What are lucid dreams, and how can we achieve them?

50% of the population sleeps about 7 hours a night, which leaves ample time for dreams or nightmares to follow one another in our unconscious.

Why do we dream?

The desire to interpret and understand dreams dates back to Greek mythology when dreams were closely associated with deities. It is only relatively recently that empirical studies on the nature of dreams have been carried out. Despite the various studies and hypotheses put forward over the centuries, the role and importance of dreams remain uncertain.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were in complete control of your dreams? What would you do if you had full sovereignty over your dream material, like DiCaprio and his colleagues in the movie Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)? Well, this idea was not only born from the imaginative mind of the director. They are known as lucid dreams, and it is an ancient practice that has been developed in multiple cultures, such as Tibetan Buddhism or Taoism.

Maybe you’ve had one and don’t remember it. Although, the truth is that it is not something unusual if you do not work, and there are different levels. But if you succeed, you will discover that there are no limits or valid laws of physics, unlike the usual dreams. If you want to fly, you can.

The sleep period is divided into five distinct phases:

Falling asleep consists of two stages: drowsiness and drowsiness. Drowsiness is characterized by muscle tone loss and a slowing heart rate before falling asleep.

Light sleep is 50% of full sleep time for one night. During this phase, the person is tired but very sensitive to external stimuli.

Slow-wave sleep is the onset phase of deep sleep. This is when brain activity slows down the most.

Deep sleep is the most intense phase of the rest period, during which the whole body (muscles and brain) is asleep. This phase is the most important sleep because it allows you to recover from accumulated physical fatigue. This is also when sleepwalking can occur.

REM sleep is so-called because, at this stage, the brain emits rapid waves, the person’s eyes are moving, and breathing becomes irregular. While these signs may suggest that the person is about to wake up, they are still in a deep sleep. Although dreams can occur during other phases, such as light sleep, they occur mainly during the phase of REM sleep, which occupies about 25% of the resting time.

The sleep cycle lasts between 90 and 120 minutes. These cycles, which can occur 3 to 5 times per night, are interspersed with short periods of wakefulness called “intermediate sleep.” However, the person is not aware of these brief moments.

Many dreams can submerge in a person’s mind during a night’s rest, but they will not remember them when they wake up. As soon as the person again enters the slow-wave sleep phase, 10 minutes are enough for the dream to be erased from memory. This is why most people only remember the dream that preceded their awakening.

What are lucid dreams?

They are those dreams in which we are aware of dreaming. “The levels of lucidity cover a very wide range of experiences, from having a nightmare and when we realize it, we wake up, to recognizing the dream as such, remaining conscious within it and changing its content with the power of intention.” It all depends on the imagination of the dreamer.

This experience occurs in the REM phase (rapid eye movement), where daydreams occur. “It is a shallow phase that occurs several times during a night and usually precedes waking up. That is why we often remember our dreams, “says the expert.

Perhaps you have already done so. You realize that you are dreaming in the middle of a dream without waking up. The experts assure us that funny dreams are much more than that.

In the case of a lucid dream, the sleeper is actually in an altered, hybrid state of consciousness. Indeed, this state has its cerebral signature, distinct from that of a simple dream or the waking state, as shown in recent years by studies carried out by MRI or by electroencephalogram.

Certain areas of the brain, usually awake during sleep or a common dream, light up, giving the sleeping dreamer the functions they house.

In particular, the frontal lobe manages complex thoughts, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the seat of metacognition, that is to say, thinking about one’s thoughts, and the frontotemporal region, which is involved in executive functions relating to the self. So many intellectual capacities are normally inaccessible when one dreams.

Lucid dreaming begins with the awakening of metacognition – knowing that you are dreaming within the dream. It is a first step that can give access to full consciousness and all its memories until mastery of the dreamlike environment. In theory, everything then becomes possible. Steal? Descend the pyramids on skis? Too easy… Witness the birth of a star from the back of a giant sunfish? Why not, if it is enough to think about it? Until he creates his lucid dreams on command,

If there are mental methods to increase the chances of doing so, the experience remains rare. According to a 2016 meta-analysis, only 55% of us experience lucid dreaming in our lifetime, and less than one in four experience it once a month or more. Knowing that, among these lucky ones, the majority only reach the first stage of transparency.

New techniques are being tested.

This was a real obstacle to studying this particular state of consciousness for scientists. An obstacle today is removed by new lucid dream induction techniques: transcranial electric stimulation and the catch of galantamine, a drug used to treat the disease.

But beware, concerning galantamine, the study’s authors warn no self-prescription! The drug has yet to be studied for its side effects. The prototypes of helmets with cranial stimulation adjusted for the awakening of clarity have already been built and promise to invade the market soon.

Sure, the promise of being able to control your dreams is merely a dream. But is it risk-free? Because many specialists suspect that the dream would have a useful function for the smooth running of our organism.

Using it could therefore deprive us of its benefits. So that the power to control your dreams does not turn into a nightmare, moderation seems to be in order. But the fact is that this old dream is coming within everyone’s reach.

