Let your dreams be your playground

Woman lucid dreaming in bed

What is lucid dreaming? 

It’s quite simple. Lucid dreaming is knowing you are dreaming in a dream. Yes, it is a real thing and you’ve probably experienced it at least once in your life. Scientifically speaking, lucid dreaming is a hybrid state of consciousness. One study published in Sleep went further to discover what really happens in your brain during lucid dreaming and found preliminary evidence of changes in electrophysiology during this state. Lucid dreaming is most likely to occur in the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase and most lucid dreamers don’t realize they are dreaming until an event in the dream seems impossible. 

Let thy dreams be thy medicine? 

For the 7.77 million adults suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the U.S., nightmares can be torture. Approximately half of those with PTSD experience nightmares that vividly replay their trauma, forcing them to relive a traumatic event over and over again. Lucid dreaming therapy (LDT) aims to empower those suffering from PTSD nightmares to write a new ending to their story and take their recovery into their own hands. 

Preliminary studies of LDT are promising, but the success of lucid dreaming therapy over that of other forms of cognitive behavioral therapy has yet to be proven. One study of veterans with PTSD found that 82% of participants were frequently aware they were experiencing a nightmare during the dream state and 24% of participants had control over the outcome of their nightmares, indicating the potential efficacy of LDT. Of course, lucid dreaming therapy is only possible if a person is able to lucid dream.

Can you become a lucid dreamer? 

A recent study found three promising techniques to achieve lucidity. Although many of Freud’s theories have been abandoned by modern psychologists, reality testing remains an effective practice for achieving lucidity. The exercise involves questioning your reality throughout the day to test your surroundings. This could be as simple as asking yourself throughout the day, “Is this real?” or as surrealist as attempting to pass your hand through a brick wall. Obviously, you can’t, but such exercises train your brain to do the same in a dream state.

The second technique is referred to as wake back to bed (WBTB) and it’s meant to send the sleeper straight into REM sleep (where lucid dreaming is most likely to occur). The trick is to fall asleep, wake up after five or six hours and stay awake for 10 minutes to an hour then go back to sleep. 

The third technique is called mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD), and it’s fairly simple. Before falling asleep, repeat a phrase like, “When I am asleep, I will recognize that I am dreaming.” It might sound silly, but establishing intention before bed will help make all your lucid dreaming dreams come true.

These techniques are best used in tandem. The study found that the group of participants who utilized all three techniques had a success rate of 17.4% over a one-week period. Whether you want to lucid dream to subdue nightmares, treat PTSD or just explore a creative side of yourself you’ve yet to meet, practice these techniques and be deliberate about your goals. Sweet dreams!

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