The simple definition of a lucid dream is a dream in which you realise, while you are in the dream, that you are dreaming. You’re likely to think, ‘Oh, I know I’m dreaming.’
This type of sleep in which you lucid dream is associated with metacognition, which involves awareness and understanding of your thought processes. You’ll know it’s a lucid dream because it will be very vivid, and your emotions heightened.
With practice you can control the action like a movie director, increasing parts of your lucid dream world – from living out your fantasy to time travel to meeting guides and otherworldly figures to flying through walls and space.
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Unlike a virtual reality game, the purpose of lucid dreaming is not to achieve anything but to engage with the images and scenes in the dream.
Most of us will experience at least one naturally occurring lucid dream in our lifetime. According to a recent review study, 55 per cent of adults have experienced at least one lucid dream and 23 per cent experience lucid dreams regularly (once a month or more).
Lucid dreaming usually takes place in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. REM sleep is a phase of sleep that contains rapid eye movements, lack of muscle tone and the most likely time to dream. So the more you sleep, the more time is spent in REM, and the more likely it is that you will have a lucid dream.
Once you become lucid the visual part of your brain creates a reality in the same way it does when you are awake; the brain can’t tell the difference between dream and reality. By using your awareness, you can bring the prefrontal cortex of your brain fully online and have a waking experience in the dream. Then you will know you are lucid dreaming.
The benefits of lucid dreaming
- It’s a break from the predictable reality of life.
You can have fun by creating and doing whatever it is your imagination can handle.
- It is good for resolving emotional trauma, fears, phobias, anxieties and psychological problems.
In your lucid dreaming you can recreate the fear and re-script the dream sequence so that you overcome your obstacles and face your fears.
- It improves skills and overall confidence.
Successful sports people use visualisation techniques to become more proficient and physically stronger. Lucid dreaming has the same purpose.
- It assists with physical healing.
Lucid dreaming has been known to help with healing in general, from warning of health issues to assisting with physical injuries and accessing medical advice.
- It solves problems.
This state of lucid dreaming can provide you with a suite of answers. Scientists, inventors and engineers have been able to access this gateway into conscious dreaming and bring back knowledge to their waking world.
- It enhances your creativity output.
We experience the longest duration of REM sleep just before we wake up. This opens up a huge well of creativity where the dreamer can see things differently and make connections which are outside the norm.
- It helps with personal transformation and growth.
Lucid dreaming can bring you into contact with the deeper part of yourself, so in times of crisis you can draw on lucidity to help you become more emotionally resilient.
How to encourage lucid dreaming
#1 Set the intention:
Set your intention to remember your dream. As you’re falling asleep, recite over and over in your mind: ‘Tonight I remember my dreams.’
In practising lucid dreams, you can train your mind to be critically aware by using the power of suggestion and intent. Before going to sleep you may look at your fingers and say, ‘Tonight in my dreams I’ll see my fingers moving and know that I’m dreaming.” Try to genuinely expect to have a lucid dream. It works.
Reality testing or reality checks is a type of mental training you practise during waking. It is a lucid dreaming technique that involves checking your environment several times a day to see whether or not you’re dreaming.
#3 Wake-back-to-bed technique:
If you can handle early mornings, set your alarm two to three hours earlier than normal. Once awake, sit and relax on your sofa or bed, write in your dream journal, and read a good book about lucid dreaming. After about 20 to 30 minutes, go back to bed and relax. You should be in total relaxation, ready to enter a lucid dream state by thinking about dreaming and what you are going to do inside your lucid dream.
Lucid dream experiences are powerful and often have profound, long-lasting emotional effects in your waking world. Sleep well, remain socially connected, walk and exercise and concentrate on practical daily tasks to help you remain focused on reality.
Rose Inserra is the author of Inside Your Dreams: An Advanced Guide to Your Night Visions (Rockpool Publishing, $29.99). Find out more at www.rockpoolpublishing.co