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Lucid dreaming

Lucid dreaming is consciously perceiving and recognizing one is in a dream while he or she is asleep and having control over the faux-reality dream world within a dream, or "dreamscape". Stephen LaBerge, a published author and expert on the subject, has defined it as simply realizing one is dreaming while in a dream. Other authorities contend that in order for the state of a dreaming person to be lucid, that person must have control over his or her dreamscape. Lucid dreamers, called oneironauts, report being able to freely remember the circumstances of waking life, think cogently, and act deliberately upon reflection, all while experiencing a dreamscape that seems vividly real.

A person in a lucid dream with full control may morph the dreamscape into any virtual reality that person pleases, all with properties that feel identical to that of wakeful consciousness. Doing literally anything within a lucid dream is not outside one's ability. Less skilled oneironauts who have trouble controlling their surroundings, however, sometimes instead make themselves like actors in chosen plays. Lucid dreams are notable for their durability in memory, being exceptionally more memorable than typical, non-lucid dreams. Oneironauts regularly describe their dreams as exciting, colourful, and fantastic, and often compare their dreams to a spiritual experience.

Many people report having experienced a lucid dream during their lives, often in their childhoods. However, even with training, achieving lucid dreams on a regular basis is uncommon and can be difficult. Despite this difficulty, techniques have been developed to achieve a lucid dreaming state intentionally. A number of universities (notably Stanford) conduct continued research into these techniques and the effects of lucid dreaming, as do some independent agencies such as Laberge's The Lucidity Institute. At present, there are no known cases where lucid dreaming has caused damage on either the psychological or physiological level. However, it would be very hard to determine whether some form of lucid dreaming might prevent one from receiving a benefit from normal dreaming. Jungian psychology seems to indicate that normal (or partly lucid) dreaming, in which one does not control the dreamscape, is a way to achieve self-understanding.

One method of testing whether one is dreaming or not is to read a text, look away, and read it again. In the real world, the text will not change, while in a dream, observers have found text will often change. Clues to the dream state such as this are known as dream signs.

Table of contents
1 Other phenomena associated with Lucid Dreaming
2 History of lucid dreaming research
3 How to Induce Lucid Dreaming
4 External links
5 See also

Other phenomena associated with Lucid Dreaming

History of lucid dreaming research

The term "lucid dreaming" was coined by Frederik van Eeden in his book A Study of Dreams (1913). This book was highly anecdotal and not embraced by the scientific community. In fact, the possibility of achieving a lucid dream state was dismissed categorically by N. Malcolm in his 1959 text Dreaming. The enthusiastic endorsement of lucid dreaming during the 1970s by
New Age proponents such as Carlos Castaneda did little to enhance its scientific credibility.

However, during the 1980s, credible scientific evidence to confirm the existence of lucid dreaming was produced [1], and lucid dreamers were able to demonstrate to researchers that they were consciously aware of being in a dream state (usually by performing a pre-arranged series of physical cues such as distinct patterns of eye movement [1]). Additionally, techniques were developed which have been experimentally proven to enhance the likelihood of achieving this state [1].

One outstanding question on the neurophysiological nature of lucid dreaming concerns the electrical activity in the frontal cortex, which is generally suppressed during normal sleep. The behavior of the frontal cortex has not at present been crucially analyzed with respect to lucid dreaming.

Some psychologists have theorized that the intensely "real" experience of lucid dreaming may actually provide a valid explanation for accounts of alien abduction, Astral travel, and other paranormal, out-of-body experiences [1].

There is a substantial cottage industry based around the technique of lucid dreaming, with an array of devices (usually based around flickering light arrays) commercially available to allegedly allow induction of lucid dreams. Their proponents also sometimes claim that these devices help achieve a higher level of spiritual consciousness, and associate it with other New Age concepts such as astral traveling or dream sharing. Regardless of these claims' validity, lucid dreaming as a scientifically verified phenomenon is well-established.

Some proponents of technique claim they can use symbolic methods to research, program and modify their nervous system itself. Memory management, creative solution generation, accelerated healing, autoinduced priapism and ecstatic envelopement of ones body are among the various claimed techniques.

How to Induce Lucid Dreaming

Different methods work for different people so it is recommended you read this section fully before trying one of the methods explained.

