Sleep Care

Lucid Dreaming: Become the Master of Your Dreams

When it comes to treating nightmares, some people find treatments such as Image Rehearsal Therapy to be helpful in reimagining the storyline for their terrifying dreams. But what if nightmares could be changed into pleasant dreams while they were happening? What if the dream world can be used as a tool to improve your waking life. These are the questions that Lucid Dreaming seeks to answer.

What is lucid dreaming?

During normal dreaming, an individual is asleep and not aware of their surroundings or the fact that they are laying in a bed, dreaming. Instead, they are focused on the contents of their dream. When lucid dreaming, however, a person becomes consciously aware of the fact that they are dreaming while they are still asleep and dreaming. Along with this realization often comes the ability to change the storyline of the dream while it’s occurring. For example, if you are alone and being chased through an abandoned building in a nightmare, you can consciously change the storyline to running in an Olympic race while being cheered on by lots of fans—all because you were able to realize you were dreaming, while still in the dream state.

Lucid dreaming has been a known phenomenon since the time of Aristotle in 4th century B.C. Various practices of ancient

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Tibetan Buddhist monks are also designed to lead one to achieving a lucid state in dreaming. While initially thought to be nothing more than becoming awake during REM sleep, modern brain imaging studies on lucid dreaming have determined that it is actually a state between both waking consciousness and REM sleep unconsciousness.

Becoming lucid during sleep

There are several methods that can be used by anyone to become lucid while dreaming. These methods all begin by telling yourself before lying down to go to sleep, “when I begin dreaming I will recognize that dreaming,” this is called pre-sleep auto-suggestion.

Although it may sound a little odd, one of the easiest ways to start lucid dreaming is to get in the habit of always questioning whether or not you are dreaming, even while awake. The idea is that when this is done routinely, the question will continue to be asked by your mind even while in a dream state—and this will help in realizing when you are in a dream. Another way of looking at this method is to always be telling yourself what “I am…” currently doing—i.e., “I am currently reading this article on my computer;” “I am eating at a restaurant;” “I am lying down to sleep”. This will train the brain to recognize when “I am currently dreaming.”

Since dreams tend to have elements of bizarreness to them, telling yourself before sleep to recognize any of these abnormal elements can aid in recognition of the dream state. One of the most commonly used “tests” for reality is that of flying—if you try jumping in the air and don’t come back down as naturally as expected, there’s a good chance you’re currently in a dream.

Some people find they need the aid of devices specifically designed to help a person achieve lucidity while dreaming. These often look like sleep masks worn over the eyes, although they make use of infrared lights to keep track of your eye movements during sleep. When the movements are suggestive of REM sleep, the mask emits combinations of sounds and lights that are designed to be incorporated into your dreams in an unusual manner. When successful, you will recognize these bizarre patterns and realize you are dreaming.

Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Once you have mastered lucid dreaming there are a number of practical advantages to lucid dreaming that should, in theory, improve your everyday waking life. Foster greater creativity in a world where you are only limited by your imagination. Solve problems that have eluded you in conscious thought. We’ve all heard the stories of inventors

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and artists creating their masterpieces while dreaming. The dream world is another arena in which you can practice skills, test theories, and because lucid dreaming gives you a space without consequence you are free to face fears that have limited you in the past, improving your courage and confidence.

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