Lucid dreaming: Making your dreams fun!

Last update: May 15, 2023
Reading time: 3 minutes
By Brain Matters

Are you tired of having the same old boring dreams where you're chased by a monster or giving a presentation in your underwear? Well, maybe lucid dreaming can help you to make dreaming more fun!

Dreaming is a mysterious aspect of the human experience. During the last decades, a subfield of dream research has emerged that focuses specifically on the phenomenon of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming refers to the ability to become aware of dreaming during ongoing sleep. That means that you have the power to control the outcome of your dream and, for example, turn it into a crazy adventure.

Researchers have found some very interesting things about lucid dreaming. For instance, lucid dreamers report higher levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and lower stress levels the following day compared to those who were not lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming might help to improve motor skills and overcome creative problems. That is most likely because you can practice skills like playing the piano or drawing during lucid dreaming. So, it is basically like having a dream personal trainer and therapist all in one!

But what  happens in our brains during lucid dreaming? During lucid dreaming, the same areas of the brain are active as during both REM-sleep and wakefulness. That includes an increased activation in frontal brain areas associated with critical thinking and self-awareness (prefrontal cortex), which ultimately results in realizing „Uhh, I am dreaming!“ during a dream. Research has also shown that there is more communication between different brain regions during lucid dreaming, including the areas associated with self-awareness (prefrontal cortex) and visual imagery (occipital lobe).

Although studies have shown that lucid dreaming can be beneficial for your mental health and creativity, there is still not much known about any potential negative effects. The prefrontal cortex during regular dreaming is inactive, while during lucid dreaming it is active. Critics argue that this activation of the prefrontal cortex during lucid dreaming could potentially have negative consequences, but is yet to be investigated.

Now, you might be wondering, can I learn to lucid dream?
Stephen LaBerge, one of the best-known figures in lucid dream research, suggested a few methods that have proven to be effective in learning lucidity in dreams. One of them is called "reality testing." You ask yourself, "Is this a dream?“ or "Am I dreaming?" and perform a "reality check" by looking for dream signs, like impossible events or objects. You could, for example, count your fingers, and if the amount of fingers seems odd, then you might be dreaming. Another technique is called „WBTB" or "Wake Back to Bed“. You wake up after roughly 5 hours of sleep, stay awake for a bit, and then go back to sleep. According to LaBerge, this increases your chance of catching a lucid dream.

Aside from practicing the techniques, it's also important to have good sleep hygiene and a regular sleep schedule. That entails waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, avoiding caffeine and other drugs, as well as eating heavy meals before bed, and creating a calming bedtime routine. You can compare that with giving your brain a spa day. 

Although lucid dreaming can be an exciting and fun experience, it could also be overwhelming and scary, especially for those that have never experienced it before. If you still want to give it a try, it is best to start with writing down your dreams in the morning and do regular “reality tests” during the day. This is a good place to start if you want to become a lucid dreamer.

Author: Amanda Abreu Ott


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