Lucid Dreaming?
Lucid dreaming might be difficult to achieve at times, but there is some joy in the rewards that it can bring.
Beyond the fun that comes with the creation of your own interactive fantasy world, there are some clear mental and physical benefits that can help to improve their overall quality of life.
It allows the mind to be able to strategize potential problems. One of the most exciting aspects of a lucid dream is that it allows people to meet and interact with some of their personal heroes.
The mind makes this person into an expert that will allow you to be able to actively problem solve issues that are happening in your life.
Think you might get fired? Not sure how to address a family situation? Your subconscious has some good advice to give you. It’ll share that advice to you through the image of someone you idolize.
Sexualized dreams can become an instant trigger. Most people don’t expect to be in an intimate situation with anyone but their current partner. That’s why intimate dreams can be an instant trigger of recognition for lucid dreaming.
There are some that look at dreams like this as a form of cheating, but it is really just another form of release. Having intimacy with anyone, even someone anonymous, is a real possibility.
The experiences are tangible and it’s an easy way to recognize dream states and make them lucid. That’s a win/win!
Life no longer needs to follow the demands of physics and science. Lucid dreams can be about anything. Some people love to fly during their dreams. Others like to hop into a spaceship so they can explore strange new worlds. Sometimes time travel is included as part of the dream, like something from an H.G. Wells novel.
Because the lucid dream state is one that is constructed by the mind, anything becomes possible. If you can imagine it, then you can do it, and gravity or the speed of light don’t have to get in the way.
It’s a way to speak with your true self. There are two components of the human mind – the conscious and the subconscious. There are certain things you don’t have to think about doing, like causing your heart to beat.
These parts of the mind are areas that we rarely access. Through the process of lucid dreaming, however, the parts of the mind we suppress are able to come forth and there is a surprising amount of wisdom that can be experienced in dreams that feature this type of encounter.
Lucid dreams provide a legitimate environment for skill development. Skills need to be practiced in order for them to improve. Without practice, only the natural talents and gifts of a person can shine through in a raw fashion.
Lucid dreaming, because it is such a tangible environment, can provide the foundations needed for practice so that real-life skills can improve. Are you going to become a ninja master overnight? Probably not. Can you become more in control of your anger so that you can be a mediator more than an instigator? Probably so.
Lucid dreaming can also meet some specific needs. It allows people to interact with loved ones they may have lost. It can help people to overcome certain phobias they may have.
If there’s a need that the human mind needs to have fulfilled, then look for triggers that can help you control your dream state and create a lucid dream and you’ll be surprised at how effectively a dream can have your needs get met.
What Are Some Techniques to Use to Begin Lucid Dreaming?
There may be flashes of the dream left in our memories, but for the most part, the vivid details of the dream are gone.
Part of the reason for this is the natural sleep cycles that we all have.
Most people will enter into a light sleep state where they are aware and conscious of nothing. This proceeds to an REM period of sleep where dreaming begins.
The body then goes into a deeper sleep state, then begins to slowly awaken, passing through the REM sleep state once again. Then it enters the light sleep state and you wind up waking up 3 minutes before your alarm clock goes off.
When people pass out of REM sleep into a new stage of sleep, the dreams that they’ve had are gone forever.
If you want to be able to recall your dream, then you’ve got to wake up directly out of that REM dream state. For those who have a cat that likes to be fed at 3am, this isn’t much of a problem.
For those who don’t like to be disturbed during the night, however, it may become necessary to set an alarm in the middle of the night to wake up.
No matter how you wake up in the middle of the night, it is important to jot down your memories as soon as you can.
Even in lucid dreams, the longer you wait to document a dream, then the more likely it will be that the dream is going to be forgotten.
Use a journal to keep track of each dream and remember as many details as you can. By doing this, you’ll affirm the dream as a memory and be able to recall more details every time you access your journal.
Does Meditation or Prayer Have a Direct Impact on Lucid Dreaming?
Meditation and prayer has been taught since nearly the beginning of modern human history. Every major religion and spiritual practice includes meditation, prayer, or both as components for the mature practitioner to follow.
