Recently, on many websites such as 9gag.com, there has been an outburst of posts about a scientifically proven phenomenon of lucid dreaming and many myths associated with it have emerged. In this article I will explain the mechanism behind the lucid dreaming and discuss some of the myths associated with this topic.
Lucid dreaming is when you have dream and you suddenly realise it is just a dream. This in turn often gives you a full control over the dream world you are immersed in. Most of us had those dreams at some point in the past. As I have mentioned before, lucid dreaming is a scientifically proven phenomenon. However, to understand it, we have to know more about the phases of sleep and processes associated with them.
There are five stages of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM sleep. In first stage of sleep our eye movement and muscle activity slows. Stage 1 is in effect a transition to ‘sleep mode’. At the beginning of stage one some may enter sleep paralysis and/or have hypnagogic hallucinations. These are perfectly normal, but may be scary experiences known as the ‘old hag’. Some lucid dreaming techniques induce the dream at this stage, but more on that later. The stage lasts 5-10 minutes. Afterwards we progress onto second stage, which involves drop in body temperature and slowing of heart rate. Brain produces rhythmic bursts of waves known as sleep spindles. This stage lasts 20 minutes. Stage 3 is a transition between light sleep and deep sleep. Stage 4 is a deep sleep stage, where our body is repairing its tissues fastest. Most dreaming occurs during the fifth stage of sleep, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Our respiration rate increases and brain activity increases. At this stage our voluntary muscles become paralysed again. Initially the stages of sleep usually happen in order from 1 to 4 and then our sleeping stages fluctuate before entering REM for 90 minutes. After that stages fluctuate again before entering another, longer REM phase.
As most dreams happen during REM phase, that is when lucid dreams can be induced most easily. The high activity of brain during that phase is great for generating images in your mind and if you train yourself to be aware that you are dreaming, you are likely to experience this vivid phenomenon. That is not to say that those dreams can’t happen during other stages.
There are hundreds of different techniques devised to enter a lucid dream. I will outline the most common ones.
1. WILD- Wake Initiated Lucid Dream.
This technique is popularized by many websites including the aforementioned 9gag.com. You induce a lucid dream by staying aware throughout the falling asleep process. Many describe it as ‘body asleep mind awake’ state. You go through sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations and once you close eyes you should notice hypnagogic imagery which are images forming in front of you, which could develop into a dream. Many say this is very difficult to achieve, but the technique has been shown to be valid and perfectly safe despite the scary paralysis or hallucinations.
2. MILD-Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams.
Many say it is the easiest technique, which involves waking up right after a dream and falling asleep soon afterwards, while remembering the dream. There is a good chance you end up in the same dream, thus you will know you are dreaming.
3. WBTB-Wake Back To Bed.
This is basically a form of autosuggestion, where you wake up in middle of the night, or before an afternoon nap to read about lucid dreaming for half an hour hoping that once you go back to bed, you will lucid dream. This technique is often used together with WILD as such disruption seems to increase chance of success of this method by blurring the borders of sleep and consciousness.
As the sleep itself is shrouded in mystery, no wonder such practices brought about many myths and hearsays with them. Many people say it is dangerous to perform the WILD technique due to ghosts appearing. In fact these are just hallucinations that are normal part of falling asleep, but we don’t notice them as we are often unconscious at that stage. Another one I heard is that these ‘ghosts’ try to enter your body once you leave it to dream (some dreams involve you leaving your bed while your body is still there). The myth has been sparked up by the film ‘Insidious’. This myth has been again, proven wrong, as everything happens in your mind, not physical world.
In a nutshell, a lucid dream is nothing more than a dream where you know you are dreaming. I hope the article has informed you more on sleeping process, lucid dreaming and untruthful myths.
Article written by: Hubert Bieluczyk
Image from: creattica.com