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Lucid dreams happen when a person is dreaming, and they are aware that they are dreaming. Many people when they are experiencing a lucid dream are fully aware of the lives they have when they are awake, and they are able to control their dreams with their thoughts. At the same time, they are unaware of their bodies while they are participating in the dream world. The strict definition of “lucid”
means the person is in complete control of what is happening around them; however, those who are participating in a lucid dream are only partially able to control the course of their dream. In this essay, I will investigate several readings to discuss the meaning of lucid dreams and what exactly they are. Lucid dreams are interpreted differently by various sources but, in the end, they can tell people various things about their subconscious. In order to get to this point where a person is regularly having the dreams and are able to control them, they must frequently practice.
The four stages of sleep include a stage where the brainwaves are going through the theta waves process. Then the brain goes into the sleep spindles, which 12-14 rhythms that last for about half a second. Sometimes people will mumble in this stage. In the next stage, there are delta waves that are produced. This is when the blood pressure, heart rate and arousal starts to decline. The delta waves continue and this is where most dreams and nightmares happen. In the next stage, the breathing becomes more rapid and less regular. People’s heart rate often rises and eyes dart around. This is called the REM stage, (Holt, 2008).
The rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep is often associated with dreaming. When waking from the REM stage of sleep, dreams are recalled 74-80% of the time. When waking up from stages of sleep that aren’t REM, the dreams are only recalled about 7-9% of the time. That could mean that when a person wakes up from a non-REM (NREM) stage of sleep, and they recall a dream, they might not be recalling a dream from the NREM stage, but actually from the REM stage of sleep. While many researchers held the view that people always dreamed when they were in the REM stage of sleep, that view has since been challenged. It was showed that when a person reports a dream that they were having, there was a much higher recall rate when a person was awoken from the NREM stage of sleep, in comparison to the former research which said the recall rate from the NREM was only 7-9%. Some researchers say that the wakefulness, REM sleep and NREM sleep are indicative of specific mental states that have various levels of the cortical activation, aminergic-cholinergic neuromodulation and input source. “A different view is proposed by Solms, who on the evidence from brain lesions suggest that REM sleep and dreaming are controlled by different brain mechanisms and while there is a substantial correlation between the two, in fact they are dissociable states” (Stubrys, 2013).
While lucid dreaming was long considered to happen only in REM sleep, others say that is incorrect. During a sleep laboratory study, there were 35 reported lucid dreams that happened in the REM sleep, two happened in the NREM Stage 1, and one happened during the NREM Stage 2. But in 24 lucid dreams that people said they had while having the volitional eye movement, all of them happened during the REM stage of sleep. When looking at a larger sample, in 88 lucid dreams that were collected during a sleep laboratory, 83 of them were during the REM stage of sleep. Four were during the NREM Stage 1, and one case was reported to be in the NREM Stage 2. About 76 of the dreams were confirmed to be happening with the eye-signalling. When taking a look at that sample, there were 70 cases of the unequivocal REM, and the remaining six were confirmed to be with the eye-signalling. As these reports indicate, the large percentage of lucid dreams occur during the REM stage of sleep (Statsny, 2010).
In “Lucid Dreaming: A State of Consciousness with Features of Both Waking and Non-Lucid Dreaming,” Ursula Voss and other researchers attempt to study whether the physical qualities of the brain change when the state of the mind changes in lucid dreams. The authors define lucid dreaming as being a very rare, but people can train to become effective lucid dreamers when they are in their pre-sleep phase. To do this, the sleeper must tell themselves to recognize bizarre events that are about to take place in their dreams. They are able to show the researchers that they are lucid, by making intentional eye movements that tip off scientists.
