Dreaming in your sleep is like entering a whole new world of unknown forms, places and senses. At least half of us have had lucid dreams once, which is a state of awareness that you’re sleeping, but why and how it happened? Is this experience dangerous? Can we train to control our dreams? Let’s find out.
Definition of Lucid Dreams
When you’re dreaming, you are an observer of the things happening in the dream, even though you might be the main character in it. And during dreaming that’s lucid you’re able to take action and change how events unfold in your dream. Speaking figuratively, you become the director of your movie rather than a simple viewer.
Lucid dreaming is, in fact, quite rare. A scarce 55 percent of people have experienced it once or twice, while only 23 percent reported to have such dreams once a month.
When Do Lucid Dreams Happen?
Regular human sleep consists of light and deep sleep phases alternating every 90-110 minutes. REM or “rapid eye movement” stage is a part of a deep sleep phase associated with all kinds of dreams.
During REM your eyes move rapidly in different directions, breathing intensifies, your brain is more active while the muscles stay relaxed and the body is recovering. And at this stage you’re most likely to experience awareness of the fact that you’re dreaming.
When lucid dreams occur, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for executive functions such as working memory and selective attention, is active, which is not the case during your regular dreams.
Are Lucid Dreams Dangerous?
Today there is no solid proof that lucid dreaming can be harmful to human health. Healthline.com states that the potential benefits of it include enhanced creativity, improved motor skills and decreased nightmares. But there are also quite a few risks associated with lucid dreaming, such as derealization, dissociation and in particular cases depression and anxiety.
Common Myths About Lucid Dreaming
Rebecca Turner, founder of World of Lucid Dreaming, points out two of the most typical myths about lucid dreaming.
#1 It’s possible to get stuck in a lucid dream
We’ve all been stuck in our dreams at least once, but because it wasn’t lucid, we didn’t have much control over it. In lucid dreams, you are aware of everything that’s happening and, therefore, can get hold of it, and even force yourself to wake up.
#2 This state is for yoga practitioners only
Meditation is proven to help relax your brain and increase the chance of lucid dreaming. However, you don't need to have 20 years of yoga experience to attain this kind of state.
You dream on a daily basis, so you have everything it takes to start lucid dreaming.
How to Start Controlling Your Dreams
You’re most likely to experience lucid dreaming during the REM stage, which you enter about 90 minutes after falling asleep. That’s why the quality of your sleep hygiene can increase the possibility of entering the desirable mental state.
Some good sleep hygiene tips include avoiding caffeine and electronic devices before going to bed, following your sleep schedule and exercising daily.
There are also other ways to provoke lucid dreaming, such as starting a dream journal, practicing reality testing or induction techniques.