WHAT IS LUCID DREAMING?

Even if virtual reality becomes available for everyone, lucid dreaming will still be the most amazing experience, as in a lucid dream you can be at the same time the director, the observer and the participant of a story and experience you create.

The basic definition of lucid dreaming is the ability to understand that you are sleeping while you are sleeping. If a dreamer can control or influence the dream characters, narrative, and environment, it means that they have mastered the art of dream control.

dark magic forest with glowing blue butterflies

Therefore, a lucid dream doesn’t necessarily include dream control. But without a doubt, when it does, it is much more exciting.

In normal dreams, we don’t understand that we are dreaming, no matter how many surrealistic images we see and no matter what kind of strange things happen to us.

surrealistic glass with an island and waves inside

In dreams the prefrontal areas of the brain that are responsible for censorship do not work well.

Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist known for her research on dreams and hypnosis, wrote, “That's not only for censorship of things that are socially inappropriate, what Freud would have meant by censorship of sexual and aggressive impulses, but also the impulses that say, ‘That's not the logical way to do things.’"

That seems to be why even though we continue to think about all kinds of problems and issues in our sleep, and sometimes come up with really creative, interesting solutions, that logic is less linear than our waking thought is.”

lit light bulbs floating in the air

So on the one hand, this mechanism is beneficial for us as we can have insights in our dreams and find novel solutions to the problems we are working on.

For instance, remember, Dmitry Mendeleev, who saw his famous periodic table in a dream, Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian math genius, who claimed that insights for his work came to him in his dreams, or Otto Loewi, the "father of neuroscience," who saw the way he could prove his theory in a dream.

These are just a few famous examples to mention.

On the other hand, the same mechanism doesn’t allow us to understand that we are sleeping and thus doesn’t let us enjoy all the fascinating advantages of lucid dreams.

However difficult it is to understand that you are sleeping while you are sleeping, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Moreover, it can happen spontaneously.

unfinished jigsaw puzzle of a young woman lying on her back

According to the recent studies, the majority of people have had at least one lucid dream in their life.

But if you don’t want simply to wait until it happen to you – tonight or in a year time, you can learn how to understand that you are sleeping, while you are sleeping.

Apart from it, to enjoy and get the most out of lucid dreaming experience, you need to master how to exercise control over the dream plot, its environment and the dream characters so you can direct your dream and make certain things happen.

The phenomenon of lucid dreaming has quite a long history and was first mentioned in ancient Greek writings.

In the East, the skill to become aware that you are dreaming while dreaming was one of the central practices of dream Yoga.

It is also found in the ancient Indian Hindu practice of Yoga nidra and in the early Buddhism.

row of Buddha statues draped in yellow

In the 17th to 19th centuries, several western philosophers and writers mentioned their lucid dreaming experiences in their works.

In 1867, Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys, a French sinologist, anonymously published Les Reves et Les Moyens de Les Diriger: Observations Pratiques (Dreams and the ways to direct them: practical observations). In this book, he described his own experiences of lucid dreaming and proposed techniques for those who would like to dream consciously and learn to control their dreams.

old manuscripts with something written on them

The term "lucid dreaming" is believed to be introduced by Frederick Van Eeden, a Dutch psychiatrist who gathered reports of lucid dreams and experimented with lucid dreaming himself.

In 1913, he presented the results of his studies to the Society for Physical Research and described his finding in the article, "A Study of Dreams."

But the full-scale scientific research of lucid dreaming began only in the second half of the 20th century.


If you want to learn more about lucid dreaming, we recommend the following sources:

  1. LaBerge S. Lucid Dreaming: Psychophysiological Studies of Consciousness During REM Sleep
  2. Metacognitive Mechanisms Underlying Lucid Dreaming
  3. Lucid Dreaming: A State of Consciousness with Features of Both Waking and Non-Lucid Dreaming
  4. Neural Correlates of Dream Lucidity Obtained from Contrasting Lucid Versus Non-Lucid REM Sleep: A Combined EEG/fMRI Case Study.
  5. Lucid Dreaming as a Treatment for Recurrent Nightmares.
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