Lucid Dreaming


Dreams are the playground of the mind. Anything can happen when one is
dreaming. The only limitation is that we only rarely realize the freedoms
granted to us in our dreams while we have them. Lucid dreaming is the ability to
know when one is dreaming, and be able to influence what will be dreamt. A
normal dream is much like passively watching a movie take place in your skull.
In a lucid dream, the dreamer is the writer, director, and star of the movie.
Lucid dreams are exceptionally interesting.
Lucid dreaming is defined as dreaming when the dreamer knows that they are
dreaming. The term was coined during the 1910Õs by Frederik van Eeden who used
the word "lucid" in the sense of mental clarity (Green, 1968). Lucidity usually
begins in the midst of a dream, when the dreamer realizes that the experience is
not occurring in physical reality, but is a dream. Often this realization is
triggered by the dreamer noticing some impossible or unlikely occurrence in the
dream, such as meeting a person who is dead, or flying with or without wings.
Sometimes people become lucid without noticing any particular clue in the dream;
they just suddenly realize that they are in a dream. A minority of lucid dreams
(about 10 percent) are the result of returning to REM sleep directly from an
awakening with unbroken reflective consciousness (LaBerge, 1985). These types of
lucid dreams occur most often during daytime napping. If the napper has been REM
deprived from a previous night of little sleep their chances of having a REM
period at sleep onset are increased. If the napper is able to continue his or
her train of thought up to the point of sleep, a lucid dream may develop due to
an immediate REM period.
The basic definition of lucid dreaming requires nothing more than the
dreamer becoming aware that they are dreaming. However, the quality of lucidity
varies greatly. When lucidity is at a high level, the dreamer is aware that
everything experienced in the dream is occurring in their mind, that there is no
real danger, and that they are asleep in bed and will awaken eventually. With
low-level lucidity they may be aware to a certain extent that they are dreaming,
perhaps enough to fly, or alter what they are doing, but not enough to realize
that the people in the dream are just figments of their imagination. They are
also unaware that they can suffer no physical damage while in the dream or that
they are actually in bed. Lucidity and control in dreams are not the same thing.
It is possible to be lucid and have little control over dream content, and
conversely, to have a great deal of control without being explicitly aware that
one is dreaming.
Lucid dreams usually happen during REM sleep. Working at Stanford
University, Dr. Stephen LaBerge proved this by eliciting deliberate eye movement
signals given by lucid dreamers during their REM sleep. LaBerge\'s subjects slept
in the laboratory, while the standard measures of sleep physiology (brain waves,
muscle tone and eye movements) were recorded. As soon as they became lucid in a
dream, they moved their eyes in large sweeping motions left-right-left-right, as
far as possible. This left an unmistakable marker on the physiological record of
the eye movements. Analysis of the records showed that in every case, the eye
movements marking the times when the subjects realized they were dreaming
occurred in the middle of unambiguous REM sleep. LaBerge has done several
experiments on lucid dreaming using the eye-movement signaling method,
demonstrating interesting connections between dreamed actions and physiological
responses.
It has been debated if lucid dreaming interferes with the function of Ò
normalÓ dreaming. According to one way of thinking, lucid dreaming is normal
dreaming. The brain and body are in the same physiological state of REM sleep
during lucid dreaming as they are during most ordinary non-lucid dreaming. In
dreams the mind creates experiences out of currently active thoughts, concerns,
memories and fantasies. Knowledge that a person is dreaming simply allows them
to direct their dream along constructive or positive lines, much like they
direct their thoughts when awake. Furthermore, lucid dreams can be even more
informative about the self than non-lucid dreams, because one can observe the
development of the dream out of oneÕs feelings and tendencies, while being aware
that one is dreaming and that the dream is coming from the self. The notion that
dreams are unconscious processes that should remain so is false. Waking
consciousness is always present in dreams. If it