Doug HoltLucid dreaming is: dreaming while aware that you are dreaming. Webster's definition of lucidity continues with "clearness of thought or style" and a "presumed capacity to perceive the truth directly and instantaneously". In this sense, lucid dreaming is associated with controlling one's dreams as they are happening. It is a term that was coined by Frederik van Eeden in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Vol. 26, 1913:
I can only say that I made my observations during normal deep and healthy sleep, and that in 352 cases, I had full recollection of my day-life and could act voluntarily, though I was so fast asleep that no bodily sensations penetrated my perception. If anybody refuses to call that state of mind a dream, he may suggest some other name. For my part it was just this form of dream, which I call "lucid dreams" which aroused my keenest interest and which I noted most carefully.
The term lucid may be a bit misleading. In the literal sense, true control is never actually achieved but the dreamer can influence the course of action indirectly. On a basic level, the dream will take a life of its own but the lucid dreamer is able to subtly alter the direction that it takes. Lucid dreaming is more complicated than this. There are many levels of lucid dreaming and awareness. Awareness that one is dreaming is considered the lowest. Researchers have identified two main types of lucid dreams, referred to as "high-level lucidity" and "low-level lucidity". High level lucidity is defined as "a state in which the dreamer is aware that he is in bed dreaming and that no physical harm can befall him" (LaBerge, "Lucid Dreaming Frequently Asked Questions and Answers", 1997). Conversely, low-level lucidity is associated with a state that "the dreamer is not fully aware that he is dreaming and that the environment is the sole creation of his mind, while the dreamer may have the ability to control his dream and do activities, physical threats may still be perceived as completely real." (Thurman, "What is a Lucid Dream", 1997).
What is the cause of these different levels of rationality among dreaming? The current thought is indicating that that there is a "lack of understanding about what is and what is not appropriate to the time and place of the dreamworld" (Levitan, "A Fool's Guide to Lucid Dreaming", 1994). This theory postulates that while absurdity is inherent in dreams, lack of practice in dream manipulation can cause the dreamer to confront ideas that may cause the dreamer to lose control of lucidity. This lack of understanding may cause the dreamer to misinterpret the dream and to have moments of self-doubt. There are three main situations that tend to initiate loss of control and rationality in a dream: Being afraid of physical harm; Being afraid of social consequences; Thinking that another dream character is really there. All of these pitfalls can inhibit a dreamer from achieving a higher state of lucidity in his dreams.
Why Would You Want to Have Lucid Dreams?There are many reasons that people will want to have lucid dreams. The first desire for a lucid dream comes from the pleasure and excitement of being able to control one's dreams and achieve actions that are not possible. The most common of these dreams is the ability to fly, the second is sex. Many people report "their first lucid dream was the most wonderful experience of their lives" (LaBerge: "Lucid Dreaming Frequently Asked Questions and Answers", 1997). This would lead people to want to be able to continue the experiences and further their developments. Unfortunately, many people do not progress beyond a basic level of lucidity. The initial excitement wears off, and lucid dreaming becomes infrequent. For those who choose to pursue lucid dreaming to a higher level, lucidity offers tremendous opportunity for personal growth. Dreaming is a stage in which each action is the most real simulation that a person can experience. Compared to waking rehearsal, dream rehearsal offers many advantages, notably no social or physical consequences. This provides a forum in which a person can repeatedly play out scenarios without fear. This does not mean to imply that there is no fear associated with lucid dreams. One of the most frequent dreams reported is a nightmare. These dreams can be particularly frightful to lucid dreamers because oftentimes they will find that they are unable to exert the control that they are accustomed to having over their dreams. This leads to very nights of "limitless terror." Fortunately, for most of the population, lucid dreaming provides a method for relieving oneself of nightmares. If the dreamer is made aware that he is dreaming and that nothing can cause him physical harm, lucid dreaming provides and excellent forum for confronting and dispelling nightmares. On a more physical level, many elite athletes and artists who want to achieve perfection have utilized lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming provides a place for rehearsal of movements or speeches, similar to visualization techniques but in an environment that is infinitely more realistic.
