Dreams are regular occurrences while we are asleep. They are manifestations by our subconscious brain, often reflecting our psychological and emotional state.
There are infinite types of situations and occurrences that one encounters during a dream, where some may induce happy and positive emotions and where some dreams become our nightmares, filling our minds with anxiety and dread.
Most of the time, we are not conscious of our dreams. They appear realistic, tangible, and actual because of which we often wake up crying, screaming, or sweating after an undesirable dream.
They induce bodily responses and reactions that are similar when experiencing an actual situation. However, not all dreams are subconscious.
Sometimes, we are very much aware of the visions and dreams that we are experiencing, and in some circumstances, we can even exercise control over our dream.
Such types of dreams where you are aware and conscious of your dreams that you are experiencing are known as lucid dreams.
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What Are Lucid Dreams?
Lucid dreaming is a condition where you are aware that the events that you are dreaming about are not real or have no influence on your waking life.
They are vivid and realistic, but your awareness of the dream is a dream that allows you to become an active participant of the dream and, sometimes, manipulate the situations of the dream according to your will.
The idea of ‘lucid dreams’ has been going around for centuries. People have been reporting of having ‘conscious dreams’ for over a millennium, dating back to the Greek era.
Recent studies and reports have shown that almost half the people across the globe have had a lucid dream, at least once in their life.
However, they may not be fully conscious of their lucid dream. Most of the dreamers wake up after having an episode of a lucid dream, while some continue to sleep, undisturbed.
Like non-lucid dreams, Lucid dreams are also framed by our unconscious elements where our apprehensions, fears, troubles, desires may materialize themselves in the form of lucid dreams.
Lucid dreams also allow the dreamer to recall the memories from their waking life in their dream and access their conscious memory.
Lucid dreams can be recalled with detail and accuracy after waking up compared to non-lucid dreams where the dreamer often forgets the dream or remembers only a few instances from it.
How Do Lucid Dreams Occur?
Lucid dreams are often spontaneous but can also be voluntarily induced. Non-lucid dreams are more like watching a movie where you act as a first-person, whereas, in Lucid dreams, the dreamer takes control of the situation, and active cognition on the part of the dreamer is involved.
Two main sleep conditions are experienced by people when they are asleep. The first is non-REM sleep (Non- Rapid Eye Movements), where your brain activity is low, and your body vitals are normal, including a slow heartbeat, steady eye movements, etc.
Compared to non-REM sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is a progressive condition where there is an increased brain activity, followed by rapid movements of the eye and an elevated heartbeat.
Lucid dreams occur when a person is experiencing a REM sleep or several hours into it. The dreamer becomes conscious of the dream and may partake as a manipulator of the events.
Neuropsychology is still unable to provide a comprehensive answer as to how and why lucid dreams occur.
Recent researches have shown that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, involved in decision making, task management, and memory recalling, is highly active in people experiencing a lucid dream.
Frequent lucid dreams are also recorded among individuals who have a habit of overthinking or hinging on to the stressful events in their waking life.
Types Of Lucid Dream
As discussed, lucid dreams are not separated from our unconscious self. Instead, they are manifested by our unconscious state forming a bridge between a sleep-like and wakeup state.
The dreamer is neither asleep nor fully awake while experiencing a lucid dream. Thus, scientists have speculated that there can be two different types of lucid dreams:
1) A dream initiated lucid dream (DILD) and 2) wake initiated lucid dream (WILD). As we know that dreams are an outcome of REM sleep; therefore, DILD is most frequently to occur compared to WILD.
#1. Dream Initiated Lucid Dream (DILD)
Dream initiated Lucid dreams (DILD) is often a spontaneous phenomenon where the dreamer slips into a state of lucidity.
Around 80% of the lucid dreams are the result of DILD, where the non-lucid dreams transform into lucid dreams.
The dreamer becomes conscious of the absurdity of the dream, where the events and situations started to become unrealistic or out-of-place, for example: walking on water, flying, abrupt shifts of scenery, or the situation deceased coming alive, etc.
The realization of the dream being a dream results in a state of lucidity where you become an active observer and participant of the dream.
