How can Lucid Dreams be Achieved?

Our lives have been marked by dreams. Although they can appear fantastical, brain-driven hallucinations may feel very real and cause all kinds of emotions including sadness or fear. The concept of lucid dreams takes things to another level.

Lucid dreaming is the process of realizing within a dream that it is not reality. Some people also have the capability to alter the plot of their dream as it develops.

What percentage of the truth is it true? And how many of these dreams are merely fabricated thoughts of our brains? We spoke to Alicia Roth (PhD), a specialist in sleep disorders about lucid dream and what happens when you wake up from lucid dream.

What is a Lucid Dream?

Dr. Roth explains that lucid dreams are when you realize you are dreaming. Various studies estimate around half of the world's population experiences lucid dreaming.

It is not known much about those who believe they can control their dreams. The majority of research into lucid dreams relies on dreamers' self-reports. Roth says that there are not many objective measures of lucid dreaming.

She continues, "Whether it be lucid dreams, regular dream or nightmares it is very difficult to quantify objectively." There are many ways to tell if someone is in REM sleep. We can detect brain changes if they are scanned using an MRI scanner and a polysomnogram. However, it is impossible to tell if people dream.

How do Lucid Dreams Happen?

However, Dr. Roth notes that the information is not sufficient to determine exactly what lucid dream are. They are most common in REM sleep. Dr. Roth says that REM sleep is where your vividest dreams happen. And it's an active time in your brain. If you did a sleep study, your brain during REM sleep looks a lot like it does activity-wise when you're awake."

Possible sleep disorders and sleep disruptions, especially affecting REM, can have an impact on the frequency of lucid sleep.

One study found patients with narcolepsy had a higher frequency of lucid dreams than the study's control patients. According to another report, REM dreaming can cause a brain shift towards waking that leads to lucid dreaming.

However, it is not yet clear what causes lucid dreaming and why certain people experience them differently.

How to Have a Lucid Dream

Given the non-reliable nature of self-reporting data, it's difficult to determine how efficient specific techniques are. Dr. Roth also noted that this is a problem. But studies have focused on a handful of specific methods that participants suggest work. Take it all with a grain.

Reality testing

Reality testing is the process of constantly testing your surroundings throughout your day. You can do this by looking in the mirror or pushing against objects, trying to breath through pinched nostrils, and even looking into your reflection. This is because if these things are done enough in the morning, they will be repeated in the night. When you start to notice that your dreams go different, it's possible that your subconscious will make you aware that you are dreaming.

Induction by Mnemonics of Lucid Dreams (MILD).

MILD is a way to use your desire to recall something you did in the past. In this instance, it's remembering what your dreams were. This involves you waking up from sleep after a long time and recalling your last dream. Then, recite the command, "The next time I dream, I will recognize that I am dreaming."

Wake-up-back-to-bed (WBTB)

This technique is often combined with the MILD method. It causes sleep disruption. Once a person has slept for awhile, they will deliberately wake themselves up with an alarm and stay awake for a specified amount of time before returning to bed.

External stimuli

Another approach is to deliver external stimuli while a person sleeps in REM. It could be flashing lights or tones, or smells. The aim is to find out if these stimuli have been incorporated into the sleeping person's dreams and if they trigger lucid dreaming.

What are the Benefits of Lucid Dreams

As with other aspects of lucid dream studies, there's a limited amount of data available to confirm how beneficial lucid dreams are.

At least two studies, including one involving throwing darts, looked at whether or not lucid dreams can help motor skills. Both studies found evidence that lucid dreaming can increase performance.

Two more studies suggest that people who have lucid dreams may be more creative.

These findings may not be conclusive and further research will be needed to confirm them. However, Dr. Roth argues that there's at least one benefit associated with lucid dreaming.

Get rid of anxiety or nightmares

Dr. Roth explains that REM is your brain's way of organizing your day or life. It is similar to cleaning up a messy desk. "Your brain makes decisions about what you should remember and what to forget." Your brain organizes and places things in your dreams.

Dr. Roth explains that nightmares occur when the brain is trying too hard to order things in a bad way. Imagery rehearsal therapy is one treatment that can help break this pattern.

We start by teaching the patient how to create pleasant guided imagery when they are awake. "We teach them to use all five senses and even how to create scenes that they love doing," says Dr. Roth. It can be a way to get into the bed, if you do it right before bed.

However, the nighttime component focuses on recognising the anxiety and nightmares that are occurring. Dr. Roth says, "People create the story of the nightmare. Then they rewrite it in a new way to make it end." We can help identify the heart of the nightmare, where it goes wrong and then rewrite the narrative.

After a few minutes, the patient can rehearse their dream and reread the story. Then they will visualize it. Some patients may even decide to create their own versions of the rewritten version, according to her. She says that patients are able to practice rescripted dream scenarios and organize their thoughts in a beneficial way.

Once the patient has reached the dream's hotspot, they are able to either recognize it as real or take the prescribed path.

Is it bad for you to have Lucid Dreams?

Again, without any concrete data it's difficult to tell if lucid thoughts are actually "harmful". People who interrupt their sleeping patterns to induce lucid dreams can cause sleep deprivation, which can impact alertness, memory and stress, and can even result in high blood pressure or diabetes.