How many times have you woken up, unable to remember your dreams? Or been disturbed by a nightmare which makes no sense in the harsh light of day? Maybe you’re simply plagued with plain weird dreams or are only able to recall wisps of them, later on in the day? To most of us this is frustrating, but not infuriating. For some people, the contents of their dreams can worry them so much that they dread going to sleep altogether.
Then there are people who claim to have ‘amazing’ dreams, seemingly persuading their mind to wander in far more interesting directions - even in their state of unconsciousness. This ability is known as ‘lucid dreaming’ and it’s something many of us would love to master.
What is lucid dreaming?
Essentially, it is being able to consciously observe your dreams and have some control over them. Researchers say it occurs when you can realise that you are in a dream, while you dream. They most commonly happen when we’re in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep (as do most vivid dreams, lucid or not) – around an hour and a half after we drift off.
Lucid dreamers are able to ‘direct’ what happens; if they can successfully remain asleep after realising they are dreaming, then it’s possible to decide what route their dreams take.
It’s an ability that many people strive for, but why, you might ask? According to lucid dream researcher, Beverly D’Urso, it gives people the opportunity to do things they can’t in real life – her personal experience include tasting fire and flying to the sun (not sure how much we would like to do either of those). It’s about pushing the boundaries of human existence. Other people use it to overcome fears and solve problems. Alternatively, you might finally be able to get that date with George Clooney. Regardless, the good news is that everyone can learn to do it.
How can you do it?
The internet is crammed with advice on how to ‘have that first lucid dream’, but it can take some time. Its goes without saying that you should ensure you’re comfortable in bed, to promote sleep in the first place. Perhaps try fresh bedding so you can get that lovely ‘new sheets’ feeling that we all love so much.
To successfully have a lucid dream, you need to increase your levels of awareness – as the more aware you are, the more likely it is that you’ll realise when you’re dreaming.
Beverly D’Urso recommends paying more attention to your environment, pay attention to the smaller details. This habit will continue into your sleep, enabling you to realise if something isn’t quite right – and that you are therefore dreaming. It can also help if you perform ‘reality checks’ regularly, as this habit too could follow you into slumber. Check the time or read some text – if it’s distorted or wrong, it’s probably a dream.
You can also try keeping a dream journal – write down what has happened in your dream as soon as you wake up, before you forget. This will improve your ability to recall your dreams and help you recognise them.
Have you ever gone to sleep, telling yourself that you’ll wake at six and then actually done so? Lots of us have, using what’s known as our ‘prospective memory’. Lucid dreamers use theirs by waking themselves up, recalling their dream and then repeating: ‘I will remember I am dreaming’ (or words to that effect) while drifting back to sleep – attempting to ‘get back into’ that dream.
Does it work?
It’s said that people have been enjoying lucid dreams for thousands of years and numerous books, papers and stories have been written on the subject. It has even been scientifically researched… so it must work right?
Advocates of lucid dreaming believe that it can make you a more enlightened person and appreciate being present in the moment, something we all are guilty of not doing. It offers other benefits such as facing your fears, rehearse for big events or enable you to do the impossible.
Better get ready, George Clooney…