Not everyone gets it.

Unfortunately, it is not very common. So it generates a certain suspicion and disbelief among those who have never experienced it. Mercè Collell, psychoanalyst and member of the Official College of Psychology of Catalonia, assures us that “it is very difficult to control the uncontrollable and that not everyone can lead the dream.” She still claims people who remember dreams often “have good contact with their unconscious.”

Although it is a difficult subject to investigate, a study carried out by the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim (Germany) concludes that a large part of the population has had a lucid dream at least once in their lives. However, many experts agree that they are more common in children than in adults.

However, achieving a master’s degree worthy of the Origin is not easy. It requires will and intention since when someone reaches great control, they stop being a mere spectator of their dreams to become the director.

The tricks to induce a lucid dream and why they are good

Being masters of our daydreams has its advantages. The expert assures us that they are very useful to end recurring nightmares, solve problems, practice skills, work on creativity, or have fun—next, a series of techniques that the expert advises us to help have them.

1- The reality check: “Almost all tactics are based on a clear intention and a strong desire, so you have to practice during the day,” she says. For this, we must ask ourselves several times during the day: Is this a dream? And observe the reality. “It is about creating a kind of program of the mind during wakefulness so that, in the dream, at some point, it will also be activated, and we will be able to identify if we are in the real world or the dream world.”

It’s known as a reality check, and it’s a trick similar to the tokens used by characters in Origin, in DiCaprio’s case, the famous spinning top. We must see the coherence that surrounds us or try to do everyday things (read, count the fingers of a hand or turn off lights), which is a dream that can be more surreal or distorted.

Something that reaffirms one of the greatest experts on the subject and author of the book “Exploring the world of lucid dreams,” Stephen LaBerge, explains that “the frequency of these dreams increases if people are trained to detect the absurd content of Dreams.”

2- Light stimuli: several commercially available devices detect the REM phase and emit light stimuli when we are dreaming. “These flashes can appear in our dreams in very different ways and help us recognize that we are inside.” The problem is that they are very uncomfortable to sleep in, and they also require a lot of training. “

3- Gamma frequencies: it is a type of technology that is difficult to access unless you are the subject of a study, such as the one by the University of Frankfurt published in Nature. For the study, the researchers stimulated a group of 27 young people—who had never had a lucid dream—using electrical currents.

Participants who slept in the lab two minutes after REM sleep received either a weak electric shock (2 to 100 Hz) to the frontal lobe for 30 seconds or a current simulation without electricity. Gamma frequencies of 40 Hz enhanced the occurrence of these dreams 77% of the time.

Self-reflection and other applications

On the other hand, according to The Journal of Neuroscience, the prefrontal cortex, or brain area that allows self-reflection, is larger in lucid dreamers. This would indicate that those who experience them have a greater reflective capacity when awake than those who do not.

Other works investigate how lucid dreams influence diseases such as schizophrenia, where the frontal lobe is less activated, and perhaps entering lucidity could help distinguish between hallucinations and reality.

The cortical areas active during lucid dreaming overlap with brain regions that are impaired in patients unaware of their illness. Research from the Max Plank Psychiatric Institute in Munich speaks of how those who suffer from narcolepsy experience it more often than healthy people.

Although it is still a subject on which much remains to be found. There is a large amount of literature on the Internet that borders esotericism. It may be that in the future, we will all be able to manage our dreams as we please and thus be able to solve many of our problems or live our lives—wildest fantasies.

How to learn to lucid dream?

Lucid dreaming can be learned with various methods. The most used technique is that the dreamer is aware that he is dreaming while dreaming. You must regularly ask yourself the following question during the day: “Am I awake or am I dreaming?”. This question that one trains to answer in the waking state will also come up during the dream and can then trigger a lucid dream.

Another technique: focus on something that will only work in dreams. Thus, you can try using your mental strength to levitate an object, for example, a cushion or a chair. Practice this during the day first, so it’s more likely that you’ll think about it in your dreams. This will automatically happen in your dream. If you see the object lift, you will realize that you are dreaming.

Your dream will become a lucid dream. It is also possible to spontaneously realize the dream state. When you become aware while dreaming of the fictional character of your dream scenario, you will perhaps realize that you are dreaming.

What are lucid dreams used for?

Research on lucid dreaming and its usefulness is still in its infancy. Attempts are being made to use lucid dreaming in the treatment of nightmares. In some cases, the dreamers may have become aware that their current nightmare was just a dream. This allowed them to steer the continuation of their dream in a positive direction.

Other research groups try to communicate with a dreamer in his lucid dream using eye movements. Sports science is also interested in lucid dreaming. Thus, it has been possible to train in dreams for physically demanding sports such as snowboarding or skateboarding within the framework of studies. Therefore, we are curious to see in which dreamlike directions lucid dreaming will take us.

Is lucid dreaming dangerous?

Although lucid dreaming does not represent a vital danger for the individual, this type of experience does, however, have certain negative consequences. If you want to try the experiment, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with this practice.

