What Is Lucid Dreaming And How Can You Control It?
Here's how to establish some level of control over your sleeping hours.
Who wouldn't rather spend their sleeping hours gazing into the eyes of a Gucci model rather than experiencing yet another stress dream about being late for an important exam?
Say hello to a phenomenon called lucid dreaming, which is essentially the fancy term for when a person realises their dream isn't real and begins to take control over its entire narrative. Yep, seriously.
Before we get into that, let's get checking out if a bunch of grown adults can pass a GCSE exam...
What is the science behind lucid dreaming?
People have been fascinated by lucid dreams for centuries, but it's only in recent decades that any scientific research has actually been applied to the experience. And tbh, there's still not a whole heap of evidence surrounding the topic.
What we do know is that lucidity occurs during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep and tends to manifest itself during the early hours of the morning when sleep cycles are known to be longer.
Why is that some people experience it and others don't? Your guess is as good as ours, but studies have noted that frequent lucid dreamers tend to have more grey matter in the brain - which is the area that deals with conscious thought, decision-making, and self-control.
Another study - published in The Journal of Neuroscience - has suggested that people who lucid dream are more "self-reflective" in general, which would explain why they're constantly questioning themselves and their perception of reality even in a dreamscape. Shrugs.
Can anyone learn to lucid dream?
In theory, yes. It's estimated that around 55% of people will experience at least one lucid dream in their lifetime, although it's much rarer to experience them frequently and for longer periods of time.
We don't need to tell you why it's such an attractive skill to hone: the opportunities for sex, adventure, and (risk-free) danger are all reasons why people might want to establish some level of control over their dreams.
So why should I bother learning it?
Besides the obvious, getting to grips with lucid dreaming will provide you with a great rehearsal world in which to practise the things that scare you IRL. Worried about a class presentation, or gearing up to ask out that person you've fancied for years?
This is the perfect imaginary landscape in which to put those fears to the test. Think of it as a totally harmless run-through in which the outcome is completely in your hands.
How long do lucid dreams last?
Most people report that their lucid dreams go on for a few minutes, while others have pinned the duration down to little more than a few seconds.
Frequent dreamers have pointed out that time is weirdly distorted in a lucid dream and have claimed that some episodes feel as if they've gone on for months, years, or even an entire lifetime. Beyond weird.
Are there any risks?
Lucid dreaming in itself is totally harmless, but the experience sometimes goes hand-in-hand with a pretty nasty side-effect called sleep paralysis. This occurs when a person hovers between wakefulness and sleep and finds themselves conscious of their surroundings but totally unable to move their body.
People who experience sleep paralysis can also expect to feel a pressure on their chest, a sensation of choking, and may witness some pretty terrifying hallucinations thrown into the mix too. What a treat.
How can I increase my chances of a lucid dream?
There's no twelve-step guide to learning how to lucid dream, but there are some things you can do to increase your chances, including but not limited to; meditation, keeping a dream journal, setting a series of alarms throughout the night, and conducting frequent reality checks during your waking hours.
Best of luck xoxo