There were several ways that researchers conducted the experiment. This included data analysis of continuous sleep segments of at least 70 seconds. In the researchers’ power analysis, they investigated the activity in the sleeper when they were given specific “frequency band of the EEG” electrodes. In the researchers’ coherence analysis, they investigates the neuronal synchronization patterns. This looked at the frequency bands, as there could be differences that were related to conscious processing. This allowed them to tell if the person was dreaming lucidly and whether it was affecting the brain. Finally, the researchers looked at the power and coherences of the current source densities, (Holt, 2008).
The results of the research were based on testing six people. Of those tested, three were able to dream lucidly in the laboratory. In all of the participants, they were sensitive to light and sound. They were given a higher sensitivity that was a part of their personality, but it was determined that it wasn’t related to the lucid dreaming. Among them, the researchers weren’t able to induce a lucid state with the devices used. The light and sound that was used to induce lucid dreaming actually woke up the test subjects, rather than allowing them to have a lucid dream.
It is sometimes amazing at how much we are awake when we are still sleeping during lucid dreams. There is a clear understanding many times during these lucid dreams. It is also possible to remember the dream with relative vividness. Sometimes we can even change the plot of the dream if we want, but that takes training to do it effectively. Usually we don’t question whether the dream is real or not until we have woken up. However, we can sometimes question whether they are real or not when we are in the lucid dreams state. Lucid dreams have been identified since Aristotle’s time. When in a lucid dream, there could be a conflict, and the dreamer is able to take matters into their hands by changing some of the events so that a conclusion that is desirable is reached.
Researcher Stephen LaBerge, from San Mateo County Community College District, conducted an experiment on himself, where he discovered that he could increase the ability to have lucid dreams. He practice for three years and recorded all of the lucid dreams that he recalled. He had a total of 389 lucid dreams. He was experimenting with various autosuggestion techniques, and by doing this he was able to increase the frequency of his lucid dreams almost by four times. At the peak of it, he recalled nearly 26 lucid dreams in one month. However, the techniques to get to the point where he was having lucid dreams were relatively inefficient and vague. It took him about two years to come out with a method that was effective to initiate lucid dreams. But when it came to near the end of the experiment, in the third year, he could essentially have a lucid dream whenever he wanted to, (LaBerge, n.d.).
This shows that it is possible to train oneself to have a lucid dream and it could be so lucid that they are able to let those working at a lab know that they are having a lucid dream. LaBarge’s colleagues showed that they could use prearranged signals to tip off when a lucid dream is being experienced. By using the prearranged signals, the researchers were able to confirm how frequently a lucid dream was being experienced. This was done during the REM stage of sleep. These signals included various dream actions that were observable and were executed according to the agreements that were made during the pre-sleep phase. The researchers believed that through their research they could provide a new model that could be used for dream research.
Many people have occasional lucid dreams, but they don’t document them or their frequency. Also, there are some people who have a lucid dream, and they can remember that they had one, but they can’t recall the events that happened in that dream. But with practice people can trigger their own lucid dreams. Garfield’s technique works, but there is another technique that a researcher says is more effective. There are actually two psychological factors in the pre sleep stage that are associated with being able to have a lucid dream or not. These include motivation. For example, if someone is writing a paper about lucid dreams, they might have the motivation to actually have a lucid dream themselves. Also, self-observation can help a person have more lucid dreams, (Strumbrys, n.d.). When someone is remembering the lucid dreams that they are having them, and writing them down, they will be more focused on lucid dreaming and this could trigger them to have more, because it is on their minds more. Just clarifying what you intend to do by studying the lucid dreams will help increase the number of lucid dreams that you are having.
Practicing the lucid dream each time you have one will also help. Many people have a difficult time keeping hold of a lucid dream when they are having one, and they will often lose control of the dream, or fall into a pattern of not remembering that they are actually dreaming. Many other people will realize that they are dreaming and they will wake up. But as people have more and more lucid dreams, they will become better at keeping hold of the dream and shaping the course of that dream. They will also learn not to wake themselves up. People can also form mental associations with what a person wants to do in the future when they have a dream. Often the lucid dreams repeat themselves, and people can make a note in their minds about what they want to do when they have that same dream. This can increase the lucidity, because the subconscious can learn to recognize that the events that are going on in their minds are in fact dreams. Continuing these strategies on a regular basis can lead to a much higher number of lucid dreams. The key is consistency. Training the brain to remember the dreams is like training a muscle to get bigger. The more a person works at it, the better able they are to reach their goals, (LaBerge, n.d.).
