Health / Wellbeing

What is a lucid dream? A breakdown on the experience and how they occur

what is a lucid dream

Our dreams are often an escape from reality, sometimes blissful and sometimes confusing to say the least. As we slip into a slumber, our minds can wander into faraway worlds, and sometimes this can take the form of a lucid dream. Allow us to inform you on just what a lucid dream is, the difference compared to non-lucid dreams and how you may be able to have your own experiences.

What are lucid dreams?

Lucid dreaming occurs when a person is sleeping but conscious that they are dreaming. They are in a state where they can take over the narrative of the dream, guiding and directing its course.

Lucid dreaming is associated with awareness and an active reflection of the awareness and is often linked with metacognition, a term for having an understanding and awareness of your thought processes. Research has previously suggested lucid dreaming and metacognitive function share neural systems that are alike, meaning those with heightened abilities to manage their own thoughts may be likelier to lucid dream.

What is the difference between non-lucid and lucid dreams, and the signs of having a lucid dream?

The most notable difference between lucid and non-lucid dreams is those experiencing a lucid dream are aware they are dreaming, whereas with a non-lucid dream, there is no control over the dream. One common characterising trait of a non-lucid dream is when strange events are happening in a dream, they feel real and only once awake are they aware of having had a dream.

With a lucid dream, there is active recognition that what is happening is not real and is only existing in a dream, which allows the dreamer to exert some control over the situation.

Common indicators include:

  • Awareness of having been asleep and dreaming
  • A more vivid dream than usual
  • You had the ability to exert some control over the situation in the dream
  • Emotions were more heightened than in a non-lucid dream

Are lucid dreams common?

Spontaneous lucid dreams are generally infrequent, however many have reported at least once instance of it happening to them. Per month, 23 per cent of people are expected to have at least one lucid dream, yet only 11 per cent report multiple in the same period. Lucid dreams are also more common in women and tend to decrease in frequency with age.

How do I have a lucid dream?

For those wanting to try lucid dreaming, there are some practices that can be implemented to induce them. These include:

  • Getting REM Sleep

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a period in which your eyes move quickly in a range of directions, yet don’t send any information to the brain. In order to increase REM sleep, increase the amount of quality sleep you have each night. This can be achieved by leaving electronics out of the bedroom, not consuming caffeine late in the day and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

  • Keep a dream diary

It has been reported that a dream diary may help the onset of the dreams as through focussing more on dreams as a ritual can help you become more aware of them when they occur.

  • Practice reality testing

As it sounds, this is the act of checking if you are in reality or a dream which can be carried out through pinching yourself, touching a wall near your bed or making a small movement while lying down.

While the idea of having a lucid dream may be appealing, it is also important to note there are a noted downside of the experience being the potential for the quality of your sleep to decrease. As the dreams are more vivid and emotional, they do have the potential to interrupt sleep. It is most definitely a case-by-case basis and each experience is unique to the individual.

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