The subject of dreams and dreaming has fascinated mankind for thousands of years; from our belief that dreams predict the future, to modern interpretations of dreams as our brain sorting through the detritus of the day, humans have always been intrigued by the night time activity of our mind.
One, fairly unusual, type of dreaming is that of lucid dreaming. This strange activity is experienced by a number of people, but not always recognised: it’s the type of dreaming where you know you are dreaming and are able to control the actions of your dreams for your own benefit.
Lucid dreaming has been reported throughout history, including its use as a technique for Tibetan Buddhist in their ‘dream yoga’ practices. In the last few decades, we’ve come to understand even more about this strange night time occurrence, and some of the science behind it.
Taking part in lucid dreaming can either occur when, once asleep and in a dream state, a person realises they are in a dream or – more uniquely – the person goes from a waking to a dreaming state without seeming to ‘fall asleep’ in the traditional sense. The recognition that you are dreaming is thought to occur in the same part of the brain that is shut down during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep – the ‘deepest’ part of your sleeping pattern.
During lucid dreaming, there are thought to be four key aspects of recognition that show the level and depth of lucidity of the dream:
- Knowing that you are dreaming
- Knowing that the dream world and its objects will disappear when you wake up
- Knowing that the physical laws of the real world do not apply in your dream world
- Having a clear understanding of the waking world, or knowing the difference between the waking and dream world
Not all lucid dreamers will exhibit all four of these aspects, and not all of them will be able to expertly control the dream as it unfolds. However, those that do have found lucid dreaming to be helpful in finding answers for mathematical or scientific problems, or finding inspiration for a creative project. Of course, lucid dreaming means you can do what you want, when you want – with no bad dreams or strange imaginary characters in sight!