Have you ever wondered why this might be?
The practice of meditation, no matter what form it takes or what it may be called, is essential to the development of self-awareness.
Without this self-awareness, it is virtually impossible to experience the true depths of life that are available to every person in this world. It’s also nearly impossible to lucid dream without practicing some type of meditation on a regular basis.
Meditation has a direct impact on lucid dreaming because it can help the mind to recognize triggers more frequently. It’s difficult to bring yourself into a state of meditation when you’re not used to doing it.
For those who have religious preferences, prayer is a good way to begin the process. Repetitive prayers are very similar to meditation mantras and the outcomes are very similar as well. The mind enters a state of greater awareness.
A great way to start meditating for the first time is to use a guided meditation product. You can find some guided videos online and even movie streaming services have some how-to guides for meditation.
If the idea of listening to someone tell you what to think and how to feel is a bit of a turn-off, then another wonderful option is brainwave entrainment.
With brainwave entrainment, the mind actually becomes tuned to the specific frequencies and waves that the brain generates through the practice of meditation.
Users can gain the benefits of meditation quickly and easily and this awareness helps to lead a person toward better awareness through their dream states.
Binaural Beats For Lucid Dreaming: Do They Work?
One of the most popular methods of achieving a meditative state today is through the use of binaural beats. The brain operates at different frequencies, allowing different wavelengths to be generated. This creates focus, sleep, or relaxation.
Could they also be used to create a lucid dreaming state?
Binaural beats can absolutely bring about a state of lucid dreaming. Think of it as a tool that can be used to train the mind to accept the information you want it to process. When you’re tired, you go into a physical routine to bring about sleep.
When you use binaural beats during meditation or in preparation of sleep, you can create the physical routines that are necessary to achieve lucid dreaming.
The time of day does not matter. It is the time that is dedicated to the sleep routine that will help set a foundation of success.
This works because of the auditory steady state response that occurs within the mind. This response, which is best described as synchronization, allows the mind to become in tune with its surroundings.
It also allows the mind to explore other areas of itself in a conscious manner.
Have you ever noticed what happens when you plug an iPod into a computer for the first time? It will sync to the computer and give you access to your music and video files on both platforms.
That’s what binaural beats do with your lucid dream. You use them to create a sync that gives you the power to control your dreams because your mind is in more control of itself.
What makes binaural beats such a successful tool to use is its ability to naturally induce specific states. By soothing the stresses of the day away through relaxation or pounding out work through a better focus, you’re giving your mind a tangible reward.
It will want more. Lucid dreaming can provide it with more. This positive cycle will then continue until you actually achieve the lucid dream.
Once that occurs, your mind will feel like it has been rewarded and make the path to more lucid dreams easier to find from then on.
In return, you will be in a naturally more receptive state to provide input for your dream.
Your mind will want you to be in control, so you will be. The key to all of this is to achieve a first layer of sleep while the mind is still active and conscious.
If you can do this, then you can be in control.
If you’ve never tried lucid dreaming before, then consider using binaural beats in the morning when you first awake.
If you’re accustomed to getting up at 6am, set your alarm for 5am instead. When the alarm goes off, play the binaural beats and allow yourself to go back to sleep.
This will be the easiest way to achieve the lucid dreams that you want to have.
Check these binaural beats:
Could Lucid Dreaming Actually Be Dangerous?
The world record for staying up without any stimulants is 11 straight days. Researchers have noted that a lack of sleep can actually kill animals and they believe the same is true for humans.
People need to have sleep so that their bodies can recharge and have the physical and mental energy to be able to face a new day.
The problem with lucid dreaming, as indicated by the research, is that the mind interprets these dreams as a conscious state.
Physically it’s a hybrid state of awareness where parts of the body are asleep, but other parts of the body are awake.
This means that lucid dreaming is not a true rapid-eye movement [REM] sleep period that the body needs.
The body doesn’t need a lot of REM sleep every night. If someone gets 8 hours of sleep on a consistent basis each night, the most REM sleep they’ll get is about 50 minutes.
