“All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.”
-Edgar Allan Poe
You’re asleep, dreaming away, and then you realize that you are in a dream. Has that ever happened to you? If so, then you have experienced lucid dreaming. It’s like the “dream within a dream” that Poe writes about.
Usually during the dream state, the dream is our reality. We aren’t conscious of the fact that we are dreaming. It is only after we wake up that we can understand we were in a dream and not in reality, sometimes to our great relief! Lucid dreaming is a state in which we are aware that we are dreaming while we are dreaming. Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosophy, wrote about this in his treatise “On Dreams” sometime around 350 B.C. He says: “often, when one is asleep, there is something in consciousness which declares that what then presents itself is but a dream.”
In 1899 Sigmund Freud in “The Interpretation of Dreams” gave credit to Aristotle as being the first to recognize that dreams “do not arise from supernatural manifestations but follow the laws of the human spirit.” In 1913 Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik van Eeden coined the term “lucid dream” in his article “A Study of Dreams.”
Today researchers estimate that about 77 percent of people have experienced lucid dreaming one or more times. Since most dreaming takes place during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, this is when lucid dreaming occurs as well. During the REM stage of sleep, most of the muscles in the body become paralyzed, so that we don’t hurt ourselves while acting out our dreams. But the eye muscles, still able to move, move rapidly. Good quality REM sleep helps improve memory, focus, and emotional regulation.
While it is usual to just wake up from a lucid dream, many lucid dreamers are adopting the practice of staying in the dream state and exploring the potential there. They can observe their dreams, think of them in the context of the waking world, and sometimes even control the direction of their dreams. For example, a lucid dreamer may choose to work on a challenging problem in the dream state. Before drifting off to sleep, they think of the problem for which they need a solution. In this way, they train the mind to move in the direction of their goal.
There are many applications to lucid dreaming that can be beneficial to a person’s life. Using lucid dreaming to help stop nightmares is called “lucid dreaming therapy.” This has also been helpful for people to overcome phobias. With this technique, the dreamer can consciously take on “superpowers” in the dream to fight back or escape from what they are afraid of, or even choose to wake up from the dream. Lucid dreaming techniques have also been used to treat depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
It takes time and practice to both learn and get good at lucid dreaming. If you’re up for it, here’s how you can get started:
1) Get good quality sleep. To have dreams, you need restful sleep, which includes as much REM as possible. Practice good sleep hygiene: keep the room cool, dark and quiet. Get to bed by 10 pm. Follow a calming bedtime routine – including no screen time at least one hour before bed. Make sure your mattress is in good condition. If it is older than 5-7 years you’re probably due for a new one. Remember that a mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep
2) Keep a dream journal. Many people can’t remember their dreams by the time they wake up. And as the day goes on, dream memories fade. Keep a notebook by your bed and as soon as you awaken, write down everything you can remember about your dreams. As an option, you could record a voice memo if this is easier. There are several dream journal apps for phones to keep track of your dreams as well.
3) Look for patterns and signs. Once you have a few dreams recorded, start looking for what images show up again and again. It might be people, or places, or themes. When you identify these signs, you’re more likely to be able to recognize when you are in a dream state.
4) Reality checks. Lucid dreaming experts say that we can get the brain used to the idea of noticing when we’re dreaming or not. This way we’re better able to do so while we’re sleeping. For example: While you’re awake, check the clock – look away – then look back at the clock. In the waking state, the time will stay the same. In the dream state, the time will likely change. Notice the waking state about 10 times a day, reminding yourself that you are awake.
5) The MILD technique. MILD stands for Mneumonic Induction to Lucid Dreaming. As you are falling asleep, repeat a phrase to yourself over and over again. For example: “I will know when I am dreaming.” By doing this you’re encouraging the brain to be aware as dreaming happens, and this increases the possibility of lucid dreams.
6) Go back to the dream. If you wake up from a dream, stay in bed and record the details in your journal. Then when you try to go back to sleep, focus your mind on returning to the same dream. Play it out as if you were aware of the dream until you fall asleep.
7) The WILD technique. WILD stands for Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming. When you wake up, instead of writing down the dream, keep your eyes closed and go right back to sleep. As you lie there, keep the mind focused and aware. Sometimes in this state, when the mind is awake and the body goes to sleep, you might become aware of “sleep paralysis.” If this makes you uneasy, remind yourself that this is temporary so that you can lucid dream, and that you are safe and comfortable. Salvador Dali, Benjamin Franklin, and Mary Shelley are known to have used this technique to help themselves dream up some of their greatest works.
8) Stay in the dream. Often beginning ludic dreamers get excited when they realize that they are in a dream that they wake themselves up. To stay in the dream, experts recommend that you distract the mind from the physical sensations of waking up. While in the dream you could rub your hands together, spin around, fall backwards, or continue doing what you were doing in the dream.
9) Video gaming. A recent study found that video gaming is associated with more ability to remember dreams. Video gamers are often immersed in a dream-like, fictional world where they have control over their movements and activities. Just make sure to stay off the screen 1 hour or more before bed to get a good night’s rest.
Like any skill, you need to practice and be patient as you work on lucid dreaming. The first step is just to relax and observe. Enjoy the process. Sweet dreams!
More sleep tips at : www.BetterSleep.org