One of the most common consequences is sleep paralysis. This is defined as an inability to perform movements when you sleep. When we daydream: our brain will paralyze our body despite our full awareness.

Another negative consequence is the lucid nightmare. It may sound scary! However, since the individual is lucid, he can manage to control his nightmare. Thus, it tends to be less scary since we are aware that it is not the reality.

Finally, lucid dreaming may make us unable to differentiate dreams from reality. Contrary to what one might think, this consequence is the one that scares the most people. Individuals having difficulties with their real-life are the most likely to be affected by this consequence.

What is the difference between a non-lucid dream and a lucid dream?

As you will understand, lucid dreams are very different from non-lucid dreams. Indeed, lucid dreaming is a choice and allows us to control our entire dream. When we experience lucid dreaming, we are fully aware that we are dreaming.

Non-lucid dreams, on the other hand, occur in a state of unconsciousness. When we sleep soundly, we are unaware that we are dreaming. Therefore, we cannot control our dream. Only when we wake up, do we realize that was not the reality.

How to visit the land of lucid dream

Write down your dreams!

This first method is to keep a dream journal, that is, to write down immediately after you wake up what you remember. Everything must be recorded: the place, the sensations, the emotions, the known or unknown characters. This will train your brain to remember what it dreamed of. And therefore to control them afterward. You can also record your dreams mystery using a dictaphone.

Ask yourself if you are in reality or a dream!

Every two or three hours, ask yourself if you are in reality or a dream… Look at the clock, read a few words of a text… In a dream, the lines of text are often blurred. If they are sharp, you are still well aware.

Try to cross the palm of one hand with the index finger of the other, thinking that you can succeed while wondering if you are dreaming or not, before and after. If you are dreaming, your index finger will cross your hand, and by asking yourself the question twice, you increase your chances of realizing that it is a dream (or not).

A few habits to adopt

To be able to lucid dream, you have to train your brain. For example, when you fall asleep, repeat to yourself that you will be aware that you will be dreaming! Repeat this sentence until the unconsciousness of sleep overtakes you. This technique, called lucid dreaming mnemonic induction, is based on techniques that train your memory to think even when you are in an unconscious state. The repeated phrase will turn your sleep consciousness into a habit.

Recognize personal signs

To recognize the personal signs of your dreams, all you have to do is reread your notes… You will no doubt notice that recurring signs appear in your dreams. Therefore, when you recognize these signs during your sleep, it will mean that you are dreaming. We all have recurring signs in our dreams: falls, chases, places, or injuries. You have to know how to identify those who come back frequently!

Go back to sleep after a dream.

If you wake up with the memory of a dream, write it down, then close your eyes and focus on it. Dive back into your dream and check the reality to realize it was a dream: pinch yourself, for example! Keep this thought in mind when going back to sleep; you could enter a lucid dream.

An alarm for dreams?

Dream specialists advise buying a light alarm to enter lucid dreams. You will have to set it to go off 4 to 6 hours after you fall asleep. The best would be to trigger it every hour, but you should not ruin your sleep time to achieve lucid dreaming either. The light will stimulate you during REM sleep and make you aware that you are dreaming. The light shouldn’t wake you up physically; allow your brain to regain consciousness, to perhaps train you into a lucid dream!

We opt for meditation.

Meditation is perhaps one of the keys to achieving lucid dreams. Before going to bed, settle down in a quiet, dark room to meditate. You will find many videos on the Internet to do your meditation sessions, but first, focus on your breathing. For example, imagine going up or downstairs. The goal is to prevent your brain from thinking about anything other than your meditative state. Going to bed with a relaxed brain allows you to go slowly toward a lucid dream.

How to prolong a lucid dream?

Have you finally managed to control some of your dreams and realize that you are dreaming? Now, you will have to try to prolong it so that it does not wake you up! If you control your dream, rotate your body (into your dream) and let it fall back… Apparently, according to some lucid dreaming pros, this would help pursue it.

To prolong a lucid dream, you must do things that prevent you from returning to the real world, such as rubbing your hands together… But always in your dream under control! Why not apply these techniques to our dreams as well?

Play video games?

Most gamers believe that they have more lucid dreams than non-gamers do. However, no scientific study proves this. If you managed to get the PS5 for your teenager, try playing a game that interests you. It costs nothing to try; finally, the price of a game may allow you to share a moment with your crazy gamer.

Some medicinal aids?

Some specialists recommend galantamine, a medicine made from the snowdrop flower, to have lucid dreams. Taking 4–8 mg of this substance at night would help you dive into lucid dreams. But beware, galantamine could also cause unpleasant dreams; this would be one of its side effects.

Other people advise taking vitamin B occasionally, which would be able to increase the reality of dreams. However, you would need to take around 100mg to have any demonstrable effect, which is much more than the normal daily dose. Anyway, if you opt for one of these last two solutions, the advice of a doctor is essential. Is wanting to have lucid dreams essential to our nights? To meditate precisely!