Many people in sleep studies have REM sleep less than 5% of the time, yet wake up feeling completely refreshed.
The issue of lucid dreaming is that it forces the mind to not be in an REM state. There is the possibility that lucid dreamers may trigger a lucid dream and force themselves out of the needed REM dream.
This is where it could actually be dangerous to be lucid dreaming on a consistent basis. Mental health and the amount of regular REM sleep a person gets has been directly linked.
To be clear: a person would need to likely practice lucid dreaming every night for a minimum of 14 days and not receive any REM sleep for the lucid dream to be considered dangerous.
This isn’t going to happen except for the most advanced dreamers who can pick out triggers of unreality that allow them to stay within their dream state effectively.
For the most part, the side effects of lucid dreaming just involve self-realization, an added level of awareness, and even enhanced levels of happiness.
The Scariness of Sleep Paralysis Is Very Real
Jerry wakes up. He’s aware of his surroundings. The ticking clock in the background is an indication that time is passing by. It’s been a good night’s sleep, Jerry feels ready to conquer the day. It’s time to get out of bed.
Except Jerry can’t get out of bed. It’s still dark – could it be too early to get up? Jerry tries to move again, but he can’t move a muscle. Now he’s aware of something that could be in the room with him. Is it the dog? Could it be a burglar? There’s a weight on his chest now and he’s finding it incredibly hard to breathe.
Then, in a moment, the feeling is gone. Jerry takes a deep breath. The room is empty. He can turn his head and the clock says that it’s 3:30am. It’s time to get some more sleep.
It’s almost like something from an Edgar Allen Poe story, but sleep paralysis isn’t fiction. It isn’t something that is caused by a supernatural phenomenon either.
It occurs when the brain and the body aren’t quite in-sync when it comes to the sleep you need. The brain emits two chemicals, called GABA and glycine, that help to relax muscles during sleep. When these chemicals are present, then the body doesn’t move during sleep.
If you are moving in your sleep, then these chemicals aren’t present in a big enough dose. When you wake up and have those scary, crushing feelings of sleep paralysis, it means the mind is still producing the chemicals to relax the muscles.
It is the combination of these chemicals and being mentally aware before the body is aware that has led to a wide variety of stories and myths of what happens during sleep.
Sometimes people feel like they are about to die when they experience an episode like this. These fears can actually help to lead to an added level of paralysis.
This is where lucid dreaming can help to set the mind at ease. There are three ways to help an episode of sleep paralysis pass without fear.
- Understand that it is not supernaturally based. People who believe that God is punishing them or that the devil’s out to get them are more prone to feel distressed when sleep paralysis occurs.
- Take a moment to think the fear away. A conscious thought to push fear out of the mind is often good enough to set the mind more at ease. Sometimes repetitive thoughts become necessary in order to achieve success if the paralysis incident seems to stretch on forever.
- Recognize reality and distinguish it. There are three basic states of reality. There is the dream state, the paralysis state, and the present time right now. The mind tends to blend all of these together on its own as a way of coping with the changing states.
If you can separate these states from each other and better understand them, then you’ll realize that there aren’t demons waiting for you in the bedroom. You’ll be able to take control and either go back to sleep or finish the waking up process.
Lucid dreaming also has a second benefit: by being in control of your dreams, the nightmares that create an instant wake-up and the conditions for sleep paralysis don’t happen as often.
That’s because recognizing a nightmare as not being real and taking control of the dream can become reality instead of the reality of the horror that is being experienced.
Is Lucid Dreaming Something That Can Lead to Other Mental States?
One of the most common questions that people have about lucid dreaming is if it can lead to other mental states – like astral projection. The quick answer to this question is no. The explanation as to why is a bit more prolonged.
Lucid dreaming occurs on the dream state of the mind. Although there are conscious interactions and awareness, the body is in a hybrid state of being.
In the other mental states, like astral projection, that people feel like they can achieve, there is full consciousness or full unconsciousness that is present at the time.
