Have you ever dreamt so vividly you actually thought it was real? Did you try to control the outcome and actually succeeded in doing it? If your answer to these questions is a resounding yes, then what you have experienced was lucid dreaming. But did you know that there are actual benefits of lucid dreaming?
In this article, not only will you learn what is lucid dreaming, you’ll also have a deeper insight into the following:
- What are the benefits of lucid dreaming in real life?
- Are there health benefits of lucid dreaming that can be applied?
- Do the different benefits of lucid dreaming increase once you learn to control it?
- How you can make lucid dreaming experience a positive one
- Are there actual side effects of lucid dreaming?
But before you can enjoy lucid dreaming benefits, and the other things that go with it, you need to know what is lucid dreaming in the first place.
Lucid Dreaming Definition
When you dream, you have no idea if it’s real or not. It feels eerily strange while you’re in them. It’s only after you wake up that you realize something strange has happened. There are, however, some people who are totally aware of the fact that they’re just dreaming. This is what lucid dreams are about.
The first recorded lucid dreaming appeared in the treatise On Dreams by Aristotle, the Greek Ancient philosopher. Here, there is a description of self-awareness while in a dream state.
It’s not clear how many people experience lucid dreaming. However, there are studies that have attempted to gather information about its prevalence. And it’s very likely this phenomenon is quite common.
For example, researchers in Brazil had 3,427 participants surveyed, the age of 25 being the median. Results indicated that 77% of the respondents had actually experienced having lucid dreams at least once.
When Lucid Dreaming Occurs
Lucid dreaming happens during your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. For some, this happens spontaneously. While others have trained themselves to begin dreaming lucidly. The capacity of the person to influence their dreams is also varied.
There are people who wake up instantaneously the moment they realize they are dreaming. While others can really influence their actions in their dreams or parts of their dream.
Then there are lucid dreamers who can manipulate their dream narrative to improve the experience. So if they’re not happy with how things are turning out in their dream, they can actually change them.
Lucid Dreaming Benefits
So, is there really such a thing as lucid dreaming benefits? If so, can the benefits of lucid dreaming go beyond the psychological realm to produce more practical outcomes? The answer to that question is a resounding yes!
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming No. 1: Cultivating Awareness
This is literally what lucidity means- greater awareness. The mere fact that you know you’re actually dreaming shows your ability to extend that awareness into your dream state. It is a heightened sensitivity created by your mind. When you’re aware of your mind while dreaming, the same awareness holds true when you are conscious and wide awake.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming No. 2: Therapeutic Effect
This experience can be therapeutic for the individual. It can address the problem of having nightmares, specifically, recurring nightmares. Which can greatly affect anyone’s quality of life. Learning to lucid dream to stop nightmares from happening repeatedly is called “lucid dreaming therapy”. If one has the capability of becoming lucid during their nightmare, this gives them the power of controlling the nightmare itself.
For example, you are being assaulted in your nightmare. You can speak to your attacker and ask them why they are appearing in your dreams. Or what do they need to resolve their conflict with you?
There are others who can take on special abilities or superpowers. This way they can fight their attacker and also try to escape. You can run or fly away. Techniques that will deliberately wake you up from that dream.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming No. 3 Fighting Phobias
Lucid dreaming could also help people in fighting phobias. Like fear of heights, fear of spiders, and many others. When you have a specific phobia, then your lucid dream environment will give you an opportunity to do certain things. This includes exposure therapy. In here you will allow yourself to be gradually exposed to the thing you’re scared of. This will eventually allow you to overcome such fear.
Why is this possible? Because your dream environment gives a realistic experience without it feeling unsafe. When you’re lucid dreaming, you know you’re not present in the real world. Thus, you can explore your fears without having to feel threatened.
Benefits of Lucid Dreaming No. 4: Harnesses Creativity
Not many people may realize this, but lucid dreaming can also be a form of entertainment. The nearest thing you can compare it with is virtual reality. When you’re an expert lucid dreamer you can now go to different places, interact with people and things you can never do in real life. Think of this experience as that of storytelling. You actually feel giddy when you wake up!
Benefits of Lucid Dreams No. 5: Lessened Anxiety
The sense of control a person feels while lucid dreaming could stay with you, giving you a sense of empowerment. When you know that you are in a dream and can shape the narrative and how it’s going to end that’s powerful!