Learning to Lucid DreamThere are many methods and devices available to people to help them achieve lucidity in their dreams. Some of these techniques require years of training in meditative arts others require expensive new electronic hardware. There are, however, relatively easy methods that people can use to achieve the same results. The foremost method for increasing the potential of dream lucidity is keeping a dream journal. "Dream recall is one of the most important steps in learning to lucid dream. Without the memory of what was dreamt during a night's sleep, you could have had several lucid dreams without even knowing it." (Thurman, "How Can I Learn to Lucid Dream", 1997). Dream recall increases substantially if dreams are recorded upon waking. It is not uncommon initially only to recall snippets of the dreams, often- faces or sights but no connections. The dreamer who uses the dream journal technique is soon able to recall dreams in their entirety. The next step is to scrutinize the dream journal to see if any patterns emerge. These patterns can appear as common themes or "dreamsigns" that are prevalent. There are four main categories of dreamsigns: "Ego (the person is in a different body or playing a role that is not normal); Character (doing something that is unlikely or impossible in normal life); Object (something is strangely built); Setting (place of dream does not exist or the dreamer has never been there)." (Levitan, "1001 Nights Exploring Lucid Dreaming", 1992). Once the patterns are recognizable, when one encounters these particular signs, pose the question "Am I dreaming, or am I awake?", a technique known as reality testing. This is training the subconscious to question the familiar signs and sights in order to alert the mind that it is dreaming. Self-doubt will raise the consciousness of the dreamer and increase recognition of dreaming. Other useful signs that are particularly prevalent in dreams are digital clocks and printed word. If one examines printed word in a dream, it will shift and mutate with each examination. For some reason, digital clocks are also particularly susceptible to this phenomenon.
On a more sophisticated level, there are several techniques that have been extensively studied that will increase the potential of dream lucidity. The first of these is autosuggestion. This technique is nothing more than writing down on a piece of paper each night before sleeping a phrase similar to "Tonight, I will have a lucid dream." It is thought that by programming the brain before sleeping, participants in dream research are able to increase their lucid dreams to approximately 29% of all dreams. (Levitan, "1001 Nights Exploring Lucid Dreaming", 1992). The second technique, when used in conjunction with the autosuggestion has been known to achieve great results. The MILD (Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams), developed by Dr. Stephen LaBerge at the Lucidity Institute, is a process in which the subconscious is programmed to awaken and remember the dream as it is happening. MILD is a meditative technique that requires guidance and instruction in order to learn. Recently, MILD evolved into WILD (Wake Induction of Lucid Dreams). One of the most difficult techniques to master, WILD requires the instructed person to "focus on a visualized object while deeply relaxed. Then the person should open his mind to the unconscious by allowing whatever dream sounds or images fade into visualization. As the dreamscape begins to form, you should consciously allow yourself to be pulled into the dreamscape." (Thurnan, "How Can I Learn to Lucid Dream", 1997).
Electronic devices that are available to increase the chances of lucid dreaming include the NovaDreamer and DreamSpeaker. Both of these devices are activated when the dreamer enters REM sleep. This is done through sensors that are placed over the dreamers' eyes. These sensors detect patterns of eye movements that correspond to REM sleep. The NovaDreamer is a pair of goggles that flash a pre-selected pattern of lights. The light is a signal to the dreamer that he is in REM sleep. The DreamSpeaker works in a similar manner, but provides an auditory signal that when used in conjunction with a REM sensing device, plays a pre-recorded message. When used with the proper training, it has been reported that these devices can induce lucid dreaming roughly 50% of the time.
Prolonging Lucid Dreams and Optimizing Chances for Lucid Dreaming:One of the major problems associated with lucid dreams is their brevity. This shortness often prevents novice lucid dreamers from enjoying dreams, and from using dreams to improve. There has been extensive investigation as how to increase the amount of time that is spent in lucid dream state. Currently, there are three ascribed methods for prolonging lucid dreams: spinning, rubbing, and focus awareness. Spinning, as the name describes, is a technique in which the lucid dreamer, when he realizes that the dream is beginning to fade, spins like a top in his dream. The key to this is to actually feel the motion of the spinning and repeating to himself "the next scene will be a dream" (Thurman, "Lucid Dreaming", 1997). Rubbing is a similar technique, but instead of spinning, the dreamer vigorously rubs his hands together, feeling the friction and heat produced. Repeating the aforementioned mantra is also advised. The third method is focus awareness. This is a technique that the lucid dreamer attempts to do as the dream fades by focusing on a fixed object in the dream and retaining that image. While the exact understanding as to the mechanism for these prolonging techniques is not well understood, they allow the dreamer to prolong the lucid dream without awakening.
The studies of lucid dreams have shown that they are not evenly distributed throughout the night. The natural dream cycle lasts approximately ninety minutes as the body cycles between REM and NREM (Non-REM) sleep. "The first REM period normally happens after a period of delta sleep, approximately 90 minutes after sleep onset, and lasts from about 5 to 20 minutes. REM periods occur roughly every 90 minutes throughout the night, with later REM periods occurring at shorter intervals and often being longer, sometimes up to an hour in length." (LaBerge, "Lucid Dreaming Frequently Asked Questions and Answers", 1997) While initially dreams may only last for a few minutes they tend to increase with each cycle. In order to study this trend, researchers have explored the best time to induce lucid dreams. Recent investigations have shown that lucid dreams can be experienced approximately ten times more frequently during a nap, four to six hours after waking, than during the night. The condition for the experiment is that the sleepers were subjected to the same amount of sleep every night but instead of eight straight hours, they were woken after six hours and then allowed to nap for two hours at a later period. Whether these results were indications of the circadian cycle or the ultradian (nasal/brain) cycle is currently unknown, but the results confirmed the length of REM sleep during the later portions of the night and increase in dream lucidity.
