We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and a good chunk of our sleep is dedicated to dreaming. Yet, our dreams can force us to wake up in a cold sweat from a nightmare, haunt us from the unconscious decisions we made in our dreams, or just forget them after a few minutes of waking up.
Imagine, however, if you were in control of your dreams. You could change monsters into meadows, or just know when something isn’t real. Well, you don’t have to dream up this concept, this is actually “Lucid Dreaming”. Keep reading to learn more and how you can start lucid dreaming!
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What is Lucid Dreaming?
You are lucid dreaming when you are aware that a dream is taking place. Some lucid dreamers can also control different aspects of the dream itself such as people, environment, or actions taking place.
Most of our most vivid dreams, including lucid dreams, take place during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is the final stage of a normal sleep cycle. While you’re in REM sleep, your brain is extremely active and your heart rate and eye movements are speeding up.
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Benefits of Lucid Dreaming
Currently, there is not a definite consensus of whether the benefits of lucid dreaming are consistent. Anecdotal evidence and some studies, however, have shown that a link between reduced anxiety, distress, and nightmares with lucid dreaming.
By being in control of your environment and the events that take place, you can dream up scenes to provide you closure to events or face a disabling fear of yours. Still, research continues to take place so dream carefully!
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How to Lucid Dream
Besides the benefits that lucid dreaming could have for your mental health, being aware that you’re dreaming and taking control has a lot of potential for fun! To start lucid dreaming tonight, follow these tips.
Start a Dream Journal. Every morning, write out all the details that you can remember from your dream. You should regularly update this dream journal and review your past entries. The details will allow your brain to start recognizing dreams more easily when you fall asleep.
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Practice Good Sleeping Habits. Since lucid dreaming most commonly occurs during REM sleep, optimize this sleep state. To do so, get quality sleep! We’ve written many articles on how to sleep better. So, browse through our articles if you’ve tossing and turning at night!
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Reality Testing. The concept is a bit odd, but think of it as practicing a form of mindfulness. Throughout your day, check in to see if you’re dreaming or actually awake. For instance, cover your nose and mouth--still able to breathe? That means you’re dreaming! Learn more about reality testing through this article.
WBTB and MILD Methods. For those who are committed to lucid dreaming, both of these methods require waking yourself up after 5 hours. For Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD), consciously tell yourself that you will lucid dream after waking up or before bed. For the Wake back to bed (WBTB) method, stay awake for 20 to 90 minutes (play around with this time out of bed) before going back to sleep.
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Aromatherapy. Smelling scents, even when you're fast asleep, can stimulate areas of your limbic system. Besides sense of smell, this system plays a role in your emotions and behaviors. Different scents can trigger specific memories or feelings, so what you're smelling can affect how what you're dreaming of. Additionally, scents like lavender, promote deep sleep and relaxation which is necessary to achieve lucid dreaming.
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Try Out Video Games. A good excuse to play video games, some studies have shown that those that play video games have better control of their dreams during lucid dreaming. Video games allow you to immerse yourself in fictional worlds, which is similar to being in a dream. Just make sure to unplug a few hours before bed!
An overarching tip to lucid dreaming is just being aware that you are a dreamer. Being mindful about your reality and your dreams can allow you to be in control of both your waking and sleeping states. While the scientific consensus is still in the works, this could be a fun experiment to help you be in control of your own reality. Sweet dreams!