General techniques

You need to learn these before using one of the methods below.

Reality Checks

Almost every method to induce lucid dreams involves reality checks. These are checks which clearly indicate whether you are dreaming. Make yourself familiar with this list:

  1. Breathing - shut your nose with your fingers. If you are still able to breathe, you are dreaming.
  2. Nose - shut one eye. If you cannot see your nose with your other eye, you are dreaming.
  3. Reading - read a sentence from a book, look away and read it again. In dreams you might read random letters and will find it very hard to remember what was written. Stephen LaBerge claims this is the best reality check.
  4. Clocks - clocks in dreams may have no hands, change every time you look at them or show too many digits or random symbols.
  5. Supernatural powers - just imagine yourself flying and if you succeed, you are dreaming. Other possibilities include sticking your hand through solid objects or turning locks with your mind. Of course, some people would be more willing to accept these in real life so this check might fail.
  6. Backtracking - how did you get there and what are you doing? You can rarely remember this in dreams.
  7. Fingers - look at or feel your fingers and make sure you have the normal five. Additionally, make sure their colour, shape and size are normal. Sometimes the fuzzy logic in dreams causes this reality check to fail.
  8. Light switches - light switches never work in dreams, oddly. Light sources are often not well defined.

You need to do enough of these, whatever the result, to convince yourself you are not dreaming. If you are uncertain, you probably are!

Things you can spot which show you are dreaming:

  1. Dead people
  2. Third-person perspective (watching yourself do things)
  3. Other dream signs which are different for each individual (see below)

Improving Dream Recall

It is possible to have a lucid dream without remembering it, just like a normal dream. Therefore you should use various methods to improve your dream recall.

Keep a dream diary which is secret and private and as soon as you wake up ask yourself "what did I dream?" then scribble down as much as you can remember from any dream you had. You can use a special pen to make this more of a ritual.


Wake-back-to-bed method

Sleep for approximately four and a half hours, go downstairs, immerse yourself into books about lucid dreaming, and then go back to bed. The disadvantages are that you need a book about lucid dreaming and that it needs plenty of sleeping time. However, some people claim this works very effectively.

Visually Induced Lucid Dreaming

You imagine a scene similar to this:

You are in a plain room with two friends. One says, "We're having a Reality Check competition". The other says "You start". You do your normal reality check, find that you are dreaming, tell them so and thank them, and walk out of the room through a door into a new world...

You go to bed and read until you become very sleepy. Turn off your bedlight, get into a natural position, and just imagine the scene over and over again (try to make sure it is completely and word-for-word the same each time). Eventually you may actually dream this and therefore achieve lucidity! The creator of this method (Pedro at recommends reality checks one and two. Some people claim to have a 100% success rate and are able to have several lucid dreams in one night. Additionally, the fact that the dream starts exactly how you planned it can give you a feeling of control and give you the 'highest' lucidity i.e. realising you have total control over your dream. However, for some people it may be hard to constantly visualise the same thing over and over again without forgetting or letting your mind wander. This may be a form of autohypnosis.

Excess water

As an example of how lucid dreams feel like, drink excessive amounts of water before going to sleep and repeat to yourself a few times that if you search for a bathroom you are dreaming. Eventually you will dream and hopefully you'll remember your plan and achieve a short period of lucidity before waking up to go to the bathroom.

Reality checks with dream diaries

The next step is to look through the dreams for common recurring events, or dreamsigns. These can be used as reality checks. Some dreamsigns are common while others are rarer. Common ones include constantly running to get to something while rare ones may include missing one shoe!

You should also do reality checks very often (perhaps 15 times a day) even if you are certain you are awake. Doing your reality checks as a routine may help. The hope is that eventually you will do a reality check in a dream and realise you are dreaming. This will start your lucid dream.

Once you achieve your lucidity

If you feel like you are slipping awake, try to start spinning by just imagining yourself spinning. Keep spinning until the colours blur and you have regained your focus. Similar techniques include rubbing hands etc.

If you are too inactive, you may continue your dream as normal forgetting that you are dreaming! However, this rarely happens with VILD (see above) because you have already created a world of your choice.

External links

See also