Astral projection is the active movement of a person’s inner being, soul, or consciousness from their body and to the environment around them. It’s a verb – a person must actively do this.
Even for astral projection events that seem to happen around a near death experience [NDE], the mind is making an active decision to do what it is doing. The person may not be aware of it during an NDE, but the decision has been made consciously.
You don’t need to be good at lucid dreaming in order to achieve other mental states and the reverse is also true.
People who are masters at meditation may never have a 100% lucid dream. People who have lucid dreams may have never meditated in their life.
Those who actively practice astral projection might not care about meditation or lucid dreaming at all.
These are all skills that are independent of one another.
That’s not to say that you can’t benefit from all of the different experiences. It is just important to note that they are independent of each other and not related in any sense.
Are You Ready To Begin Lucid Dreaming Today?
Do you think that you’re ready to give lucid dreaming a go? Most people are able to achieve their first lucid dream within the first 3 weeks of trying. Some people can achieve success on their first or second night of trying.
There’s no right or wrong time frame here. The only thing that matters is the ability to achieve a lucid dream.
The first thing that you need to start doing is to establish an awareness of what is reality and be able to distinguish reality from an overall dream state. You can establish this habit by establishing a pattern of checking for realism at least once an hour.
Can you put your hand through that wall? Are you able to change day into night? Is your reflection in the mirror normal? How long did you actually stay airborne when you jumped on your bed?
Sometimes just something simple, like creating a mark on your desk, is enough to distinguish reality from a dream state. Then you’ll want to follow some of these helpful tips.
Attempt to manifest a dream right now. Spend 15-20 minutes today to conjure up a dream state. Some might call this effort “daydreaming.”
Whatever you call it, the goal is to encourage the mind to enter a dream state of which you remain aware. Even if you’re unable to conjure up a real dream, the time spent will help to relax you and maybe even give you some extra energy to finish off your day strong.
Repeat affirmations to yourself about lucid dreaming. It’s easier to lucid dream when you believe that you’ll be able to achieve a lucid dream. Give yourself permission as you’re going to sleep at night to have one.
If you can fall asleep as you are repeating the affirmations, the mind will be conditioned to accept the possibility of allowing your consciousness to creep into your next dream. It doesn’t have to be a complicated phrase. “I can lucid dream” could be suitable enough.
Make sure that you know what your dream signs are. Every person has unique dream signs that always tend to happen. It might be the classic dream of being naked or in your underwear at work or in class.
It could be getting behind the wheel of your car to drive somewhere. This is where your dream journal can really help you out. By establishing what your dream signs are, you’ll be able to notice patterns and that can create a trigger.
Be aware of reality. If it’s the middle of the day in your dream and then you suddenly turn around and it’s night outside, then there isn’t much realism in that experience, is there?
Although dreams create their own form of reality, uncontrolled dreams seem very real no matter what is actually happening. If something doesn’t seem like it could be real, like a sudden shift of time, then there’s a good chance you’re dreaming.
Allow failure to happen. The first few times that a person will activate a lucid dream, they’ll get so excited by the fact that they can control their dream state that they’ll wake themselves up.
Instead of getting frustrated, celebrate the fact that you were able to successfully trigger the dream. Keep practicing and eventually you’ll be able to stay in control and still be excited about what is going to happen next.
Most importantly, have some fun with it. Lucid dreaming isn’t supposed to be a stressful experience. If you aren’t having fun with it or you find yourself becoming nervous or scared, then put a stop to your trying.
It’s always possible to come back and try lucid dreaming at a later time.
There is nothing to fear about a lucid dream. There really isn’t anything dangerous about a lucid dream. Anyone can experience them as long as they can recognize their triggers.
What is lucid dreaming? It’s the chance to be in control.
By following these steps and using this information, you’ll be able to have great dreams, experience life in profound ways, and even glean some wisdom from your inner being.
Read next: Best books on lucid dreaming
Latest posts by Luke (see all)
- Crown Chakra Affirmations to Nourish & Balance the Sahasrara Chakra - April 27, 2021