Several factors are at play for inducing DILD (dream initiated lucid dreams), including a nightmare or a sudden episode of anxiety after experiencing a nightmare.
Other situations may involve an extreme shift of emotions, e.g., becoming embarrassed or delighted by a particular situation.
The dreamer often wakes up from the dream after going into a state of lucidity and may be able to recall the events of the dreams with complete detail.
The dreamer can identify dream initiated lucid dream (DILD) using three of the following techniques.
- Object Recognition
Object recognition is the common trigger to a lucid dream. To be able to identify an object that bears a close connection with real results in DILD.
The most basic example of object recognition in a dream is one’s hands. Being able to find your hands, focusing on them, and being able to move them results in a trigger to induce DILD consciously.
- Text Change Recognition (TCR)
Text is never constant or fixed while one is dreaming. Finding and focusing on any text, for example, a billboard sign, an advertisement on TV, a sign on the road, a phone number, etc. will help you realize that you are dreaming.
- Finding The Absurd
The third common way to identify if you are dreaming is finding the unrealistic or absurd objects in your surroundings.
For example, a horse flying, a fish walking, talking to animals, etc. Time is the most significant absurd element in a dream.
Observe the timeline of events or notice the shift of day and night to be able to detect a dream. Once you become aware of the absurdity of the dream, it will result in DILD (dream initiated lucid dream).
#2. Wake Initiated Lucid Dream (WILD)
Wake initiated lucid dream (WILD) is an active practice of inducing lucidity while being awake. It takes concentration and practice to induce wake initiated lucid dreams (WILD) willingly.
The state allows the dreamer to maintain continuous reflective consciousness while falling asleep, and then to enter a state of lucidity, directly from the waking state. WILD dreams often occur in the morning or during afternoon naps.
To enter WILD (wake initiated lucid dreams), the individuals have to maintain focus and keep their mind conscious.
WILD dreams are challenging to initiate compared to DILD because you are directly transitioning from wakeup to lucid state, all the while maintaining your consciousness, which at times takes years to master. The process is both times consuming and challenging.
Several techniques and practices are available to induce WILD.
- #1. The first and foremost technique is to relax and make sure that nothing disturbs you in between the process.
- #2. Get rid of any distractions,g., cellphones, alarm clocks, people, etc. Make yourself comfortable.
- #3. Use earplugs and sleep masks to block out any noise or light in your surroundings.
- #4. Manage your thoughts. Do not get distracted.
- #5. Stay still to trick your body into falling asleep. Soon you will start to feel numb and light as if you are ‘’
- #6. You will soon experience vivid hallucinations and images reflecting different patterns and situations. This marks the beginning of a lucid
- #7. If you continue to stay uninterpreted, you will gradually enter the dream. Look for reality checks using the steps mentioned in DILD. Once you are aware of the dream and have entered a state of lucidity, the only limitation to experience any possibilities is going to be your creativity.
Benefits And Risks Involved In Lucid Dreaming
Lucid dreaming comes with several benefits and advantages, including being bold and daring in the dream because you are aware that the dream bears no connection with your reality.
It allows you to be free and expressive. Lucid dreams allow individuals to come face to face with their nightmares and help them get over it.
Being able to recognize the dream as a dream allows the dreamer to manipulate their unwanted dreams and control the situations accordingly.
The dreamer feels empowered and in control. Lucid dreams also help the dreamer get over their phobias and also enhance their imagination and creative skills.
However, there are multiple risks involved in frequent lucid dreaming. The drawbacks of lucid dreaming include sleep problems since the sleeper is unable to maintain a steady sleeping state because of his/her active conscience.
A state of derealization may occur for the dreamer, where he or she is unable to distinguish reality from the dream. Sleep paralysis is also frequent trouble experienced by frequent lucid dreamers.
To conclude, lucid dreaming is a state of being actively aware of the dream. Lucid dreams often occur as a result of REM sleep, where the dreamer may slip into a state of lucid consciousness.
Two types of lucid dreams have been identified by the scientists, including DILD (dream initiated lucid dreams) and WILD (wake initiated lucid dreams).
There are multiple benefits of having or inducing lucid dreams; however, multiple risks are also experienced by the lucid dreamers.
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