Benefits of Lucid Dreams No. 6: Improved Motor Skills
Some studies suggest that improving simple things such as tapping your fingers. That you can do this more quickly during your lucid dreaming is a possibility. This is the same part of your brain that becomes active when you imagine movements when you’re awake. As well as when you run them through in a lucid dream.
Lucid Dreaming Techniques
There are lots of techniques that people can use if they want to try lucid dreaming. This way the experience is more gratifying on their part.
This can involve verifying if you’re dreaming both in real life and also during a dream. For example, all day long, a person can ask themselves if they are dreaming right at that moment. Then they try to make their hand go through a solid wall. The technique will depend highly on intention. In real life, the wall is of course solid and impossible to penetrate. But in a dream, the hand could easily pass through it.
Another example is rereading a line of text. In real life, when you read something on a poster, it’s the same no matter how many times you read it. In your dream, however, the text constantly shifts. By doing these experiments repeatedly throughout the day, it becomes easier to remember to do it during dreams. This allows the dreamer to gain awareness of that dream.
Waking Back to Bed
This is another technique that requires setting up an alarm in order to wake yourself up about 5-6 hours after you go to sleep. When you’re awake, your goal is to stay awake for a while before going back to sleep. The technique will supposedly immerse the person immediately back into REM. This is the phase of sleep where you’re most likely to have a lucid dream.
However, lucid dreaming can also happen via “mnemonic induction“. It is a technique requiring lots of practice and focused intent. In here the person will have to repeat to themselves a phrase before going to bed. It goes something like, “Tonight, I know I’m gonna be dreaming,” This will help program themselves to achieve that in-dream lucidity.
On Using Meditation and Dream Journals
Apparently, those who have no trouble lucid dreaming find it easy to recall their dreams regularly. The strongest predictor of whether or not you have lucid dreams is your ability to remember your ordinary dreams.
Thus, some individuals who wish to explore their dreams with full awareness will find a dream journal really useful. Here they can record their dreams as detailed and as vividly as possible.
Another thing that could help lucid dreaming is meditation or mindfulness. This is because it trains individuals to be more aware of themselves and their environment in general. The general idea is that if you’re aware during the day, there’s a greater chance of you noticing you’re dreaming when you’re fast asleep.
Risks and Side Effects of Lucid Dreaming
Getting Stuck In Your Dream
The most common concern some people have about engaging in lucid dreaming is getting stuck in a dream and never be able to wake up from it. However, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. Why? Because you are only capable of sleeping and dreaming for a certain amount of time every night. Thus, it’s very improbable for one to get ‘stuck’ sleeping.
Another issue that comes up is that engaging in lucid dreaming need a lot of focus and effort. This might mean that you’re not really getting enough rest. Which could lead to disrupted sleep. But experienced lucid dreamers have not reported feeling more tired. Nor did they have lousy sleep quality because of their lucid dreaming.
Exacerbating Mental Conditions
Some words of precaution though. Lucid dreaming is not recommended for people with mental problems, such as schizophrenia. It’s because these people may find it difficult to distinguish their hallucinations. This from what’s actually happening in real life. Thus, exacerbating their condition.
Some scientists also question if encouraging lucid dreaming could possibly blur the lines. Lines between people’s sleep-wake psychological boundaries. More research is needed on how this can affect the vulnerable population. Especially those experiencing dissociation.
Therefore, lucid dreaming, no matter how fascinating should not be taken lightly. Ask yourself first why you want to get into it and what you wish to achieve before proceeding.
On Lucid Dreams Research
Neuroscientists still do not have the answer as to how and why lucid dreams occur. They have a couple of ideas, though.
First off, studies have found that there are physical differences in the brains of individuals who have and don’t have lucid dreams. The prefrontal cortex or the front part of the human brain is a lot bigger in people that experience lucid dreams. This is the site of recalling memories, making decisions, and doing high-level tasks. Suggesting therefore that people having lucid dreams are self-reflective and very intuitive.
There was a study that was conducted in Germany which tracked electrical activity in the brain of volunteers while they slept. The measurements indicate that lucid dreaming is a “between state”. This means you’re not totally awake, but not totally asleep either. Other scientists also believe that lucid dreams could also happen just outside REM sleep. For a long time people thought that was the only time you can dream.
The way all these things come together is in the discovery. That regardless of whether you know it (lucid) or not (non-lucid), you’re continuously working with your mind. As you continuously work with your mind in your dreams, you have the capacity to change your life.
It may be the same mind, but a different state. What you can do is take these wonderful insights you discovered in your dreams and apply them in real life. Wake up in your dreams so you can also wake up in real life.