Explore the Benefits of Lucid Dreaming

Controlling your dreams helps you delve deep within yourself.

Sleeping woman.

(Damir Khabirov / Shutterstock.com)

Lucid dreaming can help people sleep better, calm anxiety, and even help you process grief but many people have never heard about it. That’s because for most, this is something that has to be learned and nurtured.

According to National Geographic, lucid dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep also known as the dream stage of sleep. While you are not fully conscious, you are aware that you are dreaming.

If you know you are dreaming, you can exercise control of the narrative. This is especially true of nightmares where you can change the outcome to something less harmful.

“Some people who lucid dream, don’t want to alter the dream — they want to explore the dream and see what it offers them,” Antonio Zadra, a professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and the  co-author of the book When Brains Dream, told National Geographic. “It’s a way of exploring your own mind and opening opportunities to engage with different parts of your psyche.”

Benefits of lucid dreaming
While neuroscientists do not fully understand why lucid dreams occur, it is estimated that 55 percent of people have had one or more during their life, according to a meta-analysis of studies published in Consciousness and Cognition. Others have them far more frequently.
Scientists began to study lucid dreaming in the 1970s and found that it is actually a hybrid form of consciousness when the dreamer is not fully awake and not fully in REM sleep, according to Healthline.

The pioneer of lucid dreaming research is Dr. Stephen LaBerge who discovered therapeutic benefits in treating patients with PTSD who have anxiety and reoccurring nightmares. But there are additional benefits for people who suffer from stressors, depression, and sleep disturbances. Lucid dreaming can help people who do not have PTSD learn how to deal with stressors in their life.

Being aware of your dreams can also help you develop improved problem solving, explained WebMd. You can solve problems with the creative insights and ideas through the characters in your dreams.

Another exciting benefit of lucid dreaming is improved motor skills, especially for people rehabbing an injury. You can practice movements during a dream because the same part of your brain is active when you do the motions awake or during a lucid dream. This can help you rehab quicker.

How to train yourself to have lucid dreams
While lucid dreams do not come naturally for most people, you can train your mind regain consciousness when you enter REM Sleep, according to Healthline.

Wake back to bed
The wake back to bed technique (WBTB) actually involves entering REM sleep when you are still awake. Before you go to bed, set an alarm for five hours later. When your alarm goes off, stay up for 30 minutes doing an activity like reading that fully engages your brain. Then  go back to sleep. When you fall asleep, you are more likely to have a lucid dream.

Mnemonic induction
LaBerge created a technique called Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD) in 1980. It is based on a behavior called prospective memory that involves setting an intent to do something at a later time. In this case, you are setting an intent to remember when you are dreaming.

As you are falling asleep, think about a recent dream and identify a “dreamsign” or something that was strange in the dream;  like having the ability to fly. Then think about returning to the dream and tell yourself that, “the next time I’m dreaming, I’ll recognize that I’m dreaming.” Having the ability to be aware of when you dream is a good way to induce lucid dreaming.

Keep a dream journal
Keeping a dream journal can help you recognize dreamsigns and the awareness of your dreams. That’s because writing down what you dream about forces you to remember what happens during each dream you have. Log your dreams as soon as you wake up and read your dream journal frequently.

Dream yoga
You can train yourself to be lucid during your dreams by a practice of Tibetan Buddhism called dream yoga, reported National Geographic. “All dream yoga is lucid dreaming,” explains Michael Sheehy, a Tibetan Buddhism scholar and director of scholarship at the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, told National Geographic.

“The difference is, in dream yoga you’re intentionally performing contemplative techniques while you’re in the dream. You are aware of what you’re doing while you’re dreaming and you’re doing things you can’t normally do when you’re awake.”

These intentional actions could include transforming objects in the dream or the environment or location you are in. After the dream, Sheeny said, you could  experience cognitive flexibility and realize how easily you can change your thoughts and mindset. This opens a world of creative thinking about possibilities and positive outcomes.

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