Lucid dreaming is an ancient art. One of the best sources is a 1000-year old text on Dream Yoga written by Tibetan Monks, which has recently become an area of great interest. The potential for developing personal goals or achieving "true consciousness" while asleep offers great promise for the future. At present, one of the most challenging aspects to researching dreams is determining whether the participants are actually experiencing an increase in dream lucidity versus an increase in dream recall. When learned, lucid dreaming offers powerful potential for both educational and personal applications. "Lucid dreaming could provide the handicapped and other disadvantaged people with the nearest thing to fulfilling their impossible dreams: paralytics could walk again in their dreams, to say nothing of dancing and flying" (LaBerge, "Lucidity Research, Past and Future", 1993). Lucid dreaming is more than just controlled dreams, it is a method of maximizing potential. It is the highest level lucid dreamer that is both the participant and the creator of the dream.
Sleep and Consciousness
Functions of REM and NREM
Lucid Dreaming Proof
Individual Differences in Lucid Dreaming
How to Have a Lucid Dream
Lucid Dreaming: The Maximum Self-reflectiveness
Brain/Body Activity During Sleep and Dreams
Lucid Dreaming is Only the Beginning
Why is Dream Forgetting Common
Development of Pure Consciousness from Lucidity
Dreaming and Consciousness
Validity Established of Dreamlight Cues for Eliciting Lucid Dreaming
Lucid Dreaming: Psychophysiological Studies of Consciousness during REM Sleep
1001 Nights Exploring Lucid Dreaming
A Fool's Guide to Lucid Dreaming
Lucidity Research, Past and Future
The Light and Mirror Experiment
A Study of Dreams
Prolonging Lucid Dreams
01/17/2006, from a Reader on the Web
Okay I'm kinda confused about the whole lucid dreaming thing. I'm really interested and would like to learn how, but one thing is it seems like if I were to lucid dream or realize that I'm dreaming-it would just wake me up. If you are lucid dreaming-isn't it the same as day-dreaming? Wouldn't you just be completly awake and only thinking. I can imagine being in some pretty weird places while im awake. wouldn't lucid dreaming not allow you to get enough sleep for your mind? I'm so confused! please help!
Some dreams are about flying to another country (in an airplane!) not as a flying person! I travel, see places etc. I also work in my dreams! I actually had a nightmare of sorts and in the dream, I stopped a young man from stealing my car! He was breaking into it and I came to the car. He ended up sitting in the passenger seat but was threatening. I decided the only way to get him out of the car was to scare him. The only way I could scare him was to "sound" scary. I decided I had to make a very scary sound, like a lion roaring or an insane alien noise....so I actually did make a horrible noise. The noise woke me up and was like a growling ugly noise!! Luckily no one heard it as it was about 10:30 am. So strange, I don't really understand how this happens and why. More research I guess! ... MaryAnn, 8 April 2006
Greetings, You have a great lucid dreaming resource at http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro98/202s98-paper1/Holt.html. Please add Brilliant Dreams as an additional link resource. Brilliant Dreams is a dream enhancing supplement used by many lucid dreamers to enhance dream vividness and recall. Very vivid dreams can be more easily turned vivid. The site is at http://www.brilliantdreams.com ... Rick Hargett, 11 April 2006
The information was interesting. I am a lucid dreamer and have been since I was a child. I've just read a few internet sites that instruct people how to dream lucidly, and this is odd because lucid dreaming is a natural way to dream for me, is this normal? ... Adrienne, 14 March 2007
Luicid dreaming is while your asleep..Not while awake..You have to learn to be able to recognize signs in your dreams to become aware that it is not reality but a dream state...You must learn to be calm and not freak out that you are actually dreaming...Try looking at your hands during the day and ask yourself "Am I dreaming?" Look at the texture and contour of your hands and remember them what they look...Another way of becoming lucid during your sleep state is that as you dream look at signs or read something...After you read or look at a sign look back at it and you will see that it has changed..Hope this helps ... David, 30 March 2007
hi im a lucid dreamer the problem is that my family dosnt belive me how do u get them to understand when they have set there minds on not beliving me ... Crystal, 9 December 2007
I understand your confusions and am happy you are investigating dreaming and altered states of consciousness. I encourage you to look into new age books at local book stores on: Astral Projection, Meditation, and Lucid Dreams. However to answer your question about your mind not getting enough sleep in a lucid dream. Your mind is not what needs sleep. It is your body that needs sleep, your mind stays active whether you lucid dream or just sleep ... Bill Sanford, 13 December 2007