Furthermore, by training to be a more efficient lucid dreaming, and increasing the frequency of the lucid dreams, one will begin to remember more. Because it is also possible that many people have regular lucid dreams already, but they are unable to remember those dreams. Remembering each dream will also increase our chances of performing further actions in those dreams, and that triggers the ability to remember more. The more that we are able to remember, the better the understanding of the lucid dreams we will have. Also when one remembers the dreams regularly, the cues to look for will be more engrained in their minds, so they will be able to remember future lucid dreams, (Brenner, n.d.).
Furthermore, a person can actually decide the actions that will happen in their lucid dream. By thinking about the various courses of action one hopes to carry out in their dream during the pre-sleep phase, they will be more likely to dream about what they are thinking about. Also, when a person verbalizes what they intend to do in their dream, they will be more likely to do it. For example, if someone says during the pre-sleep phase that they want to fly up into the clouds, then they will be much more likely to fly into those clouds. This can also be effective if someone wakes up in the middle of the night from a dream. Often, people will wake from dreams, and then when they fall back to sleep, they will continue the same dream. Those dreams are often much more lucid that other dreams, because the person remembers from before that they were having the dream, and so when the same events start happening again, that person clues in and realizes that the events are just a dream. So when a person wakes from a dream in the middle of the night, the chances of them having that same dream are a lot greater than if they were to plan actions in a lucid dream prior to going to sleep. After waking, the person can detail in their mind what they are going to do when a specific event happens again in their mind. When they come to that point in their dream again, they will often be able to direct where the dream goes, (Brenner, 2010).
Learning how to have lucid dreams can be tricky, but like with most things, the more practice a person commits to it, the more likely they are to be successful in the future at having lucid dreams. The more a person can control the dreams, the more they can enjoy them. For example, if a person is being threatened by a large spider that is coming to eat them, and they are paralyzed with fear, they can recognize that what they are having is a dream. Once they have that realization, they can make steps towards ensuring that they are no longer in that situation. They could, for instance, remove themselves from the situation where they are about to be eaten by an enormous spider, and place themselves on a fluffy cloud with cotton candy, and their favourite celebrity, during a barbecue with one of the chefs from the Food Network as the cook. This is a much better situation than waking up from a dream that causes a person to lose sleep or become anxious. The study into lucid dreaming can be a very powerful tool to improve people’s lives, and as we have seen in this essay, there are several ways that people can become more efficient at having lucid dreams. Many people have reported that lucid dreaming occurred regularly when they were children, and they were able to live out their fantasies when they were having these dreams. Often, with children, the dreams are so vivid that the only response to a negative dream is to realize that it is, in fact, a dream that they are having. From this point, they can transform that dream into something positive and they are then able to get through the night much more effectively. One of the most remarkable features of lucid dreams is that we are able to indicate to a third party when one is experience such a dream. While the body is paralyzed during this sleeping stage, people are able to move their eyes in a specific pattern to tip off researchers, and this has led to major discoveries in the study of lucid dreams.
Brenner, D. (n.d.). Non-REM Sleep. Prince George Community College.
Holt, D. (2008). Lucid Dreaming. Bryn Mawr College.
LaBerge, S.P. (n.d.). Lucid Dreaming; Directing the Action as it Happens. San Mateo County
Community College District.
Stastny, M.T. (2010). Can you learn to lucid dream? University of Iowa.
Stumbrys, T., and Erlacher, D. (n.d.). Lucid dreaming during NREM sleep: Two case reports.
Heidelberg University, University of Bern.