Lucid Dreaming is not like Day Dreaming, you really are fast asleep, but unlike normal dreaming you are aware that you are dreaming. So you're conscious during a dream. Of course happens during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, because that's when you dream. It is thought that more than fifty percent of us will experience a lucid dream at some point during our life. During a lucid dream, you're completely aware of your consciousness. It's a type of metacognition, or awareness of your awareness. Lucid dreaming usually allows you control what happens in your dream. You can have conversations (or other activities!) with famous people or people from your own life. It can be a very wonderful thing. Often people report that lucid dreams feel startlingly vivid or real, so much so that sometimes it wakes them up and the lucid dream is lost.
Some scientists are look at Lucid Dreaming to provide therapeutic benefits to such problems as Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and of course recurring nightmares. Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a psychophysiologist at Stanford University, has is a pioneer of lucid dreaming research. He invented one of the most popular lucid dreaming techniques, and has led many scientific studies on the subject. And of course he has written a book all about it.
Lucid dreaming can happen spontaneously but Lucid Dreaming does not come easy to most of us. There are several techniques that work for some people but not others. Basically you are trying to notice your own consciousness - i.e. be aware that you are dreaming.
Reality testing, or reality checking, is a form of mental training. You're trying to get into the habit of checking if you're awake or asleep. If you do this repeatedly throughout the day, it is possible that this habit will carry through to your dreams - which of course is when you need it! It increases metacognition by training your mind to notice your own awareness. It is thought that levels of metacognition are similar in wakeful and dream states. So, higher metacognition when you're awake could lead to higher metacognition when you're dreaming. The prefrontal cortex plays a role in both reality testing and lucid dreaming. To enhance your metacognition, you can do reality tests while you're awake. You need to get into the habit of asking yourself if you are dreaming. Some ways to remind you to do this include: setting an alarm on your phone, or putting an elastic band around your wrist. Simply asking yourself, ”Am I dreaming?“ may not be enough to determine if you are or are not. You might find a further check like looking at a mirror or a clock, often these will not behave the way you expect in a dream. Whatever test you decide on, repetition and habit forming is the goal.
Back in the 80s, Dr. Stephen LaBerge developed a technique he called Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams. It was one of the first methods that used scientific research to induce lucid dreams. It is based on a behaviour known as prospective memory, you create an intention to do something later. In this case the intention is to remember that you are dreaming. Tell yourself, ”The next time I dream, I want to remember that I am dreaming.“ Say it out loud.
Most people's dreams include something that clearly says this is a dream, a dreamsign - if you will. Dreamsigns can include things like being able to fly, the appearance of dead relatives, or talking animals. Think about what your dreamsigns are, and clearly identify them (in your mind) as proof that you are dreaming. With luck the next time you see them you'll start being lucid. This can be a great method if you wake up in the middle of the night, think about the dreamsign as you fall back to sleep.
Some people can simply lie down to sleep and keep their mind conscious while the rest of them goes to sleep, perhaps inducing an hypnagogic hallucination. Hypnagogic hallucinations can be visual, auditory, or sensory in nature they can happen as you are falling asleep.
Set your alarm to wake you in the middle of your REM around 5 hours after you hit the sack. When the alarm goes off, stay up for half an hour and do something that requires you to be alert - for example reading. Then go back to sleep, you'll be more likely to lucid dream. Apparently the chances of lucid dreaming are improved based on the level of alertness and not the actual activity.
Keeping a dream diary or journal will (over time) make it easier and easier to recall your dreams. You'll find it easier to spot your dreamsigns and realise that you are in a dream. Update your dream diary as soon as you wake, every second you wait more and more details fade away.
A good and full night's sleep is vital to good physical and mental health. So if trying to Lucid Dream is upsetting your sleep routine - STOP. Lucid Dreaming is fabulous, but it's not worth risky your health for.
Sometimes the shock of being lucid will actually wake you up. But there may be times when you want to wake up from the dream prematurely. Techniques for waking yourself include: Shouting WAKE UP, repeatedly, try to read something. Any of these techniques could activate parts of your brain that aren't used in REM, and thus drag you kicking and screaming back into full consciousness.
Some people believe that lucid dreaming has therapeutic effects. Lucid dreaming might help with: nightmares, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, improve motor skills and even substance abuse. But there is little science to back up these claims, so